Shirin McArthur

prayerful pondering


Ready or Not….

Recently I led my church’s Centering Prayer and Lectio Divina sessions for a couple weeks while our priest was on vacation. I chose for one Lectio Divina session the story of Jesus sending out the twelve disciples, two by two, to preach his message of repentance—the same message, coincidentally, that was at the root of John the Baptist’s ministry. It was helpful to share perspectives on this text and imagine together what it must have been like to be told, “It’s your turn. Go preach and teach and heal.”

I found myself thinking back to the summer I did Clinical Pastoral Education at Massachusetts General Hospital. On our very first week, on our second afternoon, our CPE supervisors said, “Okay now, time to go out and start visiting patients.” As I recall, all of us responded with some version of shock and concern. We weren’t ready. We’d only been in the program for a day and a half, and much of that had been devoted to orientation and paperwork. Surely there was a lot more we needed to do to be ready!

DSC_0672cOur supervisors insisted—and we obeyed. At the time, it felt analogous to learning to swim by being thrown into the deep end of the pool. Almost thirty years later, I can somewhat see the supervisors’ perspective. We were seminary students with at least a year of study behind us. They had accepted us into the program, based on—I presume—at least some level of assessment of the study and service we’d already undertaken.

Also, sometimes, it’s easier to dive into that pool all at once—even if we fear the water will be cold and deep. Stepping in, inch by inch, makes the process more painful in the long run. So, ready or not, we dove into our brand-new mission field. We all survived and, to the best of my knowledge, so did the patients.

As I continue to dance around the edge of the podcast pool, writing this makes me squirm in my seat. It might be that the best way to embrace the podcasting is to simply start doing it. And yet…Jesus told his disciples to go out in pairs. In CPE, we had our supervisors and a small group of fellow students to support, encourage and teach us. I don’t yet have any partner(s) for this undertaking. So I am sometimes dancing, sometimes sitting, at the edge of the pool. I am watching and learning, not knowing when the order will come to jump in—but that it will come, whether I feel ready or not.

What “ready or not” stories do you have in your life? Are you dancing around the edge of a pool yourself during these hot summer days?


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Practicing What I Preach

I’m exhausted. We have just completed a wonderful, but very full, week with family visiting. Last night we realized that, over the past two weeks, both Henry and I have each driven close to 1500 miles. My body is clearly telling me that I need to slow down to take some time to rest.

I often find myself encouraging people who come to see me for spiritual direction to find a balance between activity and rest, between doing and being. But I do not always practice what I preach. Last night I was tired enough when we returned home that it did not even occur to me that I had not written my blog for today. When I awoke this morning I realized that I had missed my self-imposed deadline to publish early on Sunday morning.

And that’s okay. Rules are made for bending…and part of wisdom comes in recognizing when it’s time to bend them. It will not harm anyone to wait a few hours to read what I might have to say this week. The best thing I can do for myself today is listen to what I really need—and I have. I intend to do so for the rest of the day, because tomorrow, after a week away from my home office, I need to get back to work.

Where in your own life do you need to practice what you preach? Or practice the balance that I’m preaching? Where might you need to bend some self-imposed rules?

DSC_1677 javelinaIf you need a reason to slow down, feel free to emulate me and this little javelina that I caught yawning at the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum this week.