Shirin McArthur

prayerful pondering


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Cultivating Hope and Embracing Opportunities


duck takeoff closeup DSC_5020This week marks five years since I left employment and became a freelance writer and editor, in addition to my ongoing work as a spiritual guide and retreat leader. I’ve been feeling for a few weeks now that I wanted to honor this milestone with a blog post, and I had an idea for the theme, but then Spirit intervened this past week and something else, quite transformative for me, arrived in my life instead.

The story begins with the first wave of my survey results, which have given me much to contemplate. I’m grateful and, at times, feeling a bit overwhelmed. One theme that has surfaced is the need for hope. To quote a few of my respondents on this theme:

“It’s easy to get lost in apathy and hopelessness as well as isolation.”

“How to help people (myself included) have hope again in this despairing time in our country and world.”

“Hope, like love, is the essential and most basic need for those of us who are awake and on this journey we call life. Especially in light of the current national and worldwide climate, so many people are on the edge of hopelessness, for good reason.”

One of the ideas that has surfaced in response to this theme is developing a podcast on hope. It feels timely, and necessary, and a response to the question of “What is mine to do?” as a result of last November’s election. I’d been letting that idea percolate in the back of my mind—and my heart—when my SCORE mentor sent me an email that announced an extension to the deadline for the YWCA Southern Arizona portion of the 2017 SBA InnovateHER challenge, suggesting that I apply.

I’d read about this challenge and seen billboards advertising it around town. It caught my attention, but I hadn’t felt I had anything to contribute. On Tuesday morning, I was writing some initial ideas for an article on contemplation and resistance (the theme of a forthcoming e-book from Ordinary Mystic) and then read an email from artist and spiritual guide Melanie Weidner, who was inviting some of her community to join her in “A Brave Opportunity” by recording and sending to her brief videos on the impact of her artwork. When I read my mentor’s email, it all came together: hope, podcast, a form of resistance that would work for me, the need to be brave and embrace opportunities….

The result, on this five-year anniversary of transformation in my life and ministry, is saying Yes! to the potential of another round of transformation. I have written my first—albeit small (the limit was 3200 characters!)—grant proposal and submitted it for consideration. I have put out there, publicly, my intention to enter the world of podcasting and also to expand my retreat offerings to focus on the subject of hope. There was a point where I was literally shaking as all this was coming together—as if the Holy Spirit was vibrating within me (or adrenaline was overwhelming my nervous system, but I choose to believe in the Spirit instead!).

When has the Spirit brought disparate elements together in your life to reveal something new? When has God invited you into a brave opportunity? Are you interested in being one of my interviewees on the Hope Podcast someday?

I would like to close today by inviting you to pray for all who are submitting proposals for InnovateHER. Here in southern Arizona, the next steps will happen very fast. If I am accepted to pitch my proposal, I’ll find out on Tuesday and the pitch sessions take place this coming Saturday, June 3!


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More Firsts in This Unfolding Journey


How many of you were certain of what you wanted to be, and do, when you grew up? How many of you ended up following that road? How many of you have had absolutely no surprising changes along the journey of life?

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I would bet that everyone has experienced a number of unexpected twists and turns on the road of life. For myself, if you had told me five years ago that I would be happily self-employed today, I would have rolled my eyes and laughed. I was so caught in a tattered web of my own making, unwilling to see possibilities or trust in God’s providence…. I can now look back on that child (who was in her mid-forties!) and have some sense of compassion for her fears and her pain…but also with some sadness for what she probably missed by living afraid for so many years. There is no doubt that I learned and grew—and God can transform all of our choices in the crucible of Love—but I do wonder….

And part of the result of that wondering is that I keep taking risks. I took two more this week. First, I submitted a bunch of poems to my first poetry contest. This is a big step because it is the first time I have, in essence, put my work up against that of others. Most of the reason I did it was because I’m curious. I’ve had some positive feedback from workshop leaders and friends, but this is taking my poetry to a newer level. So I’ll see what happens….

The other thing I’ve done is to commit to a second blog post every week—for the blog Ordinary Mystic. (I came across this blog when Alana Levandoski and James Finley collaborated on a new contemplative folk album called Sanctuary, which is powerful…one refrain has become my newest “anytime” prayer). I reached out to Ordinary Mystic about possibly posting some of my poetry and got instead an invitation to consider posting on contemplative preparations for my Holy Land trip. That invitation really took hold of my heart and wouldn’t let go, so this past week I said yes. As of this writing, we’re still working out the details, but I will keep you posted. It’s an awesome new step on my journey, a step that I wouldn’t have taken if I wasn’t much more willing to take risks than I once was—when I thought I knew what I would be when I grew up!

When in your life have the surprising twists and turns revealed riches far beyond what you could possibly have imagined? Have those gifts emboldened you to take further risks along the way?

Are there assumptions you might still be holding about your path that might be keeping you from seeing God’s invitations along the way?


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Support for Blossoming


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Spring is well underway here in Tucson. The saguaros are blooming, along with so many other plants. I don’t yet know the names for some of them—but that doesn’t keep them from blossoming nonetheless!

Children are blossoming also. A friend of ours is a fourth grade teacher who uses every tool at his disposal to encourage and challenge children to stretch themselves, to take risks and grow. Last Wednesday we went to see his class perform The Secret Garden. He felt it was a particularly appropriate play for the children, so many of whom are having to learn how to move beyond the painful lessons that life has already handed them. I was honored to watch these children perform, in large parts and small, with eagerness and trepidation, perfectly and imperfectly.

We are all like that, you see. We all have painful lessons that life throws at us. We all perform both perfectly and imperfectly within the large and small roles of our lives. The question is whether we will take the risk of blossoming. So many times I have been afraid of risking failure, rejection, imperfection, and have not taken the risks. That is part of why it’s so important now to keep taking those risks, keep putting my work out there. To trust that God, and others, are supporting my blooming efforts because they need the fruits which will follow.

The other reason I believe it’s so important for me to keep putting my work out there, taking risks, is that we were all made to blossom. We all have beautiful gifts to share, and we are genetically programmed by our Creator to blossom in our own unique ways. If we hide our light under a bowl, as Jesus admonished in Matthew 5:14—16, our light does others, and the world, no good. This is why our friend is compelled to teach, and I am compelled to write, and share the flowers and fruit of my pondering, here on this blog, on retreats, in Embodied Prayer, and other places as well.

So how are you being called to blossom? What role models do you have for blossoming in your own life? What steps might you need to take that look like removing the bowl and letting your light shine? What support do you need in order to blossom?