Category Archives: Uncategorized

Whatever Shall We Do?

Whew! June has been quite the month in the social media and news world. There’s been more than enough of tragedies, disasters, political posturing, and hateful rhetoric, and we still have four days to go. Summer is here, tensions are rising, anxiety is growing, economic disparity is widening, and our elections in the U.S. are less than five months away. What’s a person of faith to do?

Public faith in actionHow about starting with a book discussion this summer? Released last week from Brazos Press, Public Faith in Action: How to Think Carefully, Engage Wisely, and Vote with Integrity by Miroslav Volf and Ryan McAnnally-Linz, is a wonderful new resource to stimulate discussion and provide additional study and resource suggestions.

I just finished reading the book and have already found it useful in sermon preparation, in conversation, and in challenging me to think outside of my own preconceived notions about how the world ought to operate. Volf and McAnnally-Linz make it clear from the start that the book is framed from this basic commitment: “Christian faith has an inalienable public dimension” (3). They argue that Christ must be the center and norm not just of our religious/faith and family lives but also in every aspect of the public sphere in which we move and breathe. Importantly, they encourage readers to see the book as a call to action, that of following Jesus and patterning the entirety of our lives after his example. Jesus was definitely a public figure; as his disciples we, too, are called to be active in public life to work for justice, top seek the common good, and to be God’s hands, feet, and heart in the world.

Public Faith in Action will appeal to a wide range of folks from theological thinkers to folks in the pew who are trying to make sense of the craziness they perceive all around them. The book is divided into three parts: Commitments, Convictions, and Character. The core of the book explores current issues—ranging from wealth and poverty to borrowing and lending, and from life and aging to marriage and family—and identifies relevant Christian convictions while also faithfully exploring ambiguities. Woven throughout are stories that illustrate the markers of character and convictions.

Whatever shall we Christians do about the current state of affairs? We can begin by recognizing that our response is a matter of stewardship, of being responsible for our actions and choices, of spending our time, resources, and talents wisely. It’s about stewarding relationships as we work together to knit the fabric of community through conversation, fellowship, and sharing.

Now get your hands on a copy of Public Faith in Action and read it post haste. But whatever you do, don’t stop there. Engage others in conversation and reflection, ponder what you as a person of faith are being called to do, and then commit yourself fully to act on your convictions for the sake of this beautiful, broken, and beloved world.

Click here to be redirected to the book website. Click here to watch a short YouTube video of Dr. Miroslav Volf discussing the book.

(Image: Courtesy Brazos Press)

Popcorn Please

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Sometimes it’s the little things in life that make all the difference in a day. For the Blezards almost nothing spells comfort like a big bowl of popcorn made the old-fashioned way: on the stove in a big pot with just a splash of oil, some sea salt, a little curry and red pepper powder, and a good upper arm workout. This simple treat is a Sunday night staple in our house and go-to weeknight comfort food after long meetings.

The simple pleasure of a big bowl of popcorn is much more than food to fill the belly. The taste, smell, and texture are infused with memories of childhood family television nights, memorable movies watched on the big screen, teen sleepovers, and making sticky-sweet popcorn balls for the holidays.

During this Lenten season, I am giving thanks for the simple things in life. Popcorn on a cold winter night is one of those simple pleasures that might easily taken for granted but is oh so worth savoring.

What are the simple things in which you take delight?

Bittersweet

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We were on the road at 5:00 a.m. today. Let me be clear that there is not enough caffeine in the world to make that hour palatable to my taste. But there was a plane to catch–at Dulles. So the daughter and I headed out into the fuzziness of night breaking into morning to send her back to the Twin Cities where husband, dogs, work, friends, and her life are located.

If roadtrips were ascribed gustatory characteristics, then this early morning sojourn would definitely taste of bittersweet. I’ve done it twice in one week (it being putting daughters on planes), first to BWI and now to Dulles, one to London and the other to the heartland. Both trips have left a dual taste of sadness and gladness in my mouth.

I am glad that both daughters have launched into “adulthood” (for what that’s worth) and continue to develop into unique and amazing individuals. I am sad because each time I send them from the safe arms of home into the hum and pitch of this beautiful, broken world I am reminded of the fleeting and precious nature of life and relationship.

Yes, bittersweet is the flavor of the day. I can own that reality. I can drink that cup of co-mingled joy and sorrow. And, I can truly say that I am grateful for every minute of their precious, wild, and wonderful lives. I send them into this world knowing that they do not “belong” to me but rather to the Creator of all that was, is, and is to come, to the cosmos and the grand human narrative. They are meant to live their own lives, make decisions, face consequences, craft their futures. And that is as it should be.

How thankful I am to be part of their that journey, to be connected to their stories, to hold them in my heart. I raise a glass of bittersweet tears, and I suspect some of you will understand this toast all too clearly. Here’s to holding loosely and to letting go. Here’s to drawing wide hopeful margins with myriad colors. Here’s to love that lets love take flight.

Photo: Benson Kua, Creative Commons. Thank you!

Practice. Practice. Practice.

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Wash. Rinse. Repeat. Practice. Practice. Practice. If you want to write, you have to make like a Nike commercial and “just do it.”

I write almost every day; most of it is work-related, but I probably average about about 1,500 words. I write mostly about stewardship, discipleship, and faith. Some days I craft articles or draft profiles. Other days I write sermons and blog posts. Once a week I write a reflection on the Revised Common Lectionary. Social media posts are a regular complement to the longer pieces. When I have the opportunity and luxury of choice I write poetry and dabble with fiction. Other writers are far more prolific than I am–and decidedly more disciplined, too. Still I write because it’s part of who I am.

When I don’t write I become cranky, slightly out-of-sorts, a bit moody. It’s the same as with physical exercise. Our bodies need to be active, to move, to stretch, to be strengthened. The same applies for our writing muscles and creativity: Use it, or you just might lose it.

What you want is practice, practice, practice. It doesn’t matter what we write (at least this is my view) at our age, so long as we write continually as well as we can. I feel that every time I write a page either of prose or of verse, with real effort, even if it’s thrown into the fire the next minute, I am so much further on. — C. S. Lewis

Here’s the thing: writing requires regular, everyday effort. I don’t know of anyone who simply sat down, faced a blank screen or clean sheet of paper and wrote a best-selling novel or a Broadway-bound play on the first go. So I’m grateful for C. S. Lewis’ reminder that every word written carries one further on, and I agree with him that craft matters, that every effort should be keen and thoughtful. Whether it’s fiction or poetry or feature articles or even a letter to a friend (perhaps particularly a letter to a friend), it’s a worthy effort and deserves to be treated as such.

This is what I learned: that everybody is talented, original and has something important to say. — Brenda Ueland

It is easy to become discouraged. Some days it seems that no words will come or that those that do spit themselves out are facile or nonsensical. On those days, remember this quote from pioneering writer and free spirit Brenda Ueland in her book If you Want to Write (Greywolf Press). In fact, she felt so strongly that everyone has something important to say that she titled a chapter in the book with those words. If you are not familiar with Ueland or this book, by all means read it.

Don’t be discouraged dear fellow writer. Put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, and keep those words coming. Read good prose and poetry. See excellent plays. Listen to good music. But most of all, WRITE. Every day. Yes. Every day.

I’d really like to hear your thoughts and strategies for hammering out those words. Please share your wisdom in the comment section. Thanks!

Photo: Ramiro Ramirez, Creative Commons. Thanks!

 

 

Happy “No Fear” New Year

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The year just passed was a real “doozy.” Yes, there were many good things to affirm and celebrate, but 2015 was also a year marred by fear, hate, violence, and nasty political posturing and rhetoric. We wrestled with (or avoided) legitimate concerns about climate change, poverty and income inequality, safety and security, homelessness and the plight of refugees, racism (and a host of other -isms), and the continued slaughter of black men and youths. Yes, 2015 is better left behind, and I pray we’re wiser for having lived through it.  Continue reading

Jesus and the Stewardship of Self

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It’s tough to be good stewards of our time, our relationships, and our finite resources. I’ve been reflecting on this topic a lot lately, especially in light of the wonderful Rostered Leaders Wellness Retreat our Lower Susquehanna Synod hosted with support from Portico Benefits (our insurer), Thrivent Financial, and Lutheran World Relief.

We spent a wonderful two days at the Hershey Hotel with wonderful food, great collegiality, worship, Bible study, and time for yoga, meditation, and financial stewardship workshops. We were also treated to chair massages and a prayer labyrinth. Just having time to see colleagues from all parts of our synod and to treat ourselves to a lovely setting that most of us would never consider going otherwise was a lavish gift.

Even better, our keynote presenter, Dr. Mike Brown, explained healthy living through a heart healthy diet and exercise. His presentation was fun, engaging, and humorous. My husband and I have  been comparing labels ever since and are committed to being attentive to “what goes in our mouth and what we do with our feet.”

Here’s a link to the reflection I wrote this week on the Narrative Lectionary reading for February 8, 2014, posted on the Stewardship of Life Institute website. Seems our Lord Jesus Christ knew a lot about health and wellness and provides a wonderful model for stewardship of self. Thank you, Jesus!

Moving Day and a New(ish) Adventure

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Dear Friends,

It’s been a crazy busy year, and it’s time to simplify. For several years now I’ve tried (with mixed results) to keep two blogs going, to write weekly for the Stewardship of Life Institute, to write periodically for other publications, and to write and edit a hefty portion of the communications for the Lower Susquehanna Synod, ELCA (my call and vocation as a pastor). I also completed the first draft of my first full-length novel in November (thank you NaNoWriMo!). Thankfully, I have an amazing husband and awesome family who support my “word play.”

A lot of my writing is on the topic of stewardship, and trying to keep too many writing projects in the hopper is simply NOT good stewardship of time, energy, and resources. To that end, 2015 is the year of writing more simply. This means that all of my writing will be migrating to my blog onewritelife.com effective tomorrow, December 31, 2014.

I hope you’ll follow me there and continue to read about gratitude, thanks-living, stewardship, faith, and writing. The coffee will be brewing several times a week, and fresh prose will await. Let’s live life fully one word at a time in 2015.

Good-bye Adventures in Thanksliving. Hello, One Write Life! Hope to see you there!

Sharron

Photo: Paretz Partensky, Creative Commons

Here’s a wonderful essay by friend and fellow author Julia Park Tracey. Check out her book website (links provided) and then get a copy of the book. You’ll enjoy it!

Adventures in Thanks-Living

(This is a guest post by friend, author, and fellow Compactor, Julia Park Tracey. Be sure to check out the website for the book. Enjoy!)

For the past year I have been sharing snippets and excerpts from the “Doris Diaries,” a collection of diaries from the 1920s through 1940s that I inherited from my Aunt Doris. The first volume of these has just been published as I’ve Got Some Lovin’ to Do: The Diaries of a Roaring Twenties Teen (1925-1926). It has been an unexpected pleasure to spend time in the presence of someone I miss very much, and whose presence in my life was akin to a fairy godmother.

When my great aunt Doris, who passed away in 2011, was beginning to fail, starting to lose some steam in that last of her 101 years, she asked me to take care of her private things, not to…

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Here’s the latest book I read (and thoroughly enjoyed) during my recent convalescence.

Adventures in Thanks-Living

Occasionally a book comes along that just flat out tickles my fancy and keeps me turning pages in anticipation and delight. This is the kind of book I don’t want to put down. I want to savor certain snippets so much that I find myself turning again to particular quotes  and scenes. I find myself torn between galloping through to the end or savoring each page. A book like this is an experience, one that leaves the reader wanting more. Such is the case for me with I’ve Got Some Lovin’ to Do: The Diaries of a Roaring Twenties Teen.

Doris Louise Bailey began keeping a diary in 1925, at the tender age of 15. Chronicling her adventures became a practice she would continue throughout her long life. After her death in 2011 at the age of 101, her great-niece, author and editor Julia Park Tracey, found herself in…

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Thanks, Cristian for this wonderful post. I think variations on these eight rules apply to almost any kind of narrative writing.