What I did this summer

Oct 2014 Lunar eclipse--photo by Julie McCarty

You have made the moon to mark the seasons; 
the sun knows its time for setting. . . .
O Lord, how manifold are your works!
(from Psalm 104: 19, 24)

When I was growing up, “What I did this summer” was the standard theme for writing assignments when we returned to school. Since this summer, I haven’t been blogging here, so I thought I’d fill you in on what I’ve been doing.

Minnesotans love to be outdoors in the summer (especially after this past winter!), and I am no exception. The summer here is filled with all the outdoor work on the home and garden that you can’t do the rest of the year. More importantly, we Minnesotans just like to enjoy being outside in the summer. So I spent lots of time nurturing my vegetable garden, taking long walks to practice nature photography, and enjoying time with summer visitors from out of state.

Veggies from garden--Julie McCarty

(click on photos to enlarge)

In September, my husband Terry and I spent two weeks exploring Manitoba, Canada and Thunder Bay, Ontario. We enjoyed hiking and practicing photography in the wheat fields, zoo, Riding Mountain National Park, and Whiteshell Provincial Park.  I hope to write more about that enjoyable and soul-nourishing trip sometime in the future.

Manitoba entrance

One of the highlights of this summer was digging deeper into my volunteer coordinator role of another blog called “Easter Prays / Easter Praise!” This reflection blog is a joint effort of many people from our church, Easter Lutheran.  I’m so blessed with what others are sharing: personal reflections, original prayers, tips on praying and spiritual practices, and stories of God’s work in our everyday lives.

This week, Terry brought in the last of our garden: carrots. (Carrots can survive longer into the fall, as they are protected deep in the ground.) With the turning over of the garden soil, my mind turns indoors and inwards, in anticipation of winter… to the writer side of me… and the newly developing artist studio in my basement…and all the potential those reflective, creative activities hold. My mind also returns to this blog and the plan to post reflections more frequently again

So, as the last few leaves scurry across our lawn, I wish you a happy November (the beginning of autumn, perhaps, for some of you), filled with every blessing from above.

Until next time, Amen!  

God Makes All Things New

And the one who was seated on the throne said,
“See, I am making all things new.” 
— Revelation 21:5 (NRSV)

This is one of my favorite bible verses, although I often forget about it altogether.

Butterfly--photo Julie McCarty--All rights reserved.In Chapter 21 of Revelation, the writer has a vision of a new heaven and a new earth. God reveals a “new Jerusalem” and the one seated on the throne says “Behold, I make all things new” (RSV). It is easy to dismiss this bible verse from our lives, viewing it only as a vision applying to either the past (Jesus’ ministry on earth) or the future (some day, in heaven).

However, Jesus taught us that the kingdom of God is already within our midst, in our lives, our hearts, and our communities (Luke 17:21). Sure, it’s not perfectly complete or fully expressed the way it will be after death, in heavenly glory when we behold the face of God. Even so, the spiritual kingdom of Christ has already begun, both in the life of Jesus and in those who follow his way.  

Jesus also said something else quite astonishing: that his followers would do even greater things than he did (John 14:12). Personally, I have trouble believing this is really so, but that’s what it says, right there in the bible. Christ did not come to earth just so we could maintain the status quo. God wants us to do great things–the kind of great things that Jesus did.

Is there some new work or service that God is inviting you to take up? Perhaps there is a fresh way to approach the work you already are doing, a way that would be more Christ-like?

Is there some new life the Holy Spirit wants to breathe into our faith communities? Our neighborhoods or schools? To improve how we serve others in need? To care for God’s creation around us in the environment? To spread the good news of God’s great compassion and mercy?

Will you pray with me?

Lord, sometimes it can be difficult to try new things. We may feel uncertain about what is the best choice for our future. We may be pushed to move beyond our “comfort zone.” Show us the path you desire for us, and give us the courage to follow you always, with humility, mercy, and love.

Until next time, Amen!

The Spiritual Practice of Being Uncomfortable by Christine Valters Paintner

Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go. –John 21:18

Have you ever thought about moving beyond your comfort zone as a type of spiritual practice?  Is life drawing you to something new, but you are hesitant? Is God inviting you to another way of serving others or giving of yourself, but you are reluctant or procrastinating?

In her column on Patheos.com, Benedictine Oblate and “online Abbess” Christine Valters Paintner explores the way that moving beyond our comfort zone could be called a spiritual practice. Here’s the link:

The Spiritual Practice of Being Uncomfortable.

(If the link above doesn’t work, try googling “spiritual practice of being uncomfortable”.)

Thanks to the “online Abbess” of Abbey of the Arts for challenging us to listen and act when the Spirit invites us to new ways of thinking and behaving–and thanks to Patheos.com for allowing the sharing of columns.

Until next time, Amen.