Friday, May 24, 2013

Pilgrimage to the Holy Land

When Ruth Everhart was invited to participate in a ten-day pilgrimage to the Holy Land, she thought about it for awhile. As Presbyterian minister of a church in the Washington, D.C. suburbs, busy with both family and church, she realized that even after college, seminary, and 20 years of ministry, she still had some spiritual questions of her own.
The plan was for a group of seven clergy to be part of a documentary, called "Pilgrimage Project." The group was somewhat ecumenical, consisting of one Episcopalian, one Lutheran, two Presbyterians, one Southern Baptist, one from a nondenominational church, and one who had never been to seminary but was involved in prison ministry.
Film maker Brian Ide wanted the clergy to each take a turn leading one of their worship services during the trip, as "a way of sharing faith traditions," and he encouraged their discussing differences as well. In Jerusalem, they would join a group of 30 people, also on pilgrimage, sharing with them the facilities at St. George’s College. Stephen Need, dean of the college, would serve as their host and provide lectures and information for both groups. They would follow Jesus' life from Bethlehem to Galilee, then back to Jerusalem for the final days of his story.
It sounded good. So one morning in September 2005, Brian, two cameramen and the seven clergy met at St. Bart’s Episcopal Church in New York City and began their pilgrimage. One of the results is Chasing the Divine in the Holy Land by Ruth Everhart, one of the two Presbyterian clergy members in the group. It is published by Eerdmans, click on for more.
Ruth discovered that the pilgrimage was demanding but rewarding. She wrote that "she came to follow the Spirit, to encounter Jesus in his land, amid his stories." She kept two records: one, a journal of talks by Dean Need, and also, her notebook of personal prayers as she saw with her own eyes where Jesus walked and talked.
There was a lot to cover in those ten days and sometimes Ruth felt that "everything was too hurried, with no time to just stop and think about it." She said "the pilgrim’s journey is hard to process, let alone share, we all need space to think." She concludes her book with sections on Themes for Pilgrims, and on Questions for Pilgrims—both of which may help readers think through all they have learned as Ruth shared her pilgrimage with us. Note: the documentary was never completed but some footage is in the book trailer. Click on Eerdmans’ web page
—Lois Sibley

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Learning to say "Enough"

Enough, Discovering Joy Through Simplicity and Generosity, is not a new book, but it has been recently revised and updated by author Adam Hamilton, who is eager that each of us learn how the Bible’s wisdom will help us to find and use "prudent financial practices" for a life filled with joy and contentment.

In the ongoing financial crises we, our nation, and the world, seem to be caught in, that sounds impossible, doesn’t it? But Hamilton has some excellent ideas and suggestions that should help each one who reads his book and applies his ideas to their own situations.
Hamilton, who is senior pastor of a United Methodist church in Kansas, suggests that, with God’s help, we can simplify our lives. We can change our longings for "more" and "better," and we can learn to be content with what God gives us. Many pages include a quote from a well-known person or from the Scriptures, meant to encourage us as we think through Hamilton's ideas.
The Shakers are remembered as those who pointed out the importance of "simple gifts," in one of their hymns and Hamilton uses it to focus on how we might "simplify our lives, enjoy what we have, give more generously, and use our money and possessions" in the ways God intends. A challenge, yes, but the results may bring much joy into the lives of those who do it.
Hamilton means his book to be a guide and a source of inspiration and encouragement. He calls for readers to set goals and make plans. He offers lists, such as "six financial planning principles," "four keys to cultivating contentment," "five steps for simplifying your life." And he provides a closing page for each chapter that includes Scripture references, asking readers to apply each to his/her own situation. He discusses the importance of tithing on one’s income and how to do it, and the results that will come as we learn to give: contentment and joy.
His last chapter is on overcoming fear. We all experience fears of one kind or another and he offers "three keys to overcoming fear." And finally, Hamilton provides tools and tips on financial management, including ideas for credit card pay-off strategies. Highly recommended.
—Lois Sibley