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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings - It's the hard that makes it good edition

Three years ago this week, I preached on these lections for the first time. As I enter into my third year for the first time with a congregation, and move through the same lectionary passages again, I was wondering how to keep my thinking fresh for me and for the congregation. Reading the passages for this week, I was reminded that I have nothing to worry about. These 4 little readings have a little of something for most any aspect of the life of faith, with a thread of the compelling difficulty of discipleship woven through them.

Dont discount the gospel as just TOO MUCH for your end of summer crowd. It might be just the word they are yearning to hear as the expectations and schedules of autumn crowd in on them. Listen to what Tony Robinson has to say:
I suspect that many of our best parishioners would welcome a sermon or sermons that acknowledge that following Christ is demanding and indicating what that looks like for us in this time and place. I recall one of my own favorite movie scenes from "A League of Their Own." The star pitcher, Gina Davis, tells her coach that she's packing it in. "It's just got too hard," she says. He answers, "It's the hard that makes it good."
I love this quote, although I have to say I wonder what Tony means by "our best parishioners." Are these challenges just for the few who really get it, or is there good news for all of us buried there? If you are living the questions of these passages more than the answers, you might want to visit Jan Richardson, often a commenter here at TLL, who has a lovely reflection on the questions that arise from taking seriously these difficult and challenging sayings of Jesus. Check it out.

But dont take off before you let us know what's coming up for you. Will you tackle the gospel? That tiny-but-mighty letter to Philemon? Or, are you considering the metaphor of potter God in Jeremiah? And, for those of you in the States, how do you address (or do you address?) Labor Day? Or are you leaping the lectionary all together?

See you in the comments! Texts for this week found here. League of Their Own photo found here.

Monday, August 30, 2010

RevGalBlogPals Big Event 4.0

Reframing Hope
February 26-March 3, 2011
Our BE 4.0 presenter will be the Reverend Carol Howard Merritt, pastor at Western Presbyterian Church in Washington D.C. and author of Tribal Church: Ministering to the Missing Generation and the forthcoming Reframing Hope: Vital Ministry in a New Generation. Carol is one of the hosts of the God Complex Radio podcast and blogs at
This event will provide 20 Contact Hours (2 CEUs), as well as plentiful time for rest, recreation  and “galship.” You will receive a copy of Carol’s book in advance as part of your registration fee.

BE 4.0 will take place on Carnival Cruise Line's ship, Carnival Inspiration, departing Tampa, Florida on Saturday, February 26, 2011, with stops at Grand Cayman and Cozumel and two full days at sea. We return to Tampa early on Thursday, March 3. Cost including cruise and program for a shared cabin will be $545 for an inside stateroom or $600 for oceanview. 

The registration fee of $100 will be due on September 25, a payment of $200 will be due on October 21, and the balance will be due on December 15, 2010. Particulars are in the brochure, available by emailing Martha Hoverson.

We require a minimum of 15 participants and currently have space for 24 at these rates. We cannot guarantee the prices will remain the same for additional staterooms, so be sure to book early!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Sunday Music Video: We Shall See the King

Once upon a time, long long ago, my husband and I relocated from California to North Carolina.
About that same time I left the church in which I had been raised and we began to attend a little Assemblies of God church down the street.

In those days, Pentecostals had a rather rich tradition of "campmeeting" style songs. This was new to me, but after some adjustment I found I liked the songs. Sadly, we don't hear them much anymore, but this morning we sang "We Shall See the King." I was going to post something more sedate on the blog, but this was my daughter's favorite church song growing up, so I just had to share it in her honor.

I wish I could have found a nice congregational version, but this one does at least give you the "southern" flavor.

What did you sing this morning? Share, if you like, in the comments.

prayer for Proper 17C / Ordinary 22C / Pentecost +14

Gracious God,
You are a God of hospitality; there is none like you that invites all to come to you.
You have invited all to your home, to your table, and to your arms.
Lord, would that all would hear and receive this good news.
Lord, help us to remember that no one is better than anyone else in your Kingdom.
Help us to then treat each other the way you treat people.
Generous God,
Because you treat us with your tender love,
We take time to pray for our friends, family members and others who need you more than ever.
Pour out your healing on all who need it.
Be generous with your transforming love for those who needs it in their lives.
Bring forth your reconciliation in families, and in places where it is needed.
Gifting God,
You give us the gifts of the spirit to use to further your Kingdom
and to be the Body of Christ in the world.
We take time to remember the people devastated by Hurricane Katrina
and to thank you for the restoration that has already taken place.
Empower us to continue to be your hands and feet
to continue the work that needs to be done there and in so many other places.
There is none like you God in your love, your generosity, your gifting and your hospitality.
And we thank you that you are in our lives, working in us and through us to let people know your kingdom is open to all.
In the name of your son, who opened the doors for all and broke down barriers that kept people from you, amen.

crossposted at revgalprayerpals and abi's long and winding road

Saturday, August 28, 2010

11th Hour Preacher's Party: the Home, Hospitality, Humilty Edition

Apple, pear, cranberry pie....would you like a slice? (photo and pie by mompriest)
As summer begins to wind down my family and I are squeezing in as many cook-outs and grilled dinners as we possibly can. I love to cook and entertain, but really prefer to do this in a casual way. Well, unless it's Christmas Eve dinner, but that's for another party discussion. Our scripture readings this week give us plenty of opportunity to talk about hospitality, whether in the home or otherwise. They also point us to look at ideas of humility, although I admit I do not readily share my most humbling experiences from the pulpit (insert smiling face here)....still there is lots we could say about humility as a virtue.

So, where are your thoughts leading you for your sermon? Are you going with Jeremiah or Sirach? The Psalms or Proverbs? Or maybe The Letter to the Hebrews (did Paul write it?)...Maybe though you are drawn to Luke or some combination of these?

As of this writing I am not sure where I am going or even which scripture I may use. Thankfully I have three choices and can make up my mind at the last minute....although I really hope it doesn't take me that long. Still, there are some excellent late night partyers to keep me company should it come to that for me or you!

Regardless here we are, Saturday and a party to keep us sustained and entertained. I have fresh blueberry pancakes, coffee, and nectarines - and of course, pie..... Grab a mug and pull up a chair, would you like coffee or tea?

Friday, August 27, 2010

Friday Five: Dorm Life Edition

Yesterday I returned my middle child for his second year of college. He's an experienced dorm resident, having spent two years at a boarding high school. In the lounge at the end of his floor I found a suite of This End Up furniture that took me back to my years in the Theta house at William and Mary. I remember polishing that furniture with my sorority sisters every spring, just before we headed off for Beach Week at Nags Head.

Mindful that many others are heading off to further schooling or delivering their loved ones to the institutions that provide it, here are five questions about dorm life.

1) What was the hardest thing to leave behind when you went away to school for the first time?

2) We live in the era of helicopter parents. How much fuss did your parents make when you first left home?

3) Share a favorite memory of living with schoolmates, whether in a dorm or other shared housing.

4) What absolute necessity of college life in your day would seem hilariously out-of-date now?

5) What innovation of today do you wish had been part of your life in college?

Bonus question for those whose college days feel like a long time ago: Share a rule or regulation that will seem funny now. Did you really follow it then?

If you play the Friday Five at your blog and would like visitors, be sure to share a link here, using the following formulation:

<a href="the url of your blog post goes here">what you want the link to say goes here</a> For a complete how-to, click here.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Ask the Matriarch - The Queue Was Empty

So...your editor forgot to announce that we had no questions in the this week, we have some questions for all of you...

Mompriest, blogging at Seeking Authentic Voice has a good question:

It would be a good idea to talk about the program year ahead. Share with us what your congregation has scheduled for the program year in terms of adult, youth, and children’s formation. Do you have a program in place for year-long stewardship and if so, how do you teach and get folks to live it? Do you offer special programs for Advent and Lent and if so what’s on the schedule for this year? Let’s share our ideas and resources.

Jennifer, who blogs at An Orientation of Heart, has lots of great ideas cooking at her place:

This is just about the busiest time of the year for our congregation, administratively. We’re putting the finishing touches on the kick-off to a new program year, complete with educational opportunities for children, youth and adults (Sunday morning and Sunday evening for teachers and other leaders), a great program that we’ve adapted from Faith Inkubators called Faith Stepping Stones, which ties life landmarks in the lives of children and youth and their families with spiritual practices, and all of the usual groups that you’d expect to find in a mainline church (women’s organization, youth groups, etc.)

We do some fun stuff with year-round stewardship, dividing the year into quarters and thinking about time and talents in the first quarter of the calendar year (Jan.-March), our commitment to the environment in the second quarter, a focus on sabbath in the third quarter, and an emphasis on our financial stewardship in the fourth quarter. This is our second full year of thinking together this way. We’ve got miles to go…

I’m out of time and gas to summarize Advent and Lent. The church I serve is blessed with lots of creative folks, but even so, the caveat I’d offer is to avoid over-programming. People of all sorts seem to be overbooked and overscheduled. It’s hard to be counter-cultural and offer time for church leaders and participants in the creative programming of the church to rest and be renewed. That’s our greatest growing edge.

What are you planning at your place? What is your faith community's greatest growing edge?

Muthuh+ also has a very good question awaiting your response:

As a newly retired pastor/priest, I am not sure what I can do in parishes. For the past 30 years I have been the sole pastor or senior pastor. I am still vital but not willing to be in charge any longer. What would clergy like for a pastor to do or NOT do if I joined your congregation?

Please use the Post a Comment function to offer your answers to our questions...we are looking forward to hearing from you!

May you live in God's amazing grace+

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Wednesday Festival: What's Really Important?

Sally shares a post this week titled "No Apologies":

I have a Manse inspection tomorrow (Circuit Administrator and Circuit Steward), and although I know that this is partly to make sure that all is well, and that the roof is not caving in on us, and that the windows aren't falling out, it brings with it all sorts of pressures. I look around the house, it is filled with the assorted bits and pieces from three twenty year olds who have just graduated from University, we have in effect stuffed three households worth of stuff into one house...and it is messy...

Add to that the assorted washing from various holidays, and the fact that it is impossible to dry because it keeps raining, and that an eco-minded decision a couple of years ago means that we do not have (and do not want) a tumble drier...

Add to that the large number of shoes (Jon's shoes are a size 13!) and coats that are cluttering the hallway, the fact that there are cups and mugs in strange places, the Wii and PS3 games and remotes and handsets strewn around, the phone chargers, lap-tops and notebooks that make us look a bit like an electronics jumble sale...

And then of course it being summer there is the sailing gear, wet suits and boots, life jackets and bags of towels...

Moving on to the garden (whose produce is filling the kitchen waiting for me to find a couple of hours to dedicate to freezing etc.), where the hedge needs trimming and the grass needs cutting but it keeps raining...the side passageway where our old fridge sits waiting forlornly for a Free-cycler to claim it...

And I am tempted to begin to offer apologies...

But then I look at things another way, could this be a picture of life in all its fullness, of life that celebrates, of life that glories in the fruitfulness of the earth, and does not have time to be constantly tidying stuff away, life that celebrates through reading and playing, through interacting and having fun...

Our home is not dirty, or damaged, it is simply filled with people and filled with life...and we cannot control the weather!

As for my study, I know where everything is- and the piles of books, papers etc, I maintain that they are the sign of a creative mind at work....

So bring on the Manse inspection. I make no apologies for living!

Edited to add; just perfect, the cat has brought in a "present"!


Your editor is tempted to think that Sally has chosen the better part. But that may just be me...What are you thinking, writing, praying about this week? Share in the comments, and if you'd like to link to a blog post, use this little string of text to help: <a href="the url of your blog post goes here">what you want the link to say goes here</a>

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings - We're-Not-Talking-Emily-Post Here Edition

Have you seen the bumper sticker "Jesus is coming, look busy?" How DO we act around Jesus, anyway?

Well, as we discussed in Bible Study this morning, the etiquette you learned at your favorite auntie's knee about the proper placement of the salad fork and the correct way to open a door for an older person, is not the behavior expected or modeled by Jesus. The etiquette you learned as a child was to maintain social order. Every time you entered that well-known dining room with those familiar voices ringing around you, you know just which fork to grab, and you chewed your iceberg lettuce with your mouth closed, just as you had been taught.
But the rules suggested by Jesus, and then echoed in the Hebrews passage from the lectionary today seem intended not to maintain but to disrupt social situations. Jesus openly derides his hosts for what are, after all, faithful and prayerful practices. Then he turns on the guests, pointedly uncovering their their jostling for position.

Both gospel and the epistle advocate welcoming strangers to your feasts rather than those who you want to impress, pay back or hold something over. He does these things, our Lord and Savior, in spite of what he knows it will cost him --his very life. Jesus' radical welcome is so very central to who he is, and to who we, his followers are called to be.

And yet, how many of us literally follow this passage in our homes, welcoming strangers to our private celebrations? And for how many of us has our worship hour become a private celebration, at which strangers are not actually welcomed, even if we pay them lip service? Weigh in, friends and strangers. The comments are open.

Picture of Jesus at table with the rabble found here. Link to texts found here.

Monday, August 23, 2010

RevGalBookPals: Reframing Hope offers from Alban

As many of you know, ring member Carol Howard Merritt will be our presenter for Big Event 4.0. Her new book, Reframing Hope: Vital Ministry in a New Generation, is about to be published, and Alban Institute has shared some ways to learn more about the book and even get a free copy! 

Hope may look different to a 25-year-old web designer than it does to a 60-year-old deacon. But it is hope nonetheless.

In Reframing Hope, Carol Howard Merritt takes a look at what ministry in, with, and by a new generation might look like. She understands that we are not creating from nothing the vital ministry of the next generation. Instead, we are working through what we have, sorting out the best parts, acknowledging and healing from the worst, and reframing it all.

Special Pre-Publication Price: $11.90 + shipping – valid until August 29th.

1   Get the First Chapter of Reframing Hope FREE. Read it, and we know you'll have to buy the book.2   Register for a free webinar on August 26th. Pick her brain, read the first chapter and share your thoughts.
3   Want to know what Carol thinks? Watch her talk about it and who it’s meant to help in this short video.4   Are you an avid blogger? Get the whole book FOR FREE if you want to write a review of it.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Prayer for P 16C / O 21C / P +13

Listening God,
Hear our prayers as we come before you.
Hear the ones who are crying with pain in their heart.
Hear the ones who are weeping with grief long into the night.
Hear the ones who are sobbing in their loneliness.

Loving God,
Heal their pain.
Restore their lives
Mend their broken hearts.

Leading God,
Lead us through the dark valleys.
Lead us through troublesome times.
Lead us to our home with you.

Teach us to listen to your voice,
That we may hear the cry of the needy and respond.
Teach us to love that
We may offer care that brings others to you for healing.
Teach us to lead,
With your vision so that we not lead others blindly through life.

Through your son who taught us to pray:

cross posted at revgalprayerpals and rev abi's long and winding road

Saturday, August 21, 2010

11th Hour Preachers' Party: Back in the Saddle Edition

Hello Gals and Pals!

I'm possibly unnaturally excited to be back with you all in the Preacher Party after a few months away. My new baby girl turned 3 months yesterday, and this is my first Sunday back in the pulpit. I started back in the office on Monday.

Three months without preaching has been interesting - - glorious on the one hand (no deadline, no pressure), but in a way it sort of left me feeling a little aimless, too. I guess it's one way I know this is a call and not just a thing to do. Maybe that's one reason Jeremiah is speaking to me this week.

But enough about me (likely too much about me). We have a task at hand! What Word is the Spirit whispering or shouting in our ears that needs to be shared with others. What Scriptures are speaking to you? On Tuesday it seemed that themes of vocation, healing, and Sabbath were cropping up. I also remember somone talking about bullying. That got me thinking about "Back to School" types of themes. Is there anyone taking their cue from that part of the secular calendar (where it fits)?

Another question somewhat related - - Does anyone have any "Backpack Blessing" resources or traditions they are willing to share? Even if this isn't the week for it, it is likely coming up soon for many of us. I threw one together in the last minute last year and would like to be more intentional this time.

Join the party in the comments! Usually I have husband-made blueberry pancakes to share in the morning, but we have a houseguest with dairy and egg allergies so I doubt they are on the menu in the morning. Probably just boring old instant oatmeal. What yummy things do the rest of you have to share???

Friday, August 20, 2010

Friday Five: De/Re/CLutter?

Since posting about decluttering, I am still muttering about the need for it in my house. How about you?

1. What things do you like to hang on to?

2. What is hard to let go of?

3. What is easy to give away?

4. Is there any kind of stumbling block connected with cleaning out?

5. What do you like to collect, hoard, or admire?

Bonus: Tell us about recycling or whatever you can think of that goes along with this muttering about cluttering.

Remember to leave a link to your blog in the comments section. I'm the one who can't figure out how to show the proper linkage, so go here to find out how!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Ask the Matriarch - "I was hungry, and you..."

Meet Contemplative Chaplain...a newly-minted solo pastor wondering how to care for those who come to the church seeking aid

I am new to this congregation and have never served a solo pastorate before. We have a relatively small congregation of only 75 or so at this point. At my previous pastoral placement (where I was one of a staff of eight!) in a relatively financially comfortable small town, we didn’t deal much with transients or people coming to seek money from the church. While our church contributes regularly to wider mission and serves once a month at the local food bank, there has not been a pastor’s discretionary account set up to assist people in need who show up on our doorstep. This week someone stopped when I was alone at the church and I gave her $10.00 of my own cash and some toilet paper from the church bathroom (it was what she said she needed…). However, some elders in the church are now telling me that I am a “soft touch” and cautioning me about what I give as word will get out all over the city that I give money away (the previous two pastors, apparently, had a hard line on not giving away money or food but had a list of community resource locations for people to go on their own).

I understand that we don’t want to be “taken advantage of” as a church, but I cannot feel as if I am a true disciple of Christ without giving something to someone in need. How have your churches handled this situation and what do you see as options for churches? Food vouchers? Gas cards? A cut off on how many times people can ask?

All of this just makes me confused and sad, and I want to do the right thing.

Contemplative Chaplain

Jennifer who blogs at An Orientation of Heart notes...

This is a great question, and an ethical struggle for many clergy, I think.

I’m glad you have elders who are aware of the situation and who are offering you advice and counsel based on their community.

If I served a church that did not have a pastor’s discretionary fund and felt that such a fund were needed, I’d sit down with the Mission Committee and think about the need with them and if they perceived the need, would then work with them to establish guidelines and amounts and all of the accompanying policies. I’ve served churches in urban and rural and suburban settings and the desires of each congregation have differed. However, in all settings, groups in the life of the church (the women’s group, the men’s group, the youth group, the mission committee) as well as individuals have contributed to the fund as they wish. Sometimes they’ve budgeted funds to contribute and sometimes they’ve been more spontaneous gifts, particularly individuals who recognize that needs arise to which the pastor can respond.

If your church wishes to set up a discretionary/emergency fund, it would be wise to think about what feels right for your congregation and what feels like an emergency. For many years our congregation had no policy and had many returning visitors who asked for help for years. Our policy is that we do not give cash.

I think it’s a reality in many communities that word spreads quickly about assistance, so having guidelines you can follow allows you to be clear with all who come to the church for help. It also allows your partners in ministry (the congregation) to feel as though their contributions are being wisely shared.

Muthuh+ adds...

Dear Contemplative Chaplain,
The giving of alms has been a conundrum since biblical times. But my advice is always to err on the side of charity. In my last small town, I was a member of the local council of churches and we had a voucher system that all of us contributed to that helped us from being “taken” by those who make it a practice to take from the Church. If you do not have access to that, check with the pastors of churches around you. (It will also give you some allies)
Your parish needs to have some fund for alms for THEIR sakes. Alms are a necessary part of the Church’s ministry and life. It also raises the consciousness of your congregation. People in the congregation should be encouraged to give to such a fund. I avoid Pastor’s Discretionary Funds because its use can be so easily distorted, but there does need to be a way to fund this kind of alms giving. You need a fund to which you have access but it must have some checks and balances and be fairly confidential. Sometimes a parishioner might need to make use of it without the whole Church knowing.
In one church I knew that my alms fund was being used as the unofficial “check guard” for a poor family that lived near the church. They always paid their borrowings back so that others could have an emergency fund too.
Alms giving is such an important part of being a Christian. If your church is not used to such a ministry, you will need to do some teaching to your council or your deacons. I met Mother Theresa once. I have never met someone so touched by God that it radiated out from her. She said, “Give until it hurts, only then will you know what Christ’s sacrifice was about.” It is an important piece of lived-out theology.

And from Mompriest, blogging at Seeking Authentic Voice

This is a very delicate subject and one I have struggled with. In two previous parishes I served we established a response policy to give me some guidelines from the leaders. In each of those places I did have a discretionary account and wanted to use those funds with integrity and respectful of the desires of those who contributed to it. In both places I also had the counsel of other local clergy and even social workers and other agencies to help guide our decisions.

That said, in the small church, where I was often there alone, we decided that I would not answer the door or respond when I, or any other person, was working there alone. When there were two in the office, as was the case during posted office hours, we would invite the person into a public place where I could sit and speak with the person but still be seen from the office. It afforded the person some privacy since no one else was nearby but me some safety since we could be seen. We then purchased gift cards for a local grocery store and local gas station, in the amounts of $20 or $50 for food and $10 for gas. I could decide which and how many of these gift cards to give to each person. I also let the person know that I kept a list of who I gave to and that I would be unable to help them again anytime soon. With this policy in place I only had a few people who came again and again – and even those only came about three times a year – which seemed very reasonable to me.

In my second parish we only gave out gift cards to the local grocery story, but it had a gas station attached to it and the cards could be used for that as well. I also established a working relationship with the local community resource agency who helped people with bigger more systemic issues like housing, medical care, and rent. The policy was that I would send those people, who needed more assistance, to this agency and they would do the intake work and strive to solve the big problems. They would contact me and the other churches in the area if the person needed cash for items that their guidelines would not cover, like an auto repair, or a more expensive rent payment. The agency kept track of folks and would let us know when a scammer was going around. I really liked this process because I felt we were making a community wide effort to help on a deeper level those who needed it and at the same time I had the opportunity to give a gift card to someone who really just needed a little food or gas. So, an agreed upon policy from the congregation which will hopefully include the gift cards is one way that has worked well for me. The beauty of cards is that they carry some intentionality to them, one more step a person would have to go through if the really just wanted cash for drugs. I try not to prejudge people, what they do with the gift we give is their concern. But I always hope they use it wisely.

Lastly, I always offered a prayer with the person before they left, one that wrapped up their concerns and asked for God’s blessing and guidance. You have my prayers as you discern a response to this profound community concern.

All we lack are your experiences and insights...but you can contribute by using the "Post a Comment" function. Please...join in the conversation.

May you live in God's amazing grace+

rev honey

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Wednesday Festival: God, Faith, Suicide, Surviving

Today's powerful and moving festival post is by Robin, who blogs at Metanoia. Thank you, Robin. To see the post in its original context, click here.

Yesterday: Summer Sky

Over at my other place, I've been writing about the journey of faith and suicide survivorship. I've decided to cross-post one of the entries over here. But I wanted to add something, which perhaps should go at the end but . . . perhaps at the beginning.

I think it's not just a witness to the experience of the way back that I'm writing. I think it's a witness to the reality that there is a way back. It seems important to chronicle, because so many of us never find it. In my own family, as I've said recently, the general theological stance is: Too Much Suffering = No God. Everyone pretty much gave up. I am surrounded in my daily life by people for whom God is not of great interest or importance, or who have concluded that God does not find them to be of interest or importance. When I attend suicide survivors' groups, God almost never comes up. (Except for sometimes when people say to me, increduously, "You stayed in seminary?" God seems like a far-off and unreal concept after the suicide of a loved one.)

And what I think is that most of these folks can't or won't engage with God in their suffering. Knowing that the response is likely to be silence, they either shrug their shoulders and move on, or resort to the kinds of platitudes that stir thoughts of murder in my own particular heart. Or maybe they don't know how to start, or have no one with whom to talk honestly, or discover that the answers are even harder than the questions ~ which is not exactly motivating.

So, for what it's worth, a post. I might have some more to say about where I am now, maybe in a few days.

I think that it would be fair to say that one of the basic threads of discussion which I have pursued with my spiritual director for the past two years goes something like this:

Where was God?

Not exactly an original question in the wake of catastrophe. But then, originality is not a requirement.

My daughter is driving from North Carolina to Ohio as I write this. I have spent the past 26 years waging a battle against terror whenever any of my children are out of my sight. Having lost a mother, brother, stepmother, and aunt all to sudden deaths at young ages, I have no particular sense of assurance about human safety or well-being. Actually, I have none at all. But I did pretty well for 24 years, and managed to conceal most of my fears and not convey them to my children. And then one night something I wasn't even afraid of came true.

So where was God? I have asked tearfully and furiously and tiredly, over and over and over. Not with respect to myself. I couldn't have cared less about that. With respect to my child.

After about a year, I had reached the point at which I could at least acknowledge the promise Jesus makes in Matthew 28:20: "Lo, I am with you always." And hope that it might be true.

And then it was completely ruined for me by a sermon preached at seminary. It happens that that verse is preceded by one in which Jesus says "Go and make disciples of all people." The sermon was an energetic call to mission, and an argument that making disciples of all people is a predicatory requirement for Jesus' continued presence with us. "No 'Lo' without the 'Go!' " exclaimed the pastor.

I was devastated. I had just barely, gingerly, come to a tentative and fragile confidence that Jesus might have been with and fully present to my son when he died, and this preacher essentially told me: No.

It was months before I set foot in the seminary chapel again.

Now another year has gone by.

And I have slowly and tentatively reached the point at which I can barely grasp the hope that the Jesus who is always present to people at their lowest and most helpless was surely with my child; that the Jesus who always extends healing and wholeness to the sick and broken did the same for him.

I am able to say that largely out of my own experience, out of my gradual waking to the recognition that Jesus has been present to me in so many ways through other people since Josh died. And I am not nearly as broken as Josh was. So my only conclusion can be that Jesus is even more interested in him.


I know that some folks are wondering why I am writing this. I sometimes wonder myself. Shouldn't I, as a spiritual director and almost-pastor, be offering emphatic assurance in the hope of the Resurrected Christ?

I think it's important, even if only in this little-read blog, to witness to the genuine experience of the most horrific kinds of loss. The path to a renewed and confident faith is a steep and rocky one, with many slides backward over rough gravel and gnarly roots. Pretending otherwise is of no help to anyone.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Monday Discussion (Belated Edition)

It's August, and our schedule is a bit off what with announcements about BE 4.0 and the various moves and trips away of the gals on our membership committee. I promise Meet and Greets will resume! Look for the next set of introductions on the 29th of August.

But for today, as I begin to get ready for a new call, I am thinking about the first one and the mistakes I made and the lessons I learned. This was already on my mind when I read kathrynzj's great post from earlier today.

In the comments, share with us something you had to learn the hard way and/or some moment of grace in which a lesson came surprisingly easily.

If you write a post at your own blog, be sure to share a link here, using the following formulation:

<a href="the url of your blog post goes here">what you want the link to say goes here</a> For a complete how-to, click here.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Prayer for P15C / O20C / P+12

O God,
Thank you for the rain here in the South where it has been so needed.
Thank you for the sunshine where it has been needed.
Thank you for the rain of grace in our lives where we have needed it.
Thank you for the sunshine of your Son where we have needed him.

O God,
We continue to pray for those in Russia where the fires and high temperatures have caused a higher number of deaths.
We cry for the lives lost in the flooding in China and Pakistan.
We pray for Mexico with escalated drug wars.
We pray for our own country’s continued recession with continued job losses.

O God,
We pray for faith to live our lives as faithful as the Israelites when they passed through the Red Sea.
We pray for faith to be as courageous as Rahab was.
We pray for faith to finish the race as all those who were before us did, who now stand cheering for us.
We pray for faith to keep our eyes on Jesus who started this race and leads us to the very end.


cross posted at revgalprayerpals and rev abi's long and winding road

11th Hour Preacher Party: Burning Down the House

Read more about the painting here.
Oh, Proper 15C. How do we love thee?

You bring us unacceptable wild grapes and word like a fire and a hammer that breaks things to pieces and that's all before we turn to the back of the book and hear our Lord and Savior GO OFF.

So I suggest we fortify ourselves. Stick together. Support one another.

The only way out is through, right?

I'm making Fair Trade coffee, and there's homemade banana bread. You can even spread Nutella on it, if my nineteen-year-old didn't finish it all last night. Join us, bring your treats, your questions and your ideas and share them in the comments.

And if you feel the need to bang your head on something while contemplating these texts, why not dance to this instead?

Friday, August 13, 2010

Dog Days of Summer Friday Five

Here in the snow belt state of Wisconsin we long for the first signs of spring--perhaps a crocus poking up through the snow, or a pussy willow bud popping out even beneath ice. The first appearance of robins, that most cheery little hopper of birds, causes widespread rejoicing. Spring is followed by summer, a time for home-grown tomatoes, watermelon, corn on the cob, all sorts of "fests," back yard "fry outs" (what they call a barbecue here, for some reason) and trips near and far.

I love summer, and wait anxiously for it every year. So how is it that we have arrived at the hot and humid "Dog Days" of August, and I have not done nearly enough of what I planned to do? I want to pack in as much as I can before snow flies once again.

How about you? And what is happening for those of you who are in a different hemisphere than I, and it may be cold?

1. What is the weather like where you live?

2. Share one thing you love about this time of year.

3. Share one thing you do NOT love about this time of year.

4. How will you spend the remaining days leading up to Autumn?

5. Share a good summer memory.

Bonus: What food says SUMMER to you?

As always, let us know in comments if you play. Post a direct link to your blog entry in your comment using the following formulation in the comment box: <a href="the url of your blog post goes here">what you want the link to say goes here</a> For a complete how-to ,click here.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Ask the Matriarch - Mother and Child

This Sunday many Christians will observe the feast of Mary, the Mother of Jesus. Mothering is a most holy calling, and a distinctive "term of that call" shapes our question for the matriarchs today.

I am just back from maternity leave and wondering if you have any advice around the issue of breastfeeding my infant while working. I usually have a bottle or two for church time while she's in the nursery, but what about after coffee hour when most everyone has gone home? Is it appropriate to nurse her in my office with the door closed, or in the church nursery the way other mothers do, or at a church event like a picnic? What about during a pastoral visit at someone's home? What if they have come to my home? We have a number of parents of young children with up to 12 babies in our nursery on any given Sunday and although I don't want to make anyone feel uncomfortable in any way, I also want to affirm for the other new mothers that it's okay for them to breast feed their babies while at the church or in the presence of the church community. I should also mention that this is my second child and I'm much more adept at nursing this time around. I do have special clothes that facilitate the process (though no clericals that do), and on the whole feel as though I can manage it in a very discreet manner. I'd love to hear what others think about when and where nursing is appropriate.


First from our newest matriarch, Muthuh+

OK, I have to ‘fess up to being of the ‘older generation’ when such things as nursing were not even discussed in mixed company AND I am not a mother. But I want to encourage you to do what you are comfortable with. I am guessing that you are not the senior pastor, however, and being a woman and in a subordinate position could provide some problems. If you are not the senior pastor talk this over with your spouse and your pastor so that you will have the support you need to nurse your child at church. If you are sr. pastor, then talk to your council or pastor support committee. Most likely they will support you if you are comfortable with it. You can get some good feed back there. It is always important not spring things on people.
Be clear in how you are going to address criticism from some of the older crowd who were shamed into not being open about nursing when their children were coming up. Be gentle with them and let them know that you are trying to help other women bring their infants to church rather than staying at home. There will be those who disapprove, but if it is done “in decency and in order,” I believe you will be doing the Church a great favor.
As one of those who was early in my denomination’s ordaining of women, it was precisely things like this that I wanted the Church to address. Often the whole thing about “the birthin’ of babies” was pushed so much behind closed doors for women. This IS a part of what it means to be woman. The nurture of children is what we should be about in the Christian community. And I want to commend you for being willing to try to help other young women to care for their children in the sight of the Church.

SingingOwl, blogging at offers this:

This question makes me smile. It certainly is one of those issues unique to womenpastors. I applaud your decision to breast-feed your little one, first of all. I have some precious memories of my babies gazing up at me while nursing—as well as some funny incidents. I think it is completely appropriate for you to nurse your baby in your closed office, and in the nursery too, for that matter, especially if the nursery has a comfy rocking chair. Breast feeding can be done quite discreetly, as you note, and I think that is a key. It doesn’t have to be a big deal, nor should it be.

If someone is at your home you might excuse yourself for a bit (not if the person is then left sitting alone, of course) or if the person is a relaxed type, just ask if it is okay. When visiting others—that’s a bit more tricky. I expect that in some cases it would be wiser to have a bottle handy, so as to give closer attention to the one you are visiting—or not to scandalize some dear 97 year old church member. But in other cases it would be fine. Use your best judgment depending on the circumstances. If you do nurse your baby while at someone’s home, I would suggest you warn them. Something like, “Oh, ________s getting hungry. Do you mind if I nurse her?” I can’t imagine very many people saying no. Congratulations and blessings on the whole family. This can all be a joy to the church family, and I sincerely hope it will be.

And from Ruth, blogging at ‘Sunday’s coming’

I can’t speak from experience of breast-feeding as a minister – but I can speak from experiences of others breast-feeding whilst I’m talking to them. Personally I find I feel perfectly comfortable in a small group if someone is feeding, because the attention in the group is diffused: but uncomfortable in a one-to-one situation, where I want to give the other woman my attention but also want to give her ‘space’. So my instinct would be to say ‘yes’ to feeding in a group, especially where other mothers are present and, as you say, you want to give a string message of this being OK, but ‘no’ to feeding when in a one-to-one pastoral conversation with someone. I think it might also feel to the person you are talking to that your attention is not entirely on them!

I hope this helps & doesn’t just make me seem uptight!

Jennifer from An Orientation of Heart adds

Blessings upon you and your new baby! You’re to be commended for your sensitivity to others around the issue of breastfeeding. Many corporate workplaces have policies around breastfeeding, but few churches do. I’d suggest that you first determine what you’re most comfortable with, and then speak with a few key, understanding and sensitive leaders to get their sense of things related to what happens at the church. (This also has the added benefit of letting others know what you’re considering and that you value their opinions.) Perhaps whoever oversees the nursery can weigh in on breastfeeding in the nursery and the word can be shared in general, rather than completely connected to the pastor’s practice at church.

I believe that what you do in your own home is your own business. When I nursed my babies years ago, I always asked others in my presence if they were comfortable, and left the room if they were not. Almost always, the comfortable were women and other young mothers. Older women and men were less comfortable, and frankly, I knew my folks well enough to anticipate their comfort or discomfort. Having several options of quiet places to nurse off the beaten path always worked best for me and for my kiddos.

And from Mompriest blogging at Seeking Authentic Voice

I nursed both of my children, although it's been 21 and 18 years since my children were infants, and at the time I was not ordained. I was comfortable nursing anywhere anytime, in a discreet manner. I think it's a great idea that you want to model this natural maternal care and feeding of babies for other young moms. However whether or not it will be acceptable in your setting is hard from me to discern. There is the potential that it could set a great example. There is also the potential that people will wonder about what you are doing, and the appropriateness of it in such a public manner (even if you are discreet).
That said I think it will be fine for you to nurse your baby in your office behind closed doors. I also think it's fine to pump and feed the baby in a more public setting. Additionally it may be fine to nurse the baby in the home of some members of the congregation but not others. And likewise it may be fine to nurse the baby in your own home in front of some members but not others. I guess what I'm saying is this is something that will need to be decided on a case by case basis regardless of where and with whom. Blessings on you and your baby during this sweet time.

Our new mother would like to hear from you too. Use the "Post a Comment" function to share your experience.

May you live in God's amazing grace+

image by Baton Pompeo, courtesy of wikimedia