Jeremiah 18:1-11

The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD: 2 “Come, go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.” 3 So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. 4 The vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as seemed good to him. 5 Then the word of the LORD came to me: 6 Can I not do with you, O house of Israel, just as this potter has done? says the LORD. Just like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. 7 At one moment I may declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, 8 but if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will change my mind about the disaster that I intended to bring on it. 9 And at another moment I may declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it, 10 but if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will change my mind about the good that I had intended to do to it. 11 Now, therefore, say to the people of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem: Thus says the LORD: Look, I am a potter shaping evil against you and devising a plan against you. Turn now, all of you from your evil way, and amend your ways and your doings.

The potter’s wheel passage is a favorite of many people I know. God as this creative, artistic being who shapes us and creates and recreates. I like this, too.

Yet, to think of God “shaping evil against you” doesn’t leave me with that same fuzzy feeling. God is asking the Israelites (and us) to turn from our sinful ways, and also to act differently. We are not just to repent, but change our patterns, our systems, our sinful ways.

It is important to note that the potter was working with clay that was spoiled. This is not an art medium I’ve worked with, so I admit I don’t know what spoiled clay looks like. Is it that it is dry and hard? Does it smell? I’m not sure, but I take comfort in knowing that when I mess up, God takes that spoiled clay and works with it, and tries again. God doesn’t give up on us. And I’m glad.

Prayer: Creator God, thank you for your persistence. Thank you for never giving up on us. Mold us, shape us, and help us to walk in your ways. Amen.


From Weapons to Farming

Isaiah 2.1-4 (NRSV)

The word that Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. 2 In days to come the mountain of the LORD’s house shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills; all the nations shall stream to it. 3 Many peoples shall come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. 4 He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.

This has been one of my favorite passages – specifically the ending. I love the idea of turning weapons into instruments of farming. From a tool of harm to a tool of help.

We don’t use “weapons” on a daily basis. So when we picture this we might think of giant bombs or swords or guns. Yet, what about those words or actions that are weapons? Those that harm others? How can we turn that energy into feeding people, clothing people, caring for people?

Let us go up the mountain to God and put down our weapon of words and turn them into peaceful interactions. Let’s actually show with our hearts and actions and not just with our words.

Prayer: Holy One, teach us your ways. Fill us and nourish us with your Spirit so we can be the hands and feet of Christ. Bless our understandings of your word and guide us in your ways. Amen.



Proverbs 3.13-18
Happy are those who find wisdom, and those who get understanding, 14 for her income is better than silver, and her revenue better than gold. 15 She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her. 16 Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. 17 Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. 18 She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her; those who hold her fast are called happy.
We all know money can’t buy happiness. Yet, our world seems to revolve around money. We live in a country of capitalism, where more work means more money and more money means more things. Typically, more things mean “successful.”
But, who defines success?


Last year I read Amy Julia Becker’s White Picket Fences. She spoke at the Institute for Theology and Disability last year, and while I don’t agree with everything she writes, I learned quite a bit.

She addresses privilege in many ways – in terms of racism and ableism. She writes about how we often define success as how “productive” we are in the world, meaning what kind of job we have and what kind of money we make. Yet, there are other ways of defining success – our relationships, our connections, the way we care for one another. How do you define success?

This proverb, and many sayings in psalms, qualify what happiness looks like. The word for happiness in Hebrew does not translate precisely to happy. It is also “blessed.” We are blessed when we walk paths of peace and when we seek God/Wisdom.
Prayer: Wisdom, we thank you that you have created us as enough – that no matter what our socio economic status, job, bank account, or promotions or awards, we are already loved and care for by you. Help us to remember that and to remind others that they are enough, too. Amen.


Note: My apologies for not writing in so long. Certainly changes in the world due to the pandemic have distracted me, but I stopped writing in October(!) well before the pandemic hit this area. At any rate, I’ve been working on a piece to connect the last post and fill in gaps since then, but that silly Writer’s Block keeps popping up, with the editor in my brain going “Hmmm….I don’t think so.” At any rate, I have been writing a daily devotional since sheltering in place, and a friend of mine suggested I post it here, too, and so I will do that occasionally. I begin with this devotional, written around a week ago. Hopefully more writing to come.

Deuteronomy 4.15-20 (NRSV)

15 Since you saw no form when the LORD spoke to you at Horeb out of the fire, take care and watch yourselves closely, 16 so that you do not act corruptly by making an idol for yourselves, in the form of any figure — the likeness of male or female, 17 the likeness of any animal that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged bird that flies in the air, 18 the likeness of anything that creeps on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the water under the earth. 19 And when you look up to the heavens and see the sun, the moon, and the stars, all the host of heaven, do not be led astray and bow down to them and serve them, things that the LORD your God has allotted to all the peoples everywhere under heaven. 20 But the LORD has taken you and brought you out of the iron-smelter, out of Egypt, to become a people of his very own possession, as you are now.

Multiple times in scripture this commandment not to create idols is repeated. Idols can look like many things – anything that we put above God. It could be money, or individuals, or even something “religious” that we elevate above Christ, such as music or a minister or rituals we refuse to even examine. Anything can become an idol.

A friend of mine from seminary recently wrote a blog post on icons and idols, and since he’s Episcopalian (Presbyterians don’t talk too much about idols and icons) and a wonderful wordsmith, I’ll give you his distinction between the two: “Icons refuse the imposition of our opinions, prejudices, and agendas. They are windows, ever pointing beyond themselves to the Divine, calling us beyond our understanding. Idols do much the opposite. Idols are merely repositories for our fears, our egos. They are less a window than a mirror.” (Jonathan Bennett: https://publishedwiththanksgiving.com/the-redemption-project-icons-and-idols/ )

Sometimes I think we put up something, imagining that the object or person is to be revered, having the best of intentions, but then we realize maybe it wasn’t the best idea. Maybe we recognize the fallibility of humans. Maybe we realize that we idolize people for the wrong reasons, or ignore the mistakes they make – not that we don’t all make mistakes, but we attempt to hide them or justify them.

Many of the idols and symbols that have been part of American history have been dismantled recently – statues of people whom we as white Americans have ignored/forgotten or even were taught incorrectly and never questioned how they treated other humans. Confederate flags have been banned. While you, dear reader, may not have idolized these symbols, many people have, and many of us have not always fought against these symbols.

While in seminary I watched a video in my Senior Seminar class about artists who created temporary art. They would usually use materials found in nature and work tirelessly to create pieces of art (usually for ten to twelve hours in a day), ultimately to have it destroyed by nature. One of those movies was Rivers and Tides: Andy Goldworthy Working With Time. The British artist would use sticks, stones, leaves, little pieces of ice, and create beautiful, intricate sculptures. This movie was filled with him trying, time and again, to create art, have it completely collapse, and then he’d start over.

There are many metaphors that can be taken from this, but I distinctly remember him creating a stone sculpture at one point, racing the tide on the beach. The tide was rising and he needed to complete this lovely stone sculpture that was his trademark. He knew the tide would eventually wash it away. Yet, he spent hours putting this together, piece by piece. I can’t remember if he finished – I just remembered that eventually it was all washed away. Had this camera crew not captured this piece of art, no one would have seen it.

I seriously questioned this art when I watched this so many years ago. But now I realize that it assumes art only has value if people see it or if it is around for a long period of time. A sunrise is art, and it is different every morning.

Maybe our icons and art and representations of reality need to be temporary – one, so we can truly appreciate it. If we know that the Mona Lisa will always be in the museum, will we ever go? If we thought it were to only be around for a month, would we be more likely to try to see it in person?

Second, perhaps we need temporary art because the longer art and statues (don’t get me wrong – I’m not suggesting these statues or symbols are art) exist, the longer they stick with us and become idols and give us false images of who people really were in reality.

Prayer: Holy God, you are our Creator, and you created us for good, to appreciate art, beauty, and the love we share for one another. Forgive us for the ways we have misrepresented your image. Forgive us for the times we have created images that we have raised above you or our faith. Forgive us for the times we have allowed ideals to overcome faith. Help us to appreciate the temporary, to be in the moment, and to worship you alone. Amen.


One to One

By day two of this community organizing training I had hoped to have a better grasp.

I don’t.

This morning and this afternoon we were invited to share a word to describe how we were feeling. My first word was “processing.” My second was “unsure.”

We learned about the one to one meeting, building relationships and also narrowing in on self-interest. In many ways I felt I thrived at this. I think I can identify my self-interest pretty quickly, and that I am a “get to the point” kind of person in many ways. I can do the surface talk: “How’s the weather?” “Working hard or hardly working?” Those lines we learn to keep in our back pocket to make conversation and keep people at a distance. I can do both well – keep people at a distance and dive right in, depending on the situation.

In some ways, I loved it. The two people I had one to one conversations with this afternoon made me think, and they shared deep stories of their own.

I was also exhausted afterward.

Sharing your self-interest – your passion – that thing that makes you tick, that fires you up, that lights a spark in you – can invigorate, but sometimes it drains. When I think of the ways our world is broken, it breaks me. When I remember that so many people are suffering, it breaks my heart. When I think to parts of my own struggles in life, I am drained. Yet, these stories inform and are part of the narrative that makes us realize something isn’t right and the world must change. That is when we realize the tension I wrote about yesterday. That is the catalyst that sends us from the world as we imagine it, crashing back into the world as it is.

Sometimes I have too many catalysts. I hear all the stories of injustice and I wish I could do so much. I see how problems feed off of problems. We cannot solve hunger by passing out food. We cannot solve homelessness by passing out homes. We cannot solve the world’s problems with one solution because often people are homeless because of another situation, like mental illness, or domestic violence, or drug use, or something completely different. The world’s problems weave together and that is why one person cannot solve the problems. The tapestry of communities and various organizations must work together to create an environment that supports and loves one another, and listens.



I keep tension working in the back of my neck. Sometimes the tension creeps into a headache. At times the tension has manifested itself as stomach aches. We all have tension. We all live with it, and often it manifests itself in different ways.

I am excited to be at a gathering of community organizers who have given me plenty of information to think about. Today is my first day, the longest, and after twelve hours of going this introvert needs space to process, so this might be brief.

What stands out to me today is the conversation we had about tension – the tension between the world we live in and the world that should be. Our world is full of tension right now. Full of it. If you don’t feel it, you aren’t paying attention. The country I live in is full of political tension. Lines have been drawn and you are on one side or the other. Our world is broken. Where is hope?

I won’t offer an empty word of hope. Those sayings that minimize struggles or try to turn the bad too quickly into good only infuriate further, deepening the tension, deepening the divide.

Relationships are important. I have felt that before coming here, and it has been reinforced since. We learn from each other, we communicate, we work together. I can easily paint a caricature of someone on the political opposite of me and make them “other.” Yet it accomplishes nothing. The easy route is rarely the route we need to be taking.

We were told early on we will be stretched at this gathering. Right now I feel stretched relationally – ironic, since this is about relationships. I have met good people who are doing good things. Yet there is an unnamed tension – one I haven’t spotted myself. I think back to the Summer Institute of Theology and Disability that I attended in May. I cannot fully describe it, but I felt most comfortable with that group. I was myself. I was given permission to take care of myself. I was given permission to be myself.

Now, no one here has said don’t be you. No one has said don’t take care of yourself. No one should have to even verbalize it, right? I cannot express it, but there is a different energy. Of course, there should be – different goals, different personalities. Not that one is better than another. I just find it interesting how I can deeply connect with one group of people and feel isolated with another. Theologically, I feel aligned with this group. As people speak I’m thinking, “Yes! Amen!”  Yet, there is a tension. What is it? Perhaps it is my own hesitancy to fully engage. Am I being fully present? Am I worried about saying the “wrong” thing? Maybe twelve hour days do not make for good discernment, so I will continue to show up, to keep an open mind, and to pray for justice.



What an amazing and emotion-filled day. I know I will not be able to summarize or do it complete justice because so much of my experience has been embodied – and I am unable to find words to capture the sacredness of it all.

The morning began with Taize music, which I always find healing and peaceful. It centers me like no other music. I listened to the words of “Wait for the Lord,” wondering as I wait for God in many aspects of my own life.

The first presentation was about Latin@ and Latinx and disability. I loved the energy of the presenter and her laughter, and the theology really sparked an interest in me. This was all new to me. At the end, she explained that her father had died the night before. She always spoke to him before getting on a plane and it was because she called him before coming to the conference that she spoke to him before she died. She felt strongly she was where she should be – and it was true. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

Months ago I signed up for a writing conference. I had attended before and was really excited. Not long after that a friend told me about the Summer Institute of Theology and Disability. I looked it up online and realized it was happening at the exact same time and place as the writing conference. I thought about bailing, but it wasn’t in me. Days later, I received an email from the organizer of the writing conference refunding my money because the event had been canceled. It was too much of a coincidence. I immediately signed up for the Summer Institute.

I have felt this inexplainable draw to being at this conference. I cannot tell you why, except that the pieces fell into place. I still don’t know what “bigger” plan I have to be here, but here I am.

The second seminar I attended talked about the connection of mothers and their  children. She spoke of the sacred, unexplainable moments in people’s lives. I have had many of those – this conference included.

Over lunch with a new friend I had amazing conversation that led to some important questions. “Why are you here?”  I told her the story above. “What would you have written?” That one stopped me. I don’t know. I have written for fun, written in some magazines, write sermons, and here on this blog. It usually isn’t calculated. I still don’t have the answer, but I’m willing to sit with that question.

The entire morning was emotionally heavy so I took time to walk around town. I wandered both purposefully and meanderingly. I cried, I talked with God, I walked some more.

At worship I was surrounded by friends. An emotionally exhausting day that ended with the support of those who embraced me and challenged me.

Tonight I hung out with a friend who was really my partner’s friend. We laughed and walked for hours, talking about nothing and everything. All of these life giving conversations that feed me.

So, you may wonder what is with the squirrel. I had conversations about squirrels nearly everywhere I went today. One person asked me a question about squirrels, one person used it in the phrase of distraction (like, when someone sees a shiny object or movement and says “squirrel!”). Another presenter gave examples of squirrels in their powerpoint. Finally, a squirrel bombarded me while walking with the friend.

What does it all mean? Honestly, I don’t know. I don’t know why squirrels kept coming up in conversation any more than I know why I’m here. What I do know is to enjoy the ride – soak it all in. I’m glad to be here, even if it has been emotionally exhausting. I love squirrels, even if they run straight at me. I can find the beauty even if I cannot find the meaning.




Day two of the Faith and Disability conference and I experienced the message in a new way today.

After time in my favorite coffee shop and talking with some good friends, I attended the first seminar, which was a lecture by Amy Julia Becker. Her story was powerful. She spoke of privilege. I’m not sure I can do her discussion justice, but her understanding of how our values shape us really spoke to me. She talked about how her experience has shown her that she was valuing hardworking individualism, which only left her anxious, depressed, and unhappy. White Americans work so hard for the “American Dream” – but at what cost? She emphasized how this can drive us into isolation. She also reminded us what a privilege it is to walk with people who are different than us, who help us adjust our values.

Later in the day I heard the word “hospitality” many times. How are we hospitable? How do we welcome people and live into that welcome?

This evening I went to visit my Grammy, whom I don’t see often enough. I wanted to take her out for dinner but she wasn’t up for it. I was happy to pop out for a bite and come back but she insisted on my staying for dinner.

I cringed just a bit.

I’m vegetarian and assisted living facilities are not known for their vegetarian cuisine (in my experience). Before I could tell her I was just as happy to pop out later she was out the door requesting an extra meal.

I sat down at a table with her friends and was served a large plate of meat. I couldn’t figure out how to fake this. I usually speak up well for my dietary concerns but on the fly, and when I already feel I am imposing, I freeze.

I ate around the meat. I pushed it around. No one noticed and I placed my napkin over it.

I felt out of place for many reasons. Happy to visit with Grammy, but feeling out of my element, even though I go to assisted living facilities often.

Then, someone offered a devotion entitled “Waste Not, Want Not.” Oh no.

I listened to the values of using every part of an animal and never wasting fabric or food. I stared at my plate, nearly untouched.

My value of being a polite guest who eats what she is served sometimes clashes against my dietary choice to be vegetarian. It is a choice – not because of doctors orders. I have many reasons I won’t list here, but every time these clashes happen my decision not to have an upset stomach wind over hospitality and I am left feeling guilty. I realize that being vegetarian is a privilege. Some people do not have an option of what they will eat – but if they will eat. I can justify my decision by affirming that I am vegetarian partially because eating less meat means less food goes to feed livestock and can instead feed people, but it is still my choice.

I stood up, wondering about hospitality and privilege. One of Grammy’s friends came over and hugged me and thanked me for coming. I felt I had crashed their party and imposed on the staff but everyone treated me kindly. Sometimes hospitality isn’t about the etiquette rules we must follow. I think many people envision hospitality as dressing up, cleaning your house, making a gourmet meal and smiling like a fifties housewife. Hospitality means meeting people where they are and maybe going outside the box for them. I may not have eaten their meal but I sat with them and had a wonderful time. I listened, they listened, and we enjoyed company.

Maybe churches need to rethink hospitality, especially with people with disabilities. Hospitality is more than telling people “welcome.” It means listening to them and being willing to look at rituals and space in a new light – maybe throwing out some rules of “etiquette” that are “how we’ve always done it.”



Today was my first day at the Summer Institute on Theology and Disability. I came without expectations because I have never attended. What I gathered just from the initial emails to attendees was to expect to be welcomed and loved, and so far I have experienced just that.

I have had moments of laughter, of joy, of challenge, and tears. The theme for the day has been moving from Inclusivity to Belonging. I know that churches are really into inclusivity right now – who doesn’t want to be inclusive? It is the new fad in religion, and we all want to be inclusive, right? To be exclusive is contrary to the Gospel. To be exclusive is going against what we preach. To be exclusive means the church will die, because the more we exclude, the fewer people who will experience faith, and the fewer people who will want to attend.

Inclusivity is a goal, but I also have known churches who have professed inclusivity but have practiced conformity. The idea of “come as you are” but the practice of “leave as one of us.” I especially have seen this in reference to the LGBTQIA+ community – the idea of “love the sinner/hate the sin.” This doesn’t work – it isn’t good theology, and is not, actually, inclusive.

I also recognize that as much as we try to be inclusive, we still often exclude. Usually the exclusion is not on purpose – but sometimes we forget someone – sometimes we struggle with terms and words, because our language is flawed. How beautiful presence and silence can fill in the gaps. How beautifully the Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. Why do we assume being nonverbal is a disability?

Inclusivity is good – it shows intention. I intend for you to be here – to be part of this space, this community. Yet, taking this one step further to belonging is key. This, to me, is the difference between tolerance and acceptance. I can tolerate someone, but that doesn’t mean I will interact with them, or break bread with them. Acceptance means seeing them – acknowledging God’s presence within – namaste. As it was described this morning, inclusivity means being present, or welcomed when you are there. Belonging means you are missed when you are not present.

If a faith community is anything, shouldn’t it be a place to belong?

I was not sure how I would belong at this conference. As someone who is neurotypical I was entering a space that I was not entirely familiar with. Yet, I also knew that this would be a place of welcome. When I first received those initial emails I sensed it would work out. One requested no perfumes or scents, which I was grateful for because certain smells can whirl me into a migraine for the remainder of the day. The emails also said that we should take care of ourselves and not stress about going to everything.

Barbara Newman talked about bringing all pieces of ourselves – the parts that help us thrive, and the parts that are challenges for us – that no one is all thriving and no one is all challenges. We were to name both of those parts. As I thought of it, I realize that one my my challenges is that I am a perfectionist. I don’t mean that I just work really hard to make things look nice, I mean that I work and work at something to the detriment of myself if I am not careful. So I need to be reminded often that it is ok to leave something undone, or to not attend every session, or that I won’t always say the “right” thing, but as long as I keep learning and trying, it will be ok.

There were so many pieces of today that I will carry with me. I am already feeling fulfilled, and like maybe I have a story to share at this conference.

The picture above is of my favorite statue in Holland. Real music plays through a speaker by this statue. It is interactive and fun, and I have seen children play the instruments. What if worship was like this statue? Interactive. Different instruments playing the same tune? Some of us playing the same tune but slightly off key?



Thanks, Rachel Held Evans

I’ve been trying to figure out how to process the loss of author Rachel Held Evans. She was an amazing author I met two years ago at a Writing for Your Life Conference. Since I have found writing to be a helpful outlet, I figured what better way to sort through feelings than by writing.

The first book I read by RHE was A Year of Biblical Womanhood. I can’t remember who suggested it to me (probably my wise sister-in-law) but I remember that I couldn’t put it down. I also remember thinking, “where does she stand politically??” Why did that matter? It didn’t – but she wrote it in such a way that she left mystery, and I wanted to read more. I made some educated guesses, but then she would say something to challenge my assumptions (which always need to be challenged). Too often I read books or articles written by people who “agree with me.” I don’t always – because I feel that we need to be challenged in our points of view – but usually I have an idea of where a person stands when I read their writing. I couldn’t figure it out when I read RHE’s book – and that made it more intriguing.
I probably couldn’t figure it out because she was searching. When I read Searching for Sunday it became more clear, and while I still didn’t know where she stood (and still didn’t need to) I really enjoyed her honesty and her wrestling with faith. I grew up in a relatively conservative PCUSA church, and attended a Pentecostal church for some time in high school (which is another story, another post), yet I’ve found a path that is different than the one I grew up in many ways. Her story was one with which I could relate.
A few years ago I picked up writing again. Growing up I loved to write. I made books that were bound at Kinko’s (do those still exist?) and would write short stories. Sometimes they were so outrageous, and sometimes they were Nancy Drew knock-offs. I found a way to express myself through pen and paper. I was editor-in-chief of the high school yearbook, dabbled in writing then, and again in seminary. A few years ago I decided to see where it would lead me, which also led me to this blog.
That year I attended a writing conference and a writing retreat. The conference opened my eyes in many ways. First, it showed me the intensity of writing. I do believe there is the idea in the world that anyone can just write a book and submit it for publishing. While published works may be easier than ever, it is still incredibly difficult. After just submitting a few articles for publishing in magazines I realized I had bit off more than I could chew. I also realized that religious writing is different than mainstream writing. The difference is audience, mostly. Yet, to write a novel is different than to write thoughts about faith and religion. At the conference, I thoroughly enjoyed hearing RHE speak, as well as Barbara Brown Taylor. They were confident women, women of valor, who took their writing seriously, and their faith even more seriously.
There was a break between presentations and I noticed that people began going up to RHE and spoke to her – like a normal person! (Yes, she was a normal person – but if you’ve ever been to hear major authors speak, often you wait in line for hours to speak with them and you have five seconds to state your name and maybe squeal out why you love their writing). This conference maybe had 100 people, and this room wasn’t full, and people just casually walked up to her.
What do I say?? I thought, trying not to sound like an obnoxious fan. Think of why you like her writings! Tell her why you like her writings! I stood awkwardly for just a couple minutes, then I was brought into a conversation she was having with someone else – they were talking about kids, and I can’t even remember what it was, but she said something hilarious, and we stood laughing together. The picture above (obviously not taken by me, but by someone at the conference, and I regret that I do not know who) is of us laughing. We talked more, maybe for five minutes, and I told her what I dreamed of writing – not a book proposal, because it was just a dream, but she calmly, politely said, “You should write that. I would read that.” Of course, I was on cloud nine.
As I walked away, I suddenly realized I had baby spit up on my shoulder. Smooth. So much for playing it cool. Yet, I was really excited. She encouraged me to keep writing. I might be a terrible writer, and she hadn’t read anything I had written, but she encouraged it – maybe because she could see the enthusiasm in my eyes as I spoke about the subject.
The picture above sits in my office as encouragement, because when I don’t feel like writing, I think about how she said, “You should write that.” It doesn’t mean it will be published. It doesn’t even mean I’ll ever finish it. Yet, sometimes, I just need encouragement to keep writing.
During one of her presentations she talked about how she had sticky notes above her desk with various words of encouragement on them. She took a picture of it and showed us, and told us to write them down if they were helpful.

The one I always remember:

“The next sentence is not in the refrigerator.”

The one that justifies my desk:
“It has to be messy before it can be cleaned.”

The one the struck my gut as I reread it:
“Death is something empires worry about, not resurrection people.”

And the one that reminds me why I write:
“Write for the kindred spirits, not the critics.”

RHE clearly wrote for the kindred spirits, and I found a kindred spirit as I read her books. When she encouraged me to write (you know, in the whole five minutes I talked to her), I am reminded that I am to write for those who encourage me, not those who discourage me. I write for myself, and for that which is important to me. I write today because I am in such shock of her death.

Today someone mentioned to me that her writing is being criticized, her faith being shamed for being “progressive” or “left-wing.” Our faith is ours. No one can ever judge it. What I do know is that many people who had felt excluded and shamed by the church gave it a second-glance because someone who had also felt ostracized by the church spoke out – not condemning the church – but seeking a path that was loving. She was honest.
RHE left a beautiful legacy in her writings, and I am grateful I was able to walk part of my journey through her writings. It is amazing how someone can touch your life with just a few spoken words, or a few hundred pages of written words. People wonder if print is on the way out, but I think it still grabs us just as much as it did before, if we take the time to read it, sit with it, and explore the questions that arise on our journey.


You are Dust. You are Beloved.

You are dust and you are beloved.

These were the words we were encouraged to speak today as we imposed ashes at our ecumenical worship service. I cringed – these aren’t the words I was accustomed to saying. Usually I say: “Remember you are dust and to dust you will return.”

Chilling, right?

Lent is a time when we remember our mortality. We remember our sinful manners. We ask for forgiveness. And since God loves us, even though we are sinful and mortal, God loves us.


I thought about why I bristled so much at these words. Perhaps because I’ve “always done it this way”?

Ouch. Not a reason.

So, for the first few impositions I did it “the old way.” My colleague, who had graciously organized the entire service, stood next to me. She probably wasn’t paying any attention to my words, but it felt like she was staring me down.  More my own sense of guilt than her style. Suddenly I felt inhospitable saying these old words. So I took the new ones for a spin.

You are dust. And you are beloved.

It felt weird, but good. 

I continued. My colleague/friend gave a beautiful message – one that tied in with these words. She reminded us that Lent is not a time to berate ourselves. We do not need to beat ourselves up or argue our self-worth. She talked about breathing space and being able to stand up tall, be ourselves, and be confident in God’s love.

Suddenly, my bristling of her words struck me. I had woken up with someone else’s words on my mind – someone else’s criticism of myself. I had tossed them around and around until I was questioning my self-worth – and hadn’t thought twice about it until I sat in this pew, listening to my friend.

Why was I letting these words affect me? Why was I letting this foolish criticism tear me up and determine my self-worth?

She gave me breathing space.

I took a deep breath, reminded myself that, yep – I’m dust. I’m also beloved. So in the time between ashes I should be the human God made me to be – not the human I think thst disembodied voice tells me I should be.

Remember you are dust. Remember you are beloved.



Whoever decided that white mittens were a good idea clearly didn’t have pets or children or wear them. The mittens never stay white, but become a brownish-gray color. One day, in the crunchy snow, the kind made for the perfect snowball, a mitten was lost. In the snow. Despite the brownish-gray color, searching for the white mitten in the snow was like searching for a needle in a haystack.
When I first learned the mitten was missing I ordered everyone to stop – the snow was freshly fallen and we hadn’t moved far. Simple deduction told me that if we followed our footsteps we could find the lost white mitten more easily. As we traced our prints, we made more prints, and the mitten remained lost.
Eventually we gave up and went inside. That is – everyone else gave up. Despite the fact that the mitten probably didn’t cost much and we could probably scrounge another from the closet that eats winter gear, I decided to go back out.
I shuffled through the yard, new snow beginning to fall. I was losing daylight and soon the mitten would be covered.
Finally I collapsed into the snow. I laid on my back allowing flakes to fall gently on my face. I stared up at the blank sky, so filled with clouds it looked like one giant cloud. I noticed the brownish-gray hue of the sky – a silent mitten mocking. I closed my eyes and heard silence. Absolute silence. No crunch of snow, no animals or people. Snow has a way of silencing the world. It forces us to stop even when we don’t want to pause. It creates dangerous roads that remind us to stay inside, care for ourselves, and take inventory of our own inner well-being. Sometimes ice comes, too, freezing the lines and disrupting internet so we cannot even work from home. Snow gives us the day off we didn’t know we needed. Perhaps a small reminder that god is in control and that sometimes we must be forced to take Sabbath.
I didn’t find the mitten until spring, when everything had thawed out. I had forgotten about it, until a small piece of the brownish-gray fabric poked up in the dirt – soil that has been resting, and is now ready for replanting.


The “A” Word

I don’t want to write about this topic. Yet, every writing class I’ve attended or “how to write” book I’ve read has always instructed writers to write about the things you least want to write about, because therein lies the deepest, most meaningful topics.

I won’t lie to you – this probably won’t be my deepest or most meaningful topic – but I will write about it nonetheless. It is a topic that I don’t usually speak of out loud, and certainly don’t write down or text – because then there is proof.


You’re probably already clicking away from the page. “Oh, she’s one of them,” you might think.

If you’re still reading, you either have nothing else to do or want to know why I’m writing about aliens. First, why I don’t like writing about them.

My husband jokes about my lack of alien talk. After dark I won’t even say the word. I don’t like the way it sounds. Do I believe in them? I really can’t say. For one thing, my scientific knowledge isn’t as good as it should be – I never excelled in math and science in school. So, it isn’t like I can prove there are beings on other planets. I also can’t disprove it. Yet, there is much in my life that I can’t prove or disprove – so I just leave space open “just in case.”

It isn’t like I have a huge fear of them, I just sort of have this superstitious feeling that if they exist, I probably shouldn’t say too much about them. It’s like when you’ve heard something about someone you just met – instead of spreading that gossip around, it’s probably just safer to keep your mouth shut.

I’ve probably just read too many Stephen King novels. In fact, maybe that’s who I should blame. Or my father, for reading Stephen King novels. When I was about nine or ten I remember my father having an illustrated Stephen King book. I can’t remember the title, but if I remember correctly,  it was an anthology of some of his novels with perhaps ten to fifteen pictures that went along with the pictures. I can still see the depictions of the aliens scaring me as I attempted to figure out why my father kept this book in our house. Years later I would have an affinity for Stephen King novels and can’t put them down, even though they scare me most times.

So, it probably isn’t Stephen King’s fault, but maybe society’s. We are a fearful bunch. We want to “be prepared” for whatever is out there. I’m of the opinion that if something exists, let’s keep it peaceful. If it doesn’t, let’s not go messing with other planets – because we can’t seem to take care of the one we’re one right now.

Now, I am able to watch some movies with aliens – or at least our best depictions of aliens. I especially love watching Stargate SG-1. Perhaps what I love (besides the ongoing tension between Major Samantha Carter and Colonel Jack O’Neill, the wit of Teal’c, and the general humility of Dr. Daniel Jackson) is that the aliens are portrayed in many different ways – perhaps like humans. There are some that are kind and some that are out for destruction and greed. Some are scary and “strange” looking, but most look just like humans. We would be lucky to have the Asgard on our side.

Where did all this come from? Why am I thinking about aliens. Probably Space Force. I heard a podcast on NPR’s Here and Now yesterday in which Neil deGrasse Tyson was interviewed (Here it is.) He was asked about whether or not we should be prepared to fight if aliens were to appear on our planet. I absolutely loved his answer. He said, “If they come here, they are certainly more technologically advanced than we are. If they treat us the way we treat one another then they will completely exploit us, enslave us, put us on reservation, slaughter us. They will have their way with us if they treat us the way we humans have treated each other in the history of civilization.” Right?

Neil deGrasse Tyson not only answered the question, but he did so in a way that makes us face ourselves in the mirror. To talk about aliens and outer space and UFOs can seem sci-fi and fun and maybe even silly. It seems very “out there” rather than dealing with what is right in front of us. Yet, he took a topic and made it about a serious look at humanity. He also didn’t answer with some over-the-head scientific jargon that people would stop listening to. He was relevant, and fun.

It’s the truth. What are we doing as a society? Why aren’t we treating each other with more respect and love? We are tearing each other apart through words and actions and Twitter feeds. We are competing for resources and only focusing on ourselves. We are not listening to each other. Those of us with privilege are not using it to help, but to harm. We have to take a look at our actions, because our track record as humans isn’t so great. Aliens or not, we need to be kinder to one another.


Who? What? When? Where? Why?

“There are no stupid questions.”

But maybe we’re asking the wrong questions.

We’ve all heard the quote before – usually in a classroom setting, meant to encourage students to ask any question so that they do not go through the entire period wondering what “corban” means (a word I had to look up today).

I agree with the above statement – there are no stupid questions. Any time someone is trying to learn and asks a question to clarify and attempt at clearer communication or understanding, the question is not stupid.

I do think there are annoying questions. Those times when people aren’t listening and then ask someone to repeat – not because they didn’t hear but because they weren’t paying attention or didn’t come prepared – that’s an annoying question. (Just a side note – I’ve been guilty of that before. In fact, earlier this week I completely blanked when I scanned an email and went in a completely different direction because I didn’t take the time to read. Happens to everyone. Still annoying.)

Yet, when we ask the same questions over and over again and don’t receive a response, then maybe we need to reevaluate the question.

Earlier this week I had the pleasure of hearing Kevin Hines speak. You can read about him here. When he was seventeen he was diagnosed with Bipolar disorder, and at nineteen he jumped off the Golden Gate bridge to end his life by suicide – and he survived. He has been on a path to wellness for many years and is a fantastic motivational speaker and advocate for mental health and wellness. His speech was empowering, funny, thought-provoking, and touching. I haven’t read his book yet, but it has been added to my list.

There were many things I loved about his talk. I loved how encouraging he was, reminding everyone that they are loved. He encouraged people to reach out to people who are hurting. He was compassionate and caring. He reminded people that our thoughts do not have to become our actions. I could try to summarize everything he said, but I’d encourage you to read his book and visit his website, because he says it much better than I could.

Ending suicide is a topic that has been important in this community. Too many people have been dying by suicide recently. I am part of a Zero Suicide Initiative to educate people on mental health, encourage people to seek help, and try to offer hope to a world that is hurting. There is help. People care.

One piece that stuck out to me (among many) was that he mentioned that after someone dies by suicide, or attempts, the first question is “Why?” When he was pulled from the water after jumping, the Coast Guard officer asked him, “Why did you do it?”

I think that’s a common question. We want to know why – because, maybe, if we know the answer to “why” we can “fix” the issue. Yet, it isn’t that simple. He said the more accurate question is how do we move forward from here? How can we learn to live? How can we find hope and make it through the pain? I took this to be a question to ask of people who have lost loved ones and those who are battling mental illness – how to move forward (not forget – he reminded us – grief is an ongoing process) and celebrate their lives; how to recognize the pain and realize one is not alone. This is a shift in our thinking. That “why” question is still unanswered. Can we move on to another question and leave the mystery? Does that leave us unsettled?

Sometimes we have to recognize that questions are unanswerable. “Why did you eat that penny?” my sister-in-law asked her child. I think we all know there was no logical answer behind that one. She just encouraged the child not to do it again – how to move forward.

“Why is the church dying?” This is a common question asked. Usually followed by “how can we find new members?” Maybe we need to stop gripping what we have so tightly, and open ourselves up to possibilities – moving forward with what we have, who we have, and how to live abundantly.

Life abundant is something we all need.

Some questions are never going to have answers. What is the meaning of life? Well, that might be answered, and if it is, it is different for everyone. Maybe asking “what is my purpose?” might have better results.

Are you finding the answers to your questions?



Growing up my father and I spent much of our time in silence together. We would read for hours on end – he would have a Stephen King novel, and I had a Nancy Drew novel. We were content in the silences and never needed to fill the space. There was one silence that needed to be filled, though.

I can only remember seeing my father cry twice in my life, and this was one of those times. I had just told him that I wasn’t going to speak to him for a month. I needed to prioritize my life and figure things out. I was thirteen – in retrospect, it was going to take more than a month for all that to happen (if it has even happened by now, twenty years later). My counselor at the time had suggested that I take a break from talking with my dad because too much was happening at once and I was having a difficult time with the stress. My father had just remarried and it seemed sudden to me. My parents had been divorced since I was four or five, and my mother had remarried, but his marriage seemed really sudden because I had just met the woman weeks before the wedding. As a thirteen year old girl, my life was turned upside down. Life seemed to be in a downward spiral, and I didn’t know what else to do. So I followed my counselor’s advice. When I told my father the plan, I was stoic and unemotional on the outside, but I crumbled into pieces as he cried. He said he understood and would respect my wishes, but he was clearly hurting. I was, too, but I was a stubborn child and didn’t know how else to express my emotions.

We didn’t talk for that entire time. It was difficult for me – up until that point I had spoken with him every day and filled him in on the details of my life (almost all details – I was thirteen, after all). We had been quite close, but this was a sudden change.

Now, I don’t remember how the silence was broken. I don’t remember if I picked up the phone or went to his door. I don’t remember my first words to him again. I don’t remember if the silence even solved anything. I remember becoming closer to my father (because of the silence, or in spite of it, I don’t know). I still talk to him today and still tell him nearly everything that happens in my life (at least of importance, and some unimportant, like doing laundry and washing dishes). I’m probably as close to him now as I have ever been. I can tell him anything and trust that it stays with him, and that he won’t judge me. He might lecture me a bit, but I can handle that (and expect and hope for that).

This past Tuesday he was visiting briefly and we had just a moment to enjoy a cup of coffee. The kitchen fully done (but not unpacked) I felt “adult” in this space. Funny how spaces can make us feel a certain way – as if I wasn’t an adult three weeks ago when the kitchen wasn’t done. I don’t remember all we talked about – but I don’t have the sense that it mattered. This wasn’t a heart to heart – it was a casually conversation over coffee. It was a connection. Not all conversations have to be deep and meaningful, because if all were intense those of us who are introverts would never leave our rooms. We listened, we laughed, we drank coffee. We can sit and talk about anything, but we also can sit in silence, not needing to fill the space.


The Numbers

Of the last 43 days I have been home for 13 of them.

I’ve said this so many times, it probably is starting to lose meaning, until it hits me again.

I’ve traveled a lot recently, some for my job (General Assembly) and some for vacation, and then a week of study leave while my kitchen was being renovated. It all seemed like a great idea, but in retrospect I don’t know what I was thinking.

The numbers tell a story:

2 tubes of toothpaste squeezed out and spattered all over my suitcase

6 times I packed/unpacked/repacked

3 bags I went to GA with

6 bags I came home from GA with

5,000 Shells from the beach (ok, I exaggerate. Probably 4,000)

3000+ miles

100 degrees on the hottest day

72 on the coolest

9 states traveled

1 dog thought to be lost…twice…but really was safe both times

And a partridge in a pear tree.

The numbers don’t tell the whole story. In fact, some probably pique interest and could tell their own stories. Yet, in some ways it feels like I need to quantify the last month (or more) of travels. There’s nothing to prove. I don’t win an award for any of this. But perhaps it explains the chaos that has been the last month.

I’ve been (voluntarily) living out of a suitcase, and I’ve been wearing the same clothes, washing the same clothes, and not having to worry about my outfits or whether things matched. I had the necessities: toothbrush, toothpaste (when it didn’t explode all over the place), soap, shampoo, clothes, and basic plugs for electronics, which I rarely used, anyway. I came back from the first trip feeling like I needed to pare down my life – simplify and rid myself of junk. I think I still feel that way. After coming home to a partially redone kitchen, I’m living among boxes and wondering why I have so much stuff.

The “new” kitchen includes new cabinets, which are completely empty. As much as I want to put away all my utensils and bowls, I am enjoying the emptiness. There is possibility in these cabinets – potential. I find that I am calmer when there is space, and not clutter.

I just finished reading Sarah Wilson’s First, We Make the Beast Beautiful (I highly recommend it). Her stories about anxiety are powerful. One part that has stuck with me has to do with space. She mentions that everyone wants more time, but really what we need is space. Time only gives us more minutes to fret. Space gives us a place to exist and sort out. I’ve been finding lately that I need that space. I still think I could probably use more time (but I recognize it wouldn’t solve all the problems I think it would!) but space is even better. To feel like I can stretch out, partition off my thoughts and be able to spread out everything that is constantly running in my head: “Did you feed the dogs? Did you go to the store? Did you finish that newsletter article? Did you weed the garden? Did you do laundry?” Perhaps this is why I’m such an avid list maker. It creates a physical space in the world for my thoughts. Isn’t that what writing does? It gives us that visible place for the words that are jumbling our heads. We can sort them out, delete, cross off, erase, insert, edit, and see the beauty.

As I unpack and go through my kitchen, I want to make more space. Rid my life of the gadgets I don’t need. Yet, also make space for myself and for my family. To make space for God. To stop filling up the invisible spaces in my life, to see the blank space as potential.


Weather the Storms

E361F0B5-B63F-412A-9DBC-891EAC494676This is the sanctuary where I worshiped this morning.

The winds have been harsh because of a storm brewing just south. I wish it would go away. #privilegedvacationproblems

The water noisily lapped over my feet this morning as I walked the beach. A huge undertow was pulling the sand rapidly. I try to be smart about the ocean: don’t swim alone, in the morning, or evening.

The water continued to lap up on my feet gently. “Likea puppy,” I thought, remembering my cousin’s dog, George, who has been patiently yet eagerly demanded my attention. He walks away, is petted by someone else, then returns to me, wagging his tail.

239102FF-C6BE-403B-93A1-A5E608243D01Just like a dog. The water would lap on the shore, then suddenly surprise me and wet my toes, much like a pet returning unexpectedly.

Then the next wave nearly wiped me out. I had gone intol far, the sand was too wet and I sunk more than usual. I struggled to stay upright, but managed to do so and then backed up on the beach, away from the water.

We want nature (waves, puppies, storms) to do what we want. We want to control them at times, tame them, or at least listen to us and follow our desires. But it doesn’t. I am reminded I am not in charge. That tame puppy can still nip me (but not George – he’s too cute). That wave can still knock me over. That tropical storm can still come and cause chaos and ruin a vacation.

I’m reminded that people in Puerto Rico still don’t have power. Still. We can complain about a little storm “ruining” a vacation. Yet there are people who could use a vacation from their daily living. A life of poverty, or drugs, or stress, or an illness. A week away wouldn’t make their lives better – it just pauses it – if they are lucky.

Such a downer, right? But sometimes I think I need to be reminded that the “problem” I have isn’t really a problem. That I also have privilege and should use it for “good.”

We must learn to weather the storms together.


The Coming Storm

Sharp winds. Dark clouds. Sand in the eyes. Rain falling like needles from the sky.

Storms. We need the rain, but during the worst of it we have to decide what to do. Take shelter? Stand in the middle of it? Find others and stay safe?

I remember in seminary when there was a huge wind storm. Even though I was living in the middle of the country, it was coming from Hurricane Ike. The winds rushed up north and caused power outages for weeks at a time.

It was a Sunday. When we returned from worship a tree had already fallen in our parking spot.

The winds blew and the power went out. Suddenly, all of us living in seminary housing came bursting out into the field in the middle of the quad. We watched the wind whip through the trees. In retrospect, standing in the middle of a field in the middle of a storm wasn’t  our smartest move. I remember one woman commenting to her husband that they should move their car before a tree fell on it. They stood some more, then a tree fell. Right on their car.

What happens when the storm comes?


The Sandbar

I love the ocean. It is a place of peace, chaos, and creativity.

Today I stood in waves, letting them crash over my feet softly. As I stepped deeper into the ocean, the waves grew stronger and knocked me down.

I’ve been stuck in waves for a while. The deeper I go, the harder the waves knock me down. Sometimes I laugh, sometimes I’m stuck in the undertow and I can’t stand up again. At times I can see the waves coming and brace myself, but other times I am completely blindsided.

Yet, there is always a sandbar. The water calms down. Sometimes you can float.

Right now I’m in the sandbar. I can rejuvenate, connect, be myself. I find healing in the water. Remember my baptism. Be forgiven in the grit of the sand. Washed clean by the saltwater. Calmed by the clouds.

Just be.


Still Hanging On

Today was my first day back to “reality.” If it’s possible, I might have General Assembly withdrawal. I woke up in need of caffeine and polity. I’m still having dreams about passing overtures and substituting motions.

I’m very much an introvert and there were many times last week when I rushed to my hotel room, locked the door, and didn’t talk to anyone because the convention center rooms were so crowded and noisy. I love talking to people, but sometimes it is too much when you’re with people from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to sleep.

I was grateful to be in worship this morning with the church I serve. I was able to recharge and process some of the last week, but also be welcomed back and remember what I have been called to do.

Someone this past week asked about the church I serve and the context. “It sounds like your church is being called to be a prophetic witness in the community.” This has stuck with me – I could definitely see that.

This church is progressive in theology. We are a More Light church and have made it intentional to be inclusive in worship and welcome. We have a strong social justice ministry and we are unique in the community. I’m grateful to be serving here. As I preached this morning I felt the Spirit move as I haven’t in some time. I generally sense the Spirit, but today it was stronger than usual. Perhaps I was still fired up from the past week, still struck by the march in St. Louis and still passionate about serving people and being in community.

While memories of GA will slowly fade into the background, I pray that the Spirit and strength remain.


The End…?

119F1D23-C83F-4376-B9D3-F18C7B8548A8I thrive on routine. I love being able to know what comes next. Maybe that’s part of the Presbyterian in me – I like things decent and in order. Give me a bulletin with life’s next activity!

I do like changing up the schedule once in a while, especially if I can anticipate the change and plan it out a bit. So, I was excited to have a change of pace this week – still work, but different than my usual office hours. I woke up each morning, exercised, walked to coffee, read the news, started the day. I knew when my meetings were, scheduled time with friends, tried new foods, and slept when possible. It was a different routine, but welcomed.

Today was the last day of that routine, as it is the last day of General Assembly. As I look back over the last week it seems like it has been a month since I arrived. So much has happened, I’ve seen so many people, and time has flown by.

So I am sad that this week has ended. Sad to say goodbye to friends – new and old. Sad that this is the end of a fun time (yes, I said fun). But I am happy to be going home, and returning to a familiar routine.

We ended our time discussing per capita. All General Assemblies end this way to discuss the financial implications of our decisions throughout the week.

We may have increased how much we will spend, but I do believe it is to do good work – the work of the church in the world – paying justly, seeking inclusivity, and working toward peace in the world.

At the end of the assembly there were various recognitions. Perhaps the one that blew me away the most was the one done by the Young Adult Advisory Delegates. They always give thanks tothe co-moderators and Stated Clerk. This year they took an offering to give to three causes in the names of the co-moderators and the Stated Clerk. The YAADs are kind, generous, and the future and present of the church. We have much to learn from them.

Now I have returned home with visions of PC-Biz and voting in my head. I’m exhausted but in a good way. I feel challenged and I hope that as I process over the next couple of weeks I am able to see how to bring the prophetic witness of GA to my community.


Mother God

4A50CD0E-B45C-4BC4-8E9C-BE811D1A7E5DThe picture above was taken inthe convention center where the General Assembly is meeting. I thought this was fascinating because I have never seen anything like it before. I have pumped breastmilk in bizarre places – other people’s offices, airport bathrooms, and the car. You do what you have to when you have to pump.

This picture shows us how far advocacy for women has come, yet women know that we have a ways to go, too.

We addressed and voted on many different issues in today’s assembly. A majority of them dealt with women’s issues.

We passed an overture to respond to the disparities experienced by black women and girls. We also passed a resolution regarding sexual misconduct in the church. In that conversation we discussed gender and patriarchy.

I was thrilled to be able to speak to one of the issues, especially considering I stood for over two hours waiting to speak to an issue, and was never called upon (for various reasons). In a weird series of events I stood in front of the microphone multiple times and the question was called nearly every time, ceasing debate. As much as I love polity and voted to end debate each time, it was frustrating to have something prepared, stand for a long period of time, and then have to sit back down.

When I did speak, I was thankful to have the opportunity. I felt my voice was heard and the amendment passed.

The conversation went well into the night.  I think my favorite part of the evening was when a point of order was called asking when the coffee arrived.

The coffee did arrive. And the debate continued into the night. We finally adjourned after midnight.

Even with the late night, with long conversation, I am so thankful for this experience. I always learn so much about polity and Roberts Rules of Order, and am continually educated on concerns before the church. I appreciate the diversity of thought within the PCUSA, and for continued dialogue.

I thought it was very appropriate that the Young Adult Advisory Delegate who prayed at the end of the day started the prayer with “Mother God.” Amen.


All You Need to Know About the Way Forward (and stuff you didn’t)


My recent blog posts have been about the happenings of the General Assembly of the PCUSA. Today’s summary? I’m tired.

We started earlier today and barely covered one committee (and about two overtures from another committee) and my brain feels fried. You wouldn’t think sitting all day in the same place would be exhausting – but it is, especially when you’re thinking critically and praying and making decisions for the whole church.

We did, indeed, think critically. My table friends and I joked that perhaps we are too cynical at times, but we all ended up agreeing that if we don’t look at certain things with a critical eye, we will continue in the same way we have always gone and wonder why it isn’t working.

The Way Forward committee spoke today. This was perhaps the most anticipated bit of overtures because it has some serious implications for the structure of the PCUSA. Now, if you aren’t in the PCUSA, this probably won’t look too sexy. Even if you are in the PCUSA, you might be wondering what the impact will be on the church as a whole. This certainly won’t draw protestors like overtures at previous assemblies, but it certainly caused a stir here.

The main goal of this committee was to bring some harmony, equality, and inclusivity to the agencies of the PCUSA. Quick overview: there are six agencies in the PCUSA –

Office of General Assembly (guess what they plan and organize??)

Presbyterian Mission Agency

Board of Pensions (Insurance, etc)

Presbyterian Investment and Loan Program (or, PILP)

The Foundation

Presbyterian Publishing Corporation

This overture also included Presbyterian Women, a separate entity. The committee explained (very well) that these agencies operate like siblings that live under different roofs, but all pay into the rent and utilities of the main household, but do not always benefit from making house rules.

So, the idea is to give them all a seat at the table of the A Corporation.

I know what you’re thinking right now – “Why wasn’t I at General Assembly for this amazing and interesting conversation??” Well, maybe next time you will be – but for now I’m the lucky one.

Sarcasm aside, it was certainly a learning experience. I did not understand before this that PMA held the majority of the corporation power. I did not understand that the others did not have a voice.

The overture also emphasized the need for translation services, which I think will be a wonderful addition.

We did make a few other decisions today, too. I am proud to be a Presbyterian, because today we made a statement condemning the separation of families and calling out the man who lives in the White House who made the despicable executive order.

I’ll end there for today, because there will be more tomorrow, and, for now, I need to find some rest and introvert time.



3AF2A207-A6CB-457C-83CB-CFEF826AD15B.jpegMy roommate was telling me the other day that she has been thinking about the Good Samaritan story lately. She said that she has been wondering how we are often the priest or someone walking on the opposite side of the street of the man left to die bleeding. I’ve been thinking of this, too, since her mention of the passage.

I’m in a city with a variety of people. I couldn’t count how many people I pass just in the morning. I probably don’t even register in my mind some people. Who did I pass in the park? I remember the man and woman I stopped and said “hello” to because they had adorable dogs. I remember the woman on the corner, because she asked my roommate for spare change two days ago, and was wearing the same clothes today. I remember my friend who passed by and told me about a delicious dessert place.

But there were others. Hundreds of others.

How do we notice people? Who do we intentionally ignore, and who do we unintentionally ignore? Of course, I’m not sure we can answer that.

I’m surrounded by people with name badges. If I saw these people on the streets without a badge would I greet them?

Today began the intense plenary sessions where we vote on the overtures recommended by committees. So far we have heard from Ecumenical and Interfaith Issues and Theological and Church Growth Issued and Institutions. In the evening we heard from what we call Soup committee – BOP, PILP, PPC and the Foundation. Presbyterians love letters. (These include Board of Pensions, Presbyterian Interest and Loan Program, and Presbyterian Publishing Corporation. We also heard from the Mission Coordination Committee.

So, these committees met for two days and we spent hours going over the work they did – so a blog summary cannot do them justice. Perhaps some highlights might include recognizing the Rev. Katie Geneva Canon, first African American woman ordained in the PCUSA. We voted to commend a study called Reclaiming Jesus. We voted to adopt “Letter from Birmingham City Jail” by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as a statement of faith. We also elected a new executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency: Rev Diane Givens Moffett.

The committee on which I served, Mid-Councils, also reported tonight. As I have said many times before, this was an amazing committee. We were united and had excellent discussion, letting the Spirit move among us. We recommended an Administrative Commission for the Synod of the Covenant to promote peace and unity, and this was approved by the assembly. We also recommended On Challenges if Being Black in PCUSA, which takes a look at black churches struggling within the denomination. Over 400 black churches exist in the denomination and 70% have vacant pulpits. One of the Young Adult Advisory Delegates on the committee spoke passionately to this issue and I am happy to say that it passed.

Perhaps the most moving moment of the day came as we discussed a motion to create an advocacy committee to determine the needs of the LGBTQIA+ in the PCUSA. A young man stood to speak in favor of this motion, and came out as bisexual on the floor of the assembly. Immediately he was embraced by his peers and shown the love of community and love of God that so many LGBTQIA+ people have been denied in the church. I am grateful to say this, too, passed.

Many other overtures passed, but these stand out in my head. Tomorrow is another day – and more votes – and more opportunities to show love in the world.


Hands and Feet (and Mouth)


Today we marched in the streets for justice. Today we marched for peace. Today we marched for equality. Today we marched to change the system of oppression. Today we marched for tomorrow.

For the first time ever the General Assembly marched in the streets to end cash bail. On Saturday the PCUSA collected money through the offering in worship to set people free. The aim was to set free those who could not afford bail because they sit in jail even though they are “innocent until proven guilty.” These are people who were arrested on minor charges like traffic tickets but could not pay $50 or so in bail money. The PCUSA gave a check for over $47,000 to set people free in Saint Louis.

It is easy for us to pat ourselves on the back and think, “Look what a good thing we did!” Yet, we were reminded before we marched that this money was not ours to begin with – it always belonged to God. We are merely returning our gifts as a holy offering – sharing it with God’s children.

As I marched I began to feel the Spirit move. It was a spiritual and religious experience to be marching in the streets of St. Louis. The sun was hot. I linked arms with strangers-now-friends. We began chanting as led by various people in the crowd.

“No Peace! No Justice!”

“End Cash Bail!”

As one person asked: “Who’s streets?” We responded: “Our streets!” I felt this chant in my soul. “Our streets.” I thought of the many times I have been walking down the street in the middle of the day and been whistled at or catcalled, making me feel unsafe and disrespected and angry. I thought of a time when a man stalked me in his car while I walked in the middle of the day down a street. A woman should be able to walk the streets – day or night – and not have to worry about safety.

Then we began shouting: “Black Lives Matter!” I thought of the young man I know who recently died of a gun shot to the head. His life mattered.

Justice issues are tied together. We march for one, we march for all. We remember we are all God’s children.

This morning in committee we voted on an overture to raise awareness of the decline of black churches in the PCUSA (go to PC-Biz and look under Mid-Councils for the details). We wanted the right wording, and we amended and amended and amended. We amended into lunch time. There was a motion to go into recess for lunch, but we were reminded that while some of us have the privilege to walk away from this issue for a while, others do not. We stayed and worked.

I have to say that this committee was amazing. We were united. We listened to each other. We shared vulnerabilities. My faith is strengthened and deepened because of the people I met and the stories I heard.

Now, today I also realized that I have Hand, Foot, and Mouth disease. Before I go further, let me clarify. 1) It is not the same as Hoof and Mouth Disease – I am not a cow (I don’t even eat cows). 2) I am not contagious (but still being very cautious). 3) I apologize to the person who gave it to me, because I did not fully understand how much the blisters hurt and was not as patient. 4) I apologize if I end up giving it to anyone else – the interesting thing about Hand Foot and Mouth disease is that generally the blisters show up after you are past the contagious aspect, meaning it is too late to take precautions. (Sidebar – I am not a doctor – I merely know how to use a search engine on the internet).

Ok, all that is out of the way.

I found it interesting that I became aware of my having this on the day of the Hands and Feet Initiative. My hands and feet are covered in tiny, painful blisters. It hurts to walk, to write, and looks really gross as the reddish bumps turn purple. I say this, not for pity (I mean, it is just a blister disease – to the healthy person it comes across much like Chicken Pox and doesn’t do any permanent damage). I say this to show that we may not think our hands and feet are always capable. We may not always feel like our hands (or gifts) are “pretty” enough or equipped enough – but they are because God has equipped us. Others may look at someone and assume because of a disability or sex or color or sexual orientation that the person does not have what it takes – but they do. This silly toddler disease is certainly not on par with a disability or the feeling of discrimination, but it might be slightly symbolic of how we often look at the outside and judge the inside. Or how we sell our gifts and abilities short because we don’t look like everyone else. As Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, Stated Clerk of the PCUSA, said today: “God is saying take the labels off.”




FDF41EA5-EE97-4B78-A99A-606D9E6A1B81.jpegFull disclosure – I didn’t come up with today’s title. But isn’t it great?

Dr. Deborah Krause, professor at Eden Theological Seminary gave a Bible Study this morning about the Gospel of Mark. She addressed General Assembly as Presby-Con (like Comicon, but for Presbyterian geeks). It was funny when I heard it, but rang so true today.

As I mentioned yesterday we began committee work last night. Today it continued. I chaired a sub-committee and was asked a series of questions regarding the business, and answered them to the best of my ability. Being an over-achieved, I had spent some time with the materials and familiarized myself to the best of my abilities. After a minute the guy looked at me, surprised, and said, “You really know your stuff.”

I took it as a good compliment, as up to that point, I had just assumed everyone knew this stuff. But today I found my Presbyterian groove, the place where one of my gifts shone and I recognized, even for a brief moment, why I was called to this committee.

Sometimes we need to be reaffirmed in our calling. We need the positive reminder that God has indeed called us. Sometimes we deny our calling because of a lack of “evidence,” because we don’t understand, or because we do not want to do it. Sometimes we show up without knowing why we are there. Then God shows us. Or, sometimes God doesn’t. Sometimes we make an impact in someone’s life, but never know.

Today, I just knew some Presbyterian polity details. But there are so many people who use their gifts everyday to make a larger impact: feeding the hungry, listening to a friend, bringing a smile to someone.

An example of the latter is found in my picture for today. Meet my new best friend, T Rex. He comes each day with one of the local pastors who welcomes and answers questions that PCUSA folks might have over the course of the week. He is friendly, always says hi to me, and growls like a T Rex. He sort of is like the unofficial GA mascot.

He is a breath of fresh air and joy after a long committee meeting. As he fufills his calling as mascot and uses his gifts of adorableness, he not only brightens my day, but reminds me that using our gifts makes an impact on those around us.

Let your inner Presby geek shine through. Let your light shine through. Let your life shine.



9B1F6BFD-5C83-4EF5-9787-C35CED2DAE0BThe church is at a critical point.

If you are in a church (or even if you aren’t) you may have heard the church “woes” – there aren’t enough members, there aren’t enough people to do things, we don’t have enough money, the denomination is dying.

Even last night as we voted on co-moderators the issue of the future of the church was brought up in questions. One person even asked about the “spiritual not religious” crowd.

These are all legitimate concerns, and many churches are asking this question. I think on some level the PCUSA is asking these questions, too. The last General Assembly even put together “The Way Forward Commission” to help think logistically about the future of the church, as well as the “2020 Vision Team.” I’m sure you will hear more on this later, but for now, I’ll leave it as is, considering I’m still soaking all the information, as well.

This is not just a PCUSA issue, this is not just a small church issue. Many denominations and churches are facing something similar. So far, no one has “the answer.” (If you do, leave the comment below!)

I could write a really long post about “the future of the church” – which, really, would be my opinion and based on speculation. I could talk about the younger generations wanting to be involved in action and mission but not belonging to an institution. I could talk about how buildings and fear often hold us back.

Instead, I want to share with you a congregation who did something different.

First, let me back up. I woke up this morning with a headache. It actually had carried over from the night before, and so I woke up telling myself I wasn’t going to church. It was much easier to stay in bed! There are not too many Sundays where I have that luxury. Parishioners reading this, I feel your pain of having to decide if I go to church, or stay in bed! Some days that is easier, right?

Instead, I stood up, moved around, and took some Tylenol. A couple hours later, I was feeling better and found myself at First Presbyterian in University City. (I feel I need to add a disclaimer here – my headache was gone. This is no judgment if you didn’t go to church this morning – sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do – personally, I needed to wake myself up and go).

After parking my car I was immediately greeted by a stranger walking in the same direction. She had been a member there for two years. Her kindness did not end at the door – she sat with me through the service and gave me all the details of the church.

First Pres is a More Light congregation, just like the congregation I serve. Here’s More Light’s statement, if you’re not familiar with them:

Following the risen Christ, and seeking to make the Church a true community of hospitality, the mission of More Light Presbyterians is to work for the full participation of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) people in the life, ministry and witness of the Presbyterian Church (USA) and in society. (For more info, go to www.mlp.org)

The service was welcoming, dynamic, inclusive, and challenged us to address injustice in the world. Worship was wonderful but I really want to focus on the church itself.

The members of this church are strong leaders. They are incredibly active, including preaching for seven weeks out of the summer while their part-time pastor is away. There is strong leadership in this church. While numbers do not make a church, I think it is interesting to note that their membership has gone from 70 to over 120 in recent years.

The picture above is of their sanctuary. They recently removed the pews and flooring and created a more versatile space. The floor has a prayer space on it. The pews on the edges are moveable, and the chairs in the middle can also be removed. The woman who sat next to me informed me that they had a Maundy Thursday meal in the space, a yoga class had been using the space, and when they have coffee hour following worship they move the chairs and use the space. Also, in the far back on the right hand side (you can see part of it at the bottom right of the picture) there is a small table for kids to have a “prayground.” Kids are welcome in worship and can be present and participate as they feel moved.

Are these building changes the reason membership increased? I don’t know – but I’m going to take a guess that it wasn’t the building, but perhaps a change in frame of mind – imagining what church looks like as the world changes. We have to begin re-visioning what church looks like and be open to the Spirit.

Today I was also introduced to “Lego Prayer” where we wrote certain words on our Legos and then built them together. (Look forward to this, church members – it is coming to a worship service near you!). My group tried to be creative and do something new, and stacked the blocks differently – but they fell apart. People were frustrated that it wouldn’t go as planned. “Sometimes our pieces don’t always fit together the way we want them to,” I found myself saying. Too often I think we are trying to fit circle pegs into square holes. It just doesn’t work. This might be a lesson I’ve been learning for the past six months or so.

This evening we began committee meetings. I serve on Mid-Councils committee which deals with presbytery and synod overtures. As commissioners begin their work in committees, I pray that we begin to feel the movement of the Spirit, and recognize that sometimes the pieces don’t fit the way we want them to, but that the Spirit does hold the answer, if we but listen.


Always With You

9DCB18B9-66F3-4A3A-BA9B-ABEED569231CThe poor will always be with you.

I’ve always hated this passage because it seemingly encourages people to stop caring for the poor. Why try? Aren’t we told not to bang our heads against the wall?

This passage has been rumbling through my head today. In fact, money and how we spend it has been on my mind.

First, I’d like to thank the Academy, also known as a liberal arts college, for teaching me to be critical in my thinking. It has bode well for me many times in my life, but sometimes I’m too cynical. So, I gueds that’s a disclaimer or full disclosure or warning or preview.

i started the day off a bit frazzled. I didn’t sleep well and woke up extremely early. I had woken up multiple times to loud music, honking, and other street noises. As I wandered downtown in search of coffee, I came across homeless men sleeping on the street, covered in sleeping bags. I wondered how they could sleep through the noises I could barely stand through a walk. If you are exhausted enough, you can sleel anywhere. I was then aware of my privilege of walking downtown with my expensive, fancy coffee, while others struggle for bread.

Always with us?

The pre-assembly gathering in which Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharris, co-founder of the New Poor Peoples Campaign, gave a presentation on civil disobedience and how the campaign is being led by poor people to end systemic racism and poverty. It was a fascinating to hear her speak. She (and others) fight for a change in the system – a broken system that punishes those who are oppressed. Rather than fixing issues of water, children sre removed from the home for not having running water.

She has been arrested numerous times for civil disobedience. Most recently she was arrested and the Supreme Court took her bullhorn, flag, and stole as evidence. The stole says: “Jesus was a poor man.”

She is absolutely correct – something has to change. We have to change the system. We have to stop injustice.

Always with us?

Following the pre-assembly session, the group supporting divestment of fossil fuels arrived. They walked from Louisville to St. Louis to make a statement of lessening our carbon footprint. They were singing as they entered: “You cannot love both God and money.” (Pictured above)

To think I was complaining last night to my roommate about paying for wifi.

I am also very aware of how much money is spent at General Assembly. I vaccillate between being extremely grateful for the per diem, and frustrated with the amount of money spent on a plate of generic salad. Did we need to buy new plates and chalices for communion? I read an article before coming to GA that encouraged commissioners to use their per diem to the fullest. I understand this, as it is a sort of “thank you” for all the work commissioners do. Yet, what isn’t used goes back to the church. Which is morally right?

I am attempting to be aware of the poor who are with us.

As I listened to one of the assembly speakers I was also aware of who was with her – her children. Throughout her conversation and presentation her children quietly walked onstage, held her hands, sat peacefully. It was not distracting, but, in fact, encouraging and positive. So many working women have difficulty balancing work and family – in a way men do not have to, nor are expected to balance. Many women end up working while also caring for their children. I do not know this minister’s situation, but I commend her for confidently presenting and being a mother – because the pastor and mother cannot be separated. Children are the future of the church, and we must make space where they can be comfortable.

The election of moderator also took place this evening, and our new co-moderators are Cindy Kohlmann and Vilmarie Cintron-Olivieri. They bring great enthusiasm and unity to the job.

God is always with us.



Go, Cubs, Go!

C0261CFC-BFCE-4D81-A4F3-FA91F996032E.jpegGeneral Assembly hasn’t started, but I have arrived! Above you will see a picture from the top of the Arch. This is not for people who dislike heights (read: me) or people who dislike small spaces (also, me) but worth going just for the experience.

Today the theme was engaging people: old friends and new. I wandered downtown and tried to gather my bearings. I ran into Cubs fans (the best kinds of fans) and quickly made freinds. Then, as I went ip the Arch, I saw more Cubs fans. And more. And even some kid with the retro Cubbie bear shaved into the back of his head. Then, I realized the Cardinals are playing the Cubs. But, I met some people.

Then I arrived at GA and saw some old friends – seminary friends, church friends, and random people I’ve met from over the years. Quick catch ups on the street, and lenghty conversations over coffee. I met my new roommate and we have become fast friends.

This is the beauty of the PCUSA.

We are a connectional church. We gather together and make friends – ones we agree with on policies, ones we don’t – and we greet each other with a hug. We laugh and celebrate when we expand families and share joys, and we cry with each other when we experience loss.

We gather together as Presbyterians and trust each other immediately. I wouldn’t just randomly room with someone from off the street – but a Presbyterian minister? Immediately we’re sharing ridiculous stories and laughing.

I also realized thatthe overtures are already making an impact. My roommate and I went to the store to pick up some groceries but realized we had no dishes or silverware. We bought a package of spoons, and when she went to reach for the styrofoam bowls, we both laughed and remembered the overture about stoppig the use and production of styrofoam – and reached for paper (still not ideal, but when you’re living out of a hotel, sometimes you just roll with it).

Tonight is my deep breath before the busyness. Tonight Iam grateful for friends – old and new – and for Cubs fans near and far.



General Assembly

Ten years ago I acquired this fashionable smock. I know. You’re jealous. You should be – it has the PCUSA logo, pockets galore, and ties nicely on the sides to accommodate a growing waistline from eating all the delicious conference foods one will endure.

Ten years ago I was a Theological Seminary Advisory Delegate (or, TSAD for those hip to the lingo – side note – TSAD – worst acronym ever). General Assembly was in San Jose and, as a seminary student, I went as a TSAD. I was super excited to go, and was ready to change the name to TGLAD, but no one else could figure out something for the G and the L. My job as a TSAD was to help people with their computer problems, time speakers, and wake up too early and stay up too late. It wasn’t a glamorous job, but it’s the perfect job for a polity wonk who enjoys PCUSA gatherings. I was challenged as a TSAD and am grateful for the opportunity.

Now, ten years later, I’m going back to GA as a commissioner. So, I had to pull out my stylish smock (not sure if we were supposed to keep those, but, seriously, who wouldn’t keep these??). I’ve spent the past months reading everything possible on PC-Biz, and wondering why someone doesn’t put overtures and comments on tape so I can listen to them while driving. Can you imagine Tina Fey reading overtures from the Church Polity and Ordered Mission Committee? Let’s be honest – if she spoke it, I’d vote for it.

At any rate, I feel as prepared as I can for the journey ahead. I won’t say I’ll post every day, but will try to keep you all updated as best I can. I appreciate your prayers as I take this journey and continually ask: “Where is the Spirit leading the church?” Important decisions are made here, but I also want to affirm that important actions are made everyday in local churches. Yes, polity and networking is important. Communities are formed at GA, and it is a wonderful experience, but I also know that the local churches are out there, working hard, and sharing the good news each day – and for that I am grateful, and am given strength to go as your commissioner to make a difference in this church.




Last year my spouse and I celebrated a big anniversary. I can’t even remember what happened, but we didn’t do anything to celebrate. Or, if we did, it was simple and (apparently) forgettable. This year I decided I was going to make up for it and surprise him with a planned out day. I love planning, and it seemed like a good time to celebrate – so I told him we had surprises in store, and I didn’t know how right that statement was at the time.

First, we were going to go to brunch at a cafe that had many options, including pastries and coffee – the staples of the breakfast world. We drove for twenty minutes, chatting and laughing, and arrived at our destination. “Closed” the sign on the door screamed. Oh well. We can shake this off. We wandered around the town, looking for another place to eat. We stumbled into one place and waited in line, but left because it only served eggs – which neither of us wanted.

Eventually we came to a farmers’ market where we stumbled upon a little bakery. “The cream cheese danish!” I shouted, perhaps a little too excitedly. “I want the danish!” The baker looked at me, worried. “Um, that’s a pickled onion danish.” Finding out your cream cheese danish is a pickled onion danish is like biting into a chocolate chip cookie only to find out it is actually oatmeal raisin. Disaster. I found another danish, and we walked on to a coffee shop. As we waited for our specialty drinks, we looked up and saw the royal wedding broadcast on the television (some of us had this date before the royals, but we’ll let it go).

Next step – the park! Our first date was hiking in a park, and we were off to hike it once more and reminisce about the days we met. As I slowed to turn onto the road the park entrance was on, I came to a complete stop – the road was closed. We circled the park completely to find another entrance, but never did. I sighed, feeling defeated, and we drove back. My spouse suggested another park that we had walked early in our dating years, so we went there. As we wound up and down the trail, we laughed, told stories, drank coffee, and celebrated. It was not the anniversary I had planned, but we made it work. As we talked about this, we recognized that it was a wonderful symbol for marriage – it just isn’t ever what you expect, but perhaps it turns out better than we planned.

The day before I had been sitting with some people who were talking about the royal wedding. Everyone was all abuzz with the idea of a “commoner” marrying a royal. I had not kept up with any of it, so I feigned interest, but perked up when I heard someone say, “I just don’t like the idea of a commoner marrying a royal. I mean, I expect royals to behave and look a certain way, and Prince Harry’s marrying a commoner changes that.”

I was stunned. First of all, I recognized that racism was at play here. Meghan Markle doesn’t “look” like some people assume royals to look, which I read as “not white.” I also might mention that the person started the conversation with, “I don’t have a problem that she isn’t white,” which is code for “I have a problem that she is white, but I’m not going to say it because you’ll think I’m racist.” Prefacing sentences with “I’m not racist” or “I don’t have a problem with her but” is the same as adding “bless her heart” at the end of a sentence – we think it absolves us from all sins and all the words that will come out of our mouths, but it doesn’t.

Second, she made the point that she wasn’t happy with the prince marrying a commoner because it ruined her perspective on royal marriage. Forget whether Harry and Meghan love each other – it shattered the fairy tale image that Americans like to create about royals, forgetting that they are humans, too. We expect certain people to live up to certain standards, but we can’t live up to those standards. I sometimes think that we put such pressure on people, on marriage, that we cannot live up to those standards, and then our hopes and dreams are crushed, and we are left wondering how something so terrible could have ever happened. My bakery/park scenario was just a small example of how I had built up this perfect day, but I think we all build up certain experiences or people in our lives, and when mistakes happen or the world comes crashing down at our feet because things didn’t “go as planned” we don’t try to pick up the pieces – we merely give up.

All of our lives we are constantly taking those pieces and trying to create a new picture – because the old one doesn’t work anymore. I hope I can continue to think on my feet when plans don’t work out, because it has been my experience in life that plans rarely work the way I want them to.



Yesterday was Teacher Appreciation Day, which has me reminiscing about the many teachers and professors who have impacted my life. I think I could go year by year and think of at least on teacher who made an impression on me, but I’ll try to just give the highlights. Mrs. Minoughan, my second and sixth grade teacher, shared joy and creativity in her work. I remember reading Mem Fox books as she had us pretend to be on an airplane to Australia. We explored the land and met koalas and kangaroos. A fun fact about Mrs. Minoughan – she also had a baby each year that she was my teacher. I wrote a book about her (with illustrations!) and the birth process. That might have been when I started to realize how babies came into the world. Needless to say, it never became a New York Times Bestseller.

Then, there was my fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Schroeder, who was perhaps one of my biggest sources of encouragement. Each morning she had us write in our journals for probably twenty minutes. Sometimes we had a journal prompt, and other times we could free write. One morning, I began something called “No Nonsense News.” It was rather witty and sarcastic, but also punny. My friends in the classroom began adding to it without my nudging. We wrote as if we were co-anchors on this news show, and sent the class laughing (at least, that’s how I remember it). Mrs. Schroeder encouraged our creativity, and eventually we had a morning news show that broadcasted on television in the school called “No Nonsense News.” I also remember Mrs. Schroeder loved the Cleveland Browns, and would give a fireball candy to anyone who wore a Browns shirt to school.

Once junior high began, I think I just tried to stay afloat. There were many teachers who were there to help us along, but mostly I think many of us felt like a peninsula, slowly separating from the rest of the country, but trying very hard not to drift away. No one liked junior high, right?

My orchestra teacher stayed the same from seventh grade through high school graduation. Mr. Wright was our conductor and teacher, and he had great patience with us. He always was very dynamic and engaging, making funny faces and keeping the atmosphere light, while also challenging us. I remember that he fell off stage one time, and just walked right back on, as if nothing ever happened. The show must go on.

High school came with it’s own challenges, as well. I remember two teachers vividly, except I can’t remember their names. Both were teachers that seemed to “buck convention.” They were the “cool” teachers. One was a history teacher and he taught American history in a trailer in behind the school. It always seemed to make sense to us that the trailers were there, and I never questioned it. Now as I think back, I realize that we didn’t have enough space for all the teachers, and this was an odd set-up. He was unconventional because he actually had us make trenches and “reenact” WWI. We tipped our desks over and threw paper balls at each other while a strobe light and noises like bombs set the atmosphere. I don’t remember ever opening a book in that class, but I remember that reenactment. The other high school teacher was one who taught Algebra. I struggled with math and spent many school nights smacking my head against the table because I just couldn’t understand what was being asked of me. I could add, I could subtract, I could multiply and divide – what more did I need to know? This man stood in his cowboy boots, one foot up on his desk, one planted on the floor, and would pour his coffee from a thermos into a mug, then sent the leftover drops from the top of the thermos splashing onto the brick wall behind him. I don’t know why – but I can still see him doing this movement. He had a southern accent and literally used words like “cotton pickin’” and had a mustache and goatee that made me think of Colonel Sanders. What was most important about him was that he helped me understand Algebra. He was patient, and he never gave me the answer. He worked with me, with various ways of learning, until I understood. He never snapped at me, and he never gave up on me.

Of course, I had many professors in college and seminary that shaped me, too. My adviser in college, Dr. Stratton, is a kind and gentle person who taught me a deep love of theology. His wife, Carol, was the chaplain at the college, who also taught me what it means to be a female minister. She did this through her actions and through her patience with the difficult environment that sometimes arose on campus. She has a free spirit and a deep love for being active in the world in faith.

My love for world religions really came from Dr. Massanari. He used words like “delineate” and I went home and looked them up in my dictionary. He helped me to see all sides of an argument, and challenged my own personal faith, perhaps without realizing it.

I would be amiss if I didn’t mention the psychology professors who taught me just enough psychology to be dangerous. Dr. Batchelder had a fantastic energy behind teaching psychology. He always seemed genuinely excited to start a new subject.

In seminary I had many professors who stretched me, as well. Debra changed my preaching by helping me find my own path rather than trying to follow someone else’s. She gave me a solid method for writing sermons that I still use to this day. She also was a wonderful, strong, kind presence on campus – there is no doubt she is called to preaching.

Claudio brought energy and excitement to worship class. He taught me how to use fabric in worship and to push the boundaries of liturgy and tradition.

These teachers and professors helped shape who I am today. I carry pieces of their knowledge and joy with me wherever I go. The teachers who impacted me the most were the ones willing to sit with me, listen to me, and not give me the answers. They let me battle it out for myself and to learn for myself. I am grateful for their patience.



The cavernous space, echoing the negativity within me. When there is space to fill, my mind tries to fill it. Boredom is no longer a problem because that space is filled with phones and tablets. Our homes aren’t empty, but overstocked with furniture. Our mouths are rarely empty – always filling the silence with words that often are empty: the weather, the news. We try to fill up the space around us to compensate for the void within.

Our cups are always running over, so we never have to experience emptiness. Yet, if met with empty, we might panic.

The empty house is one that I struggle to endure. At one point I realized I had never lived alone – parents, roommate, spouse. Those few occasions when my cohabitants were out I turned the television up and blocked out the emptiness of the house. I tried to ignore the empty sounds – which really aren’t empty at all – the hum of a full fridge, the tock of a clock, full of time for anyone in the world, the rumble of my stomach – full. Perhaps the emptiness is avoided because it shows how full our lives are – that we can’t complain of emptiness in a physical sense. The emptiness is deeper than we think – it is psychological or spiritual. The emptiness is filled by the One who left the tomb empty – ready to be filled with our assumptions and worries. Emptiness means possibilities. It gives space for the new.

After my mother-in-law died, I obtained her home communion set. Four tiny shot glasses tucked away with a small juice container and plate inside a deep blue case. I wasn’t ordained yet but could imagine my future with these tiny objects. It was like playing ballerina at age three. Twirling in a pink tutu, reaching my arms up in the air, the Lord of the Dance communing with me through movement. I could see myself serving the bread and juice to someone who was dying – playing church the home game. I reminisced about my own communion experiences. I imagined Barb taking this out to her congregation – who lived on the streets. Dining on bread and juice in an alley – the only meal they might eat all day. I opened the case back home in seminary housing to discover the juice container wasn’t empty. It had juice (or wine at this point?) in it. She hadn’t worked for over a year but this was full of juice and mold. The stench of the container reminded me of the stench of death. I was overcome with emotions about how she had died, and how she had slowly lost herself and struggled to serve as she once did. The void of emotions that I had carefully cleaned out was now filled with sadness and pain.

Then I laughed. Her life – her family – was always full of stories. These were stories about the children doing silly things: shaking up soda cans until they exploded or putting toothpaste over the door frames to imitate the Passover (they were fresh out of lamb’s blood). These were stories about dogs: jumping fences and playing in the neighbor’s pool or eating rat poison until Delilah (the tiny terrier) vomited all over the side of the car. Stories about life and death. This communion story was another one of her stories which lives on. I am filled when I pour the cup and smile, remembering this story.


The (Im)Printing Press

Thousands of stamps covered the walls. Upper case letters, lower case letters, symbols, numbers. I entered the print shop and left the millennium behind. I was in the 1800s and saw the beauty of the print shop. It was glorious. I was transported. The docent kindly showed me around, explaining the history and offering print examples. She explained that in the 1890s this print shop printed four billion subscriptions a day and four billion patterns per day. Amazing! How much simpler printing has become in our time. Four billion people can read a post in seconds. Four billion. It wouldn’t take all day to type up. In fact, what I’m typing here might take one person an entire morning to organize in a print shop in the 1800s. It’s taking me just a matter of minutes.

The letters for the printing had to be put in order of wording, upside down and backwards. They were fed into a machine, and then after printing the words were dismembered and put back into their places. The order was not alphabetical, and – oddly enough – not like a QWERTY keyboard. The printers had a different method that worked for them. This would take all day.

Now, a Tweet can go out in seconds. In fact, there goes another one.

The development of the internet is amazing, especially to see how much progress has been made. Yet, it is also disheartening. All the time it took to carefully re-member words meant the words were remembered easier – and that they were, perhaps, more impactful. The words were also carefully chosen before being distributed to the masses. The impact of the word was considered. Today words are posted without a second thought. Print is an art that is disappearing. I’ve been eyeing typewriters lately, because – like rotary phones – they will one day disappear and the next generation will look at us strangely when we mention typewriters – perhaps the same way that I looked at my folks when they talked about eight tracks. I think it is important to recognize how technology has evolved but also to value the word. As someone who deals with the word (lowercase) and Word (upper case – how long would that have taken the printer?) I put great value on words. My words don’t always come out correctly, but they are mine. I apologize when they hurt, I rejoice when they are helpful and compassionate – especially when someone reads the words and can relate, and maybe even say, “That’s exactly what I think – but couldn’t put it into words!” Those are the moments writers wait for (im)patiently.

As I’ve been attempting to improve my writing and learn about the writing process I have been submitting some pieces to be published. As many writers learn, publishing isn’t easy. I think every (or most) writers think, “Writing is difficult. I’ll submit a few, and then someone will magically read my words and they will be published!” whether for notoriety sake or something else. I’ve been to writers’ conferences that have explained the long, strenuous process of writing and publishing, and the experts always stress how hard it is to be published. “Of course it is!” writers think. “I’ll be rejected a couple times, then I’ll hit my big break!” It is almost like we know our writings will be rejected a couple times, but not over and over. And over. And over.

I think I’m in my fifth or sixth “over” right now. But I found the silver lining in the cloud of word raindrops falling down (hm. And I wonder why I haven’t been published yet? Terrible metaphors might be the answer). I recognize that at least the words I’m typing for now are still my words. Once someone begins publishing, they become someone else’s words, as well. The editor’s, the publisher’s, and others. It may not change the intent, or the core meaning, but to sell a book, to sell an article, you have to sound a certain way, and your writing changes. A good editor and a good publisher will keep your essence, but I’m sure there are those out there who don’t, too.

So, I’ll keep submitting material, because the goal for me is to improve, not to be a published author. This isn’t a publishing plea – because if I wanted to publish words, there are plenty of self-publishing options. For me, that’s not where I’m headed. Instead, it is about finding the meaning behind my words – what is it I most want to express? What do I want heard? What is the impact I want to make? And I turn that question to you – what impact will you make? How we make impacts is always changing – through print, through voice, through blogs and Tweets. The medium isn’t as important as the message, but sometimes the medium can inspire our message.


Breathe In

“Focus on your breath.” I love attending yoga classes but don’t do it often enough. I try to practice yoga at home at least weekly, but without a guide, I tend to fly through the poses. I forget about my breath, and it becomes more about crossing the finish line than trying to find spiritual depth and enlightenment. Like many Americans I know who do yoga, it becomes more about exercise and stretching than about the deeper intent.

Without planning to, I have made it a tradition to go to a yoga class the weekend before Holy Week. Many years ago I was invited to a yoga retreat in Indianapolis where I ended up being one of two people who actually showed up. It was an amazing experience and it gave me the centering and focus I needed to trudge through Holy Week (or, as a colleague of mine once called it, Hell Week).

This past weekend I was grateful to attend a Hot Yoga class with my mom. She goes regularly, but I had never been to this specific kind of yoga. I immediately noticed the warmth all over my body, and later described it as feeling like I was in the womb again (as if I could remember what being in the womb felt like to begin with). I stretched, I rolled on my back, I waited for the yoga instructor to begin.

She encouraged us to come up with a practice for the day – something to guide us. She suggested being kind to ourselves, focusing on peace, and a variety of things. These all sounded like things I needed to work on, plus five hundred other ideas that popped in my head – and I never actually focused on anything. I was already too overwhelmed, so I never came up with an intention.

We practiced deep breathing – the kind where you breathe in through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Then, the most wonderful thing happened. The instructor encouraged us to be inspired by our neighbor’s breath. I focused on my neighbor’s breath – someone who did yoga more regularly than I did. Her breath was steady and even and deep. No matter how many times throughout yoga I became distracted or discouraged, I went back to her breath, which was always there, and which was always encouraging.

What perhaps was even more inspiring, was that she said this practice should not only remind us to breathe, but to encourage us to breathe for others. An entire room of people cannot depend on one person to breathe. If your neighbor is counting on your breath to be inspiring, you need to breathe, too.

By the end of our class, as we said a collective “OM” I felt as though our breaths were all connected and even breathed for one another. There was great power when we all breathed together.

In a world of chaos, we need to remember to breathe. I often think we are holding our breath and trying to just survive, rather than thrive. Our breath is connected. Archbishop Desmond Tutu often talks about the term “ubuntu,” which reminds us that our lives are connected. We are connected. When we hurt our neighbor, we feel it, as do others around us. When we hurt, others feel it. Our breath is connected.

We must be inspired by our neighbors, especially when we forget to breathe. And never forget that you are inspiring to others, as well. We never know when someone is looking for inspiration, and that they might find it in us – in a kind gesture, in a smile, in a deep breath.




“What’s it like to live in the opioid center of the Midwest?” Well, I don’t know – I don’t live there. Though, after a recent article about the town in which I live, I know this has crossed the minds of many people. The article painted a gruesome picture of opioid use and suicide – a community in distress.

The truth is, we are a community in distress – there is no doubt about it – and so are so many other Midwestern towns. We aren’t the best, we aren’t the worst – we’re just the one someone chose to write about. Except, the whole problem cannot be summed up by “opioids and suicide.” Yes, drugs are a problem, but not just opioids. Yes, suicide is an issue – but not all suicides are drug overdoses. The reality is much more complex than that, as I’m sure it is in other towns, as well.

Both of these issues, which have overlapped in some ways, but not all, are being taken seriously by the community. A group through the local hospital, is attempting to tackle both issues through a Healthy Initiatives group. These subgroups work toward ending suicide and ending drug use. The ministerial association has held a worship service to remember those who have taken their lives. The Clearinghouse has been in action for many years, offering addiction services. We aren’t ignoring the issue – but perhaps the issue is bigger than we can tackle all at once.

Which is why we need the whole community to join together. There are many facets to these issues and it will take the entire village to work together to end drug use and suicide. It means not blaming, but listening. It means not shaming, but loving. It means education, taking one day at a time, and showing kindness.

The issue of suicide hits home for me in a couple ways. Two family members of mine took their lives tragically, and I have seen the aftermath. I see how the families mourn them, and how much value their lives had – but for whatever reason, they couldn’t see that.

To make a change means that we have to look at the world in a new way. For many, needle exchanges seem like enabling, but perhaps, until people can find the help they need (wait lists for addiction clinics can be long) this is helpful in the interim. We need more people trained in mental health. Perhaps it means looking at the world in a slightly different way because some of the ways we have tried in the past to make a difference aren’t working.

So maybe we can have an open mind, and an open heart, because there is hope. Except, we all have to be in this together – and I believe we are, as we want a better future for everyone.


Lenten Break

Dark sky, gloominess, and rain. It is the perfect day for Lent. Living in the northern hemisphere, Lent falls during what I consider winter/spring time. Traditionally it is during the time when the sky is always gray and gloomy – sort of sets the tone for Lent – a time of reflection and gloom and meditating upon one’s own mortality.

Yesterday the sky broke open, the sun shone, and the temperature was seventy degrees! It wasn’t Lent for one day – and I needed it. I needed the warmth on my face and the hope for future days of sunshine. It was like a secret “alleluia” whispered in the season of Lent. (Can I even type “alleluia” in Lent?)

We need Lent. We need a time to remember that we are human, and that God is God. We need to remember that we cannot do it all. We are not invincible and we will not live forever and we will not last forever. Yet sometimes even those forty days seem like forever. Sometimes we glimpse Lent outside the season of Lent. What I mean by that is referencing those times during Advent or Ordinary Time when the world hits us hard – a friend dies, a beloved one is diagnosed with cancer, the world just isn’t right. Those days we experience Lent, too. So, we might need Lent, but we are experiencing it even beyond those 40 days. We need a break in the weather. We need a break in Lent.

Maybe I’m a Lenten wimp. I can’t go those full forty days without whining. Perhaps. I still continued my Lenten discipline, though. I still observed Lent – I just was reminded of a little hope. Our disciplines should go even beyond the 40 days, anyway. We’re supposed to start connecting with God (maybe in new ways, maybe we reacquaint with old practices) so that we can continue the dance beyond Easter. So, we remember to focus on God even beyond the day of resurrection.

We need that break. In our society, we need a break – from the shootings, from the pain, from the hatred. We cannot keep turning on the television and seeing these tragedies, or opening our doors, and seeing these tragedies, because we must see an end. Our children cannot grow up in this atmosphere. Our grandchildren depend on us to learn how to live together civilly. We owe it to ourselves, as well. I pray for a glimmer of hope that can carry us through the ashes, to the resurrection on the other side.



The seminary spoiled me regarding apartment living. I didn’t realize it at the time – all I could see were the cement brick walls and the chips in the tile. After graduation my spouse and I moved across town. At first I thought the apartment was great – it was my first experience of searching for my own place as an adult. We had moved in after scoping out many low income places. My spouse was working full time, I was working part time, and we needed something cheap and temporary. At least, so I thought. I signed a month by month lease – one of our stipulations for wherever we ended up living. I was seeking my first ordained call as a minister and was convinced I would receive a call any day now – I was so wrong. When we first saw the apartment, we decided it was perfect for our needs. It hadn’t been updated like some of the other pricier options they had available, but it was good enough. It had a kitchen, a bathroom, and a bedroom – we were set.

The longer we stayed there, the more we were ready to leave. The towel rack fell continuously in the bathroom. It took maintenance forever to put it back up, and when it fell within a day, I just left it. The drain in the tub backed up after even a five minute shower. I didn’t even want to think about what kinds of germs lurked at my feet. The carpet was….not filthy? That’s the best way I could describe it. It was discolored and I tried not to think about how many smelly feet had rubbed their nasty bunions on it. The oven was so small we had to buy more cookie sheets because ours were too big. The disposal backed up often. We did our laundry in the apartment laundry mat and had to be quick to move it forward lest our wet clean clothes be piled on a machine, or – even better – the floor.

Those were all minor things – I could overlook them. I was working at Habitat for Humanity – I knew people who didn’t have houses – how could I complain about where I lived? I had a roof and a bed all my own. Except, I couldn’t move past the door. The only door that lead outside was not flush. I could see the hall light peering in over the top. The cold came in. The heat leaked out. Then the bugs came. They strolled in like they were looking for a Bug Motel. We were offering a variety of options for them – books for the Silverfish, small pieces of dog food stuck in the carpets for the ants, my flesh for the mosquitoes. I hated this apartment. Especially as the neighbors grew noisier. I just couldn’t wait to leave. We didn’t unpack our boxes for a long time. We pulled out enough clothes to last a week, some videos and games, some cooking utensils, but everything else stayed packed in boxes in a small narrow closet. Once in a great while I would go searching for something, knee high in boxes, stumbling over shoeboxes, and trying to find that blasted toaster.

I finally gave up. We weren’t going anywhere. I signed a six month lease and decided it was time to settle in and realize I was here for good. That night, I received an email from a church. Would I like to Skype? Of course! It is a progressive church in southern Indiana – seemed like a good match! I agreed, and six months later, my lease was up, and I was packing my boxes to move to southern Indiana. It was where God was calling me – I just had to realize that this search wasn’t my time, it was God’s time. I lifted those boxes into the moving van. When I arrived, a smiling crew of people waited in my new driveway, ready to take those boxes out. I happily sat and unpacked every single box. I wasn’t going anywhere – I was home.

Now I look at a new set of doors. These doors don’t fit, either. I’m not sure if these are the second doors, or the originals, but they aren’t flush. There is a gap at the top of some, and they don’t close all the way because of gaps at the bottom, or because the width is too wide and the plate in the jamb doesn’t fit.

As I look at those doors, I say a small prayer of thanks that they are interior doors. I’ve traded the silverfish for cave crickets, the ants for wasps, and the mosquitoes I’m pretty sure followed me in the moving van. Some things never change, but my gratitude does, as does my perception. That apartment wasn’t as bad as it could have been, and I’m grateful for the place God has placed me now.


Star People

I immediately regretted answering the church phone. I could tell from his tone of voice and rhythm of speaking that he was a salesman or telemarketer. When he introduced himself I grunted a hello, and he could tell from my tone of voice I wasn’t interested. “Uh oh,” he said. “Your voice changed.” Then, he launched into his sales pitch. Why did I continue to listen? Why didn’t I hang up the phone? Despite my dislike for telemarketers and salespeople who push products I have absolutely no use for, my mother’s lesson of politeness always seems to kick in and override any potential to hang up. I have hung up on people before, but it took quite a bit to arrive to that place.

After finishing his long talk, he asked, “Does that sound like what you’re looking for?” I laughed. It had been a very long day – people asserting their dissatisfaction with me in rather blunt manners, running ten minutes late all day, despite the fact that I had left home ten minutes early, and feeling swamped by a never ending to-do list. “I have a list of things I’m looking for, sir. I don’t think your product is one of them.” At least it solicited a laugh – from both of us. I made a joke that if he found Jesus, let me know.

The man told me Jesus is always with us – and then began sharing his faith with me. He talked about being a Gospel singer and shared a story about how his faith deepened through a specific song. Somehow, he turned it right back around to the product he was selling. He was good.

Unfortunately for him, I didn’t make the financial decisions for the church, so I didn’t purchase his product. I felt slightly guilty, because I always feel bad having to tell someone who worked very hard that I won’t buy their product (that’s how I end up with fifty boxes of Girl Scout cookies). He was very understanding, mentioning that I must be a pastor because no one listens like pastors. That was a pretty good compliment for the day, considering I felt like my ears were closed in many ways.

Before hanging up, I thanked him for making me laugh. It wasn’t his end goal – and he probably won’t receive commission – but it was what I needed in that moment. “For what it is worth,” I told him, “you receive a star sticker for effort.” He said he would wear it proudly.

I’m not suggesting you talk at length to all the telemarketers who call you – I certainly don’t have that kind of time. Yet, there are moments where it seems I don’t have the time for much of anything. I’m busy rushing to finish my to-do list, I’m worrying about what someone said, or trying too hard to do something quickly rather than efficiently. In those moments, I miss what I’m truly called to do – I miss God, and I miss the people around me. Inevitably I miss myself, as well. Sometimes it takes people we don’t expect to make us laugh, to redirect us, and to remind us that life is not as bad as it seems. Those are the star people.


Psalm 122

“I rejoiced with those who said to me, ‘Let’s go to the Lord’s house!’”

How often do we rejoice to go to church? A colleague of mine reminisces about how he once had a drug problem – his parents drug him to church every Sunday, and that was a problem. Now, he’s a minister and loves going to church. Except, I think he might be one of the few. I do think people like church, and do enjoy going. I love to see the smiling faces of people at church, and I can only assume they are rejoicing. Yet, I sometimes wonder if people are rejoicing, or coming because they feel guilty. Not that guilt isn’t a good motivator. I recently read a quote from Flannery O’Connor: “Most of us come to church by a means the church does not allow.” Amen.

In high school I dated an evangelical Christian guy. I attended a PCUSA church on Sundays but really was not thrilled to be there. I didn’t feel like the sermons were speaking to me or like anyone cared if I was there or at home sleeping. For me, there was no community or purpose to church. On Wednesday nights I began going to an evangelical church just before I started dating the guy. The two churches were complete opposites. Sunday morning was traditional, Wednesday night was contemporary. Sunday morning I was one of just three youth, Wednesday night I was one of thirty. I still attended both, because I was able to see God in both places. I will admit, I started attending the evangelical church because of the guy, not because I was rejoicing about going to God’s house. Yet, over time, I learned that I did enjoy church. I did want to rejoice. Even after he and I broke up, I still went to church. In fact, that’s now where I spend most of my time – and where I am currently writing this entry. I sometimes think our motivations to go to church vary, and then shift over time. God is not particular when it comes to why we go to church – because once we are there, I believe the Spirit moves within us.

Yet, the Spirit does not move only within church walls. In fact, I believe the Spirit moves in many places – some of the most unexpected places, even. We can rejoice in God in our homes, in the park, and in coffee shops. God is moving within us all the time.



A place of safety and comfort. A place I always felt welcome to be myself. The house my spouse grew up in became a place of love – a third home for me. I could kick off my shoes and help myself to the fridge, leaving crumbs for the dogs to lick up – but because I loved his mother, I always cleaned up after myself. I laughed there when Samson, the chocolate Lab knocked over a quart of red jello on the only rug. I cried when my mother-in-law was diagnosed with cancer. This was a place filled with memories and emotions, even in just a short time. This was the place I met my spouse for the first time – met his entire family one Memorial Day weekend. After his mother died, we packed up all the things into boxes marked “keep” and “donate.” We distributed the flowers from the memorial. We took in the dogs and tried to fix up the house to sell. It took time, but we did find a buyer. Once, before the closing , we returned. I wept silent tears as I walked through the house – emptiness all around – empty of furniture, of life, of all but memories. I said goodbye and never went back. Yet, I still revisit the house in my memories. Like taking a pair of shoes that don’t fit – you can exchange them – they are never the same shoes. If we went back, it would not be the same house – but I hope it is a place of memories for whoever lives there now – memories they can revisit over and over again.



It’s official. I have a problem. I’m currently engaged in five Advent calendars. It may not seem like a problem. In fact, I’ve been in denial for quite some time. When I was in college my roommate was the first to raise an eyebrow at this practice. Our first Christmas season together, I had packed a small Christmas tree with tiny ornaments, some garland, and my favorite Advent calendar. My roommate, a Baptist, didn’t celebrate Advent. She wasn’t opposed to it – but she was unsure of my calendar, because it had Santa on it. This calendar is one I grew up with, and so it has more sentimental meaning than anything else. It is a fabric wall hanging that has Santa and Mrs. Claus happily sitting inside their home drinking hot cocoa while animals frolic around happily in the snow. There are pockets below the scene with numbers, and each day I move the mouse closer to the 25th. My roommate rightfully asked why Santa was on the Advent calendar – something I never thought of before – but I shrugged it off because I wasn’t going to let her ruin this for me!

Since then, I still use the calendar, but also wanted to incorporate something more religious, since Advent is about Jesus, not Santa. I’m not opposed to Santa, I just want to make sure I’m seasonally accurate. So, this summer I purchased a metal Advent calendar with a picture of the nativity. I move a magnetic star to each day, closer and closer to the nativity scene.

Then, someone who knew my love of Advent calendars, gave me a window cling Advent calendar. Each day, I read a scripture passage and put up a part of the nativity up on the window. I slowly prepare the window for the birth of Jesus. The other two calendars are just the usual open the cardboard door to reveal a picture and scripture passage.

It takes me a few minutes each day to make my way through the whole ritual, because I can’t just move the mouse and move the star and put up the cling – I say things, I dance, and I actually sing a bit. It’s fun, and prepares me, but I’m pretty sure that when John was preparing the way, he wasn’t moving a mouse or dancing. He was baptizing.

I do still love my Advent calendars, but it has made me wonder if perhaps there is such a thing as “too prepared.” For those of us Type A personalities, I know this will come as a shock. That extra snack in your purse is necessary! That cash in your wallet “just in case” is a must! The six gallons of water in your trunk? Probably not hurting anyone. Except, sometimes I think we have to do what we can to prepare, and then actually wait. If we’re too busy preparing and gathering supplies and not present, we’ve missed the point. If we’re hoarding all the supplies, what about others who aren’t Type A? They shouldn’t be punished just because the rest of us are a little anal. My Advent preparation dance is fun, but if I’m not actually present with those who are poor, who are lonely, who are struggling to see the light in the season, then I’ve missed the point. Too often it is easy to count down to December 25 and miss days 1-24. I pray that I can prepare, and also wait, without rushing through to the end.



I’ve been hesitant to write anything personal regarding the #metoo movement. Mostly, I didn’t want to rehash anything I’ve already worked through. I also didn’t want people to see me as a victim. I don’t like that word, because I choose the word survivor. Mostly, I didn’t want anyone to look at me differently.

When I realized I don’t have to go into specifics, I was ready to write. I’ve always been a proponent of women’s rights and have been a strong feminist since my college days. I’ve loved exploring feminine images of God, because I think that God is so much more than we can imagine and cannot be limited by our language and dual thinking.

I wasn’t surprised by the #metoo movement. If anything, I’ve been surprised at how accepted it has become. In my lifetime I’ve rarely seen women’s allegations of rape and harassment taken seriously. In blatantly obvious cases, I’ve seen the justice system fail women for many years. I’ve known women who have stayed silent because it was “easier” to just go about life as if nothing happened, even though it eats away at them. I’ve seen women speak up and be ignored, called names. I pray that the #metoo movement has woken some people up – that a true change has been made.

I’m skeptical, though. On the day Time magazine announced the silence breakers as their person of the year, my sister-in-law sent me a link excitedly, saying there was hope. After clicking the link, I was not hopeful. I still am cautious, as for many years I have seen women gather their hopes up that life will be different, and then nothing changes. I then read an article citing how many individual women have been selected as the person of the year, and it was extremely low, to say the least. Then I remember who was the person of the year last year, and I am angered.

Yet, I still choose hope. In a world that is hurting, in a time where our country is being led by someone who has been caught on tape admitting to harassing a woman, during Advent when we wait for peace and for God to change the world, I choose hope. I choose hope because the alternate is utter despair, and we cannot let evil win. We cannot let hatred win. We cannot let sexism define us or our roles in the world. I will not be silenced, because I have much to say, and because God has spoken a word of love to all people – a word that I pray I live and preach in my daily life. I have hope because I want the world to be better for the next generation.

So, I speak up because I want the world to change. I want women to be respected. I am a survivor, and no longer care if I am looked at differently because I carry the #metoo. I am strengthened by the women who have spoken, and weep with the women who feel they must stay silent. I pray for a day when women will be treated with respect and love.


Interior Decorator

Maroon curtains. Black and white designed footstools. Brown sofa. Black shelves. I have resigned myself to the fact that my home decor will never match. I have an eclectic style. Or, maybe not eclectic, as much as I walk into a store, see something I love, and buy it without worrying how it will fit into my home. I never had enough forethought to plan out an entire room, or enough money to hire a professional decorator. I have things that bring me joy – that have stories and a history attached to them. They don’t match each other and never will. As a child I wore this awesome multi-colored headband. When I say “awesome” I also mean “clashing.” It matched absolutely nothing in my wardrobe. I loved it so much. It was like my security blanket (and was functional!) and made me feel good. Many friends and adults tried to coax me away from this headband, but I stayed strong. So, maybe my house reflects that style – which is really no style at all. This is who I am.

Matching or not, I hope my home is comfortable. I want people to feel welcome. To me, a house should be lived in and full of life. A church should be the same – a place people feel comfortable that they can put their feet up on the coffee table and not worry about whether the trash was taken out or if the cobwebs were swept. I’m all for cleanliness, but perhaps we need to live in the mess a bit. The more we tidy up, the more we match all our decorations, the less comfortable people can feel. Frequently, when I visit people, they apologize for the mess in their homes. Of course, it isn’t a mess – it is a sign that people live there – which is what a house is for! We should be living in our churches, making ourselves comfortable enough that we feel welcome, but not so welcome that we live there all the time. The mess comes in to play that we spend more time outside the church, in community, than we do in the pews. So, the floor wasn’t vacuumed. But wasn’t sharing bread with your neighbor more important?


Christmas Time Capsule

My mom is an expert at yard sale finds. She has always been able to dig through a chest of junk and find the one gem. As I was growing up, she frequently helped me find stylish clothing at second hand stores. Part of this, I think, is due to the fact that she has the patience to sit and rifle through an entire bag/box/garage of stuff, where most people give up after a glance. Her latest find recently made its way into my home – a box of wooden ornaments, ready to be painted. These decorations are perforated in a wooden punch out, one dimensional with black outlines for painting. Simple and fun. For $1.50, it was a good deal in my mind. Most of the ornaments are still in the punch-out, but some have been carefully painted. A diligent grandfather or loving grandmother may have painted them. Perhaps a man with a painting hobby, or a mom looking to entertain her children. Maybe a teacher took them for students to paint. I can only guess who owned these ornaments before I came into possession of them.

As I dug underneath the ornaments I came across some ads and magazines with order forms – some needlepoint craft ideas, a pantyhose advertisement, and other random papers. They were clearly dated by the yellowing paper and retro looking clothing – and the hair. Oh, the hair. After searching for a year, I found it – 1980. I felt like I had discovered a Christmas time capsule. I found joy in diving into these retro ads, taking note of how life had changed in over 30 years. No technology, no social media, no cell phones, no computers. 1980 was a different world – not better or worse, just different.

Now, this box is here. I’m sure this family didn’t anticipate selling this box in a garage sale – maybe they thought they’d complete all the ornaments and give them away. They probably didn’t imagine this to be the Christmas time capsule I have created it to be.

Who knows? Maybe I won’t finish these ornaments, either. Maybe I’ll end up putting these in my own yard sale – but I hope not.

What would I put in a Christmas time capsule? I remember asking myself this question (or, at least, a similar question) in grade school. What would we put in a time capsule that would show people a hundred years from now what our lives were like? In a similar vein, if you were stranded on a desert island, what three things would you bring with you? The idea was that we should whittle down our hundreds of items and narrow it to just a few, to know what really mattered to us.

I don’t have answers to that question. I’d like to think I wouldn’t put in things, but experiences – pictures of people and memories written down. Though, I wonder how indicative it would be of my life. In my heart, I value experiences with people, but too often I’m scrolling through my phone or multi-tasking. So, what do I really value? Does my life reflect that value? I look at this time capsule and imagine that this person who owned these ornaments were great at crafting and creating, when, in reality, maybe this was the first and last craft they ever bought.

Whoever owned that box of crafts before me – thank you. Your unintentional time capsule has made me consider what I truly appreciate about Christmas, Advent, and life.



Four hours in the car for a three day event for new pastors. I was already well into my first year, and I was unsure how this group would be beneficial for me. I certainly didn’t know everything (or much of anything, now that I look back) but I remember wondering why it took an entire year for me to begin in this group. As I arrived at the Geneva Center, I realized that others felt the same way. We were all a bit cautious, but we showed up, unsure what to expect.

The three year New Pastor program turned out to be the best opportunity to me as a new pastor. We met twice a year with the entire group, and twice a year in subgroups. During that time I made colleagues, friends, and learned so much about how to do ministry, as well as how I maybe shouldn’t do ministry. I still don’t have it all figured out, but I at least know who to turn to when I feel lost and confused.

My required three years of the new pastor group is over, but a core group of us continue to gather together once a year to support one another and share resources. We’re now into our sixth year total. Earlier this month I traveled those familiar Indiana roads – past the church building along the highway that has been for sale ever since I began this call, beyond the interesting lamp store, and past numerous coffee shops (and I’m pretty sure I’ve stopped at every one). Some of the road has changed – I can’t drive through Kokomo anymore (which is unfortunate, because one of those coffee shops was located there), and I take Keystone instead of 31 after all the construction – but I always end up where I need to be.

As always, I relished the quiet time of reading and napping, and thrived on the conversations with colleagues, which made me laugh, think, and plan (I always leave with a million ideas). This time, I also left with a bag of granola. Food is provided for us, and each morning there are pancakes or waffles or sausage or bacon. No matter what, there is always homemade granola. I spend the entire year looking forward to this granola. I even make my own granola at home, but this takes the cake. (If granola took a cake, where would it take it? A pastry shop?) I don’t know what it is about this granola – it has raisins and crunchy goodness – it’s just amazing.

I mentioned to one of the cooks how much I love this granola, and the next day, a bag with my name on it was waiting for me. It completely made my day. How silly that a bag of granola can make such a difference, but it did – and all these people I meet yearly make such a difference in my life, just by showing up. We schedule some worship services and basic conversation, but overall the most important part of the entire event is showing up and being present – and acknowledging one another. This little bag of granola will fill my stomach, but it is also a reminder of how I was filled with love and gratitude every time I go on this retreat.



In a beginning

God spoke WORDS and creation came into existence.

Those WORDS were for everyone

But they were soon closely guarded,

Taken hostage.

Some were denied access to those WORDS.

Reform broke down the barriers –

The silence broken.

And it was good.


“Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything,

not only while being watched and in order to please them,

but wholeheartedly, fearing the Lord.”

Fear who?

Because God doesn’t create the kind of fear

That makes you teach your sons

That it isn’t ok to go outside after dark.

God doesn’t create the kind of fear

That makes you teach your daughters

To hold their purses tighter.

God doesn’t create the kind of fear that teaches our children

To assume a police officer will shoot you

Because of the color of your skin.

God’s fear is a reverence,

A respect for the One who made us,

Who reforms us to acknowledging that black lives matter.

Who reforms us to understanding that racism is deep,

Too deep in our culture,

And we must change,

So we can call it good once more.


“Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural,

and in the same way also the men,

giving up natural intercourse with women,

were consumed with passion for one another.

Men committed shameless acts with men

and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error.”

Shame? Unnatural?

Reformation has helped us see

The context of these WORDS

And the harm it has done.

No more shame.

No more hatred.

Just love



And it was good.


“For you always have the poor with you,

and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish;

but you will not always have me.”

Open our eyes

Broaden our horizons,

To recognize that God is moving in us,




Never to ignore,

Or assume someone else will care for the poor,

But to be in ministry with

Rather than for,

And it was good.


“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth;

I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.”

Yet, he didn’t say

I’ve come to bring nuclear bombs

And AK47s

And weapons of mass destruction.

He didn’t say he came to kill.

The WORDS are not always how we interpret them,

For we remember

There will be a day

When swords will turn into plowshares.

And on that day,

It will be good.

On that day

When we can call it all good again

We will see the product of the reformation.

God’s work in us

Always shaping us

Always challenging us

Always reminding us

That God created us for good.


For Such a Time as This

Fortunately, our time is different. We have progressed – evolved. We aren’t like those ignorant people who speak hate and bigotry…right?

Such words are not acceptable, or so we thought. They seem to have crept back into our vernacular. Common conversations tainted casually with words sharper than safety pins – pricking the fabric of our culture rather than holding it together.

Alas, we aren’t any further along than we thought. We merely have been hiding the hatred and disguising it. Now it is out in the open.

Timely words are necessary – words that speak love, courage, admitting privilege and acknowledging the change necessary in our world.

Ask: Is there anyone who will do this? Is anyone willing to speak up or speak out? What are the risks? What are the benefits?

This surely is the time. This surely is the place. We must be the people – because the road is ending and soon the can will be kicked off a cliff.

(Esther 4.14)



Words in motion,

Dancing on a page.

Letters and symbols,

Breaking out of their cage.

To be reformed,

To let God move within,

To realize that reading,

Was never a sin.

The deep understanding,

To have God touch your heart,

To experience the Holy One,

And be set apart.

The door continues,

To welcome and open,

The Spirit continues,

To challenge and deepen.

Setting the stage,

Not knowing the impact,

With one dissenting word,

So much has happened,

From a protest tacked,

Within a space,

For all to see,

For all to be lifted,

All to be free.

The Spirit continues,

To dance and expand,

Speaking to all people,

From every land.


Writing Our Stories

Pumpkin lights flashing in the window. Goblins and ghouls dancing from the ceiling. Ghosts hanging from the wall. Acorns and crinkling leaves cover the ground. Carved pumpkins sit outside doors, rotting slowly. They start out looking like a ghoul, but eventually look more like the Crypt Keeper. The time of year for corn mazes and spooky trails and haunted houses has arrived. Warm beverages come back into style, even though many partake year round – tea, cider, coffee. The air is crisp and cold. Fall breaks the heat like an ice cube in a room temperature beverage – slowly, but surely. Greens and yellows become orange and brown. Surrounded by warm colors but feeling the nip of the air.

As I walk on campus among these sights new life has sprung up. The summer maintained a restful silence. The campus breathed like soil in the winter, resting and laying dormant until the next growing season. Now the music is blasting from dorms, Frisbee golf is in full swing, and there is a hum in the air.

At this time each year a walk takes me back to my own college days. As I smell the fried chicken being mass produced in the dining hall, I remember the highland chicken I happily devoured. I remember the anxiety of that first year, unsure if I would like my roommate or if I would do well in school. The following fall the smells of pine fresh cleaner in the dorms remained the same, but a confidence surrounded me – one year under my belt and I knew what to expect. The joy and love of college continued past graduation. Each fall, as I see the students arrive again, I reminisce with my college roommate about those days, and laugh about the ridiculous things we did in college.

This year, as students arrived, it felt different. Maybe it was the shift in weather – 80 degrees, down to 60, and back up to blazing hot weather. Maybe time has separated me enough. I’m celebrating a milestone from graduating this year – and college is no longer a recent memory. “Do you remember this?” my college roommate asks me, referencing a story. I scrunch my nose up and shake my head. Funny anecdotes are slipping away. Stories are disappearing.

We tell stories to keep them alive. When they aren’t told, we forget them, or they disappear with a generation. Some stories stick with us and we cannot forget them, even if we don’t tell them. Our lives are filled with stories – some told, some untold. We piece them together and sometimes we rewrite them – maybe we force an ending, or maybe we just delete pieces in our minds. Sometimes our stories don’t look the same to others. The stories we tell ourselves shape us. Are you the hero? Are you the antagonist? What other characters are present? Who keeps appearing in your story? Are there themes?

We spend our lives living the stories, but too often we focus on the past stories, or the future stories. We obsess over the parts in our stories that we can’t change. We worry about the future, we stress over the past. We neglect the present. When I read a book I love I sometimes start skimming parts because I just want to know how it ends. I miss some of the juicy conflict within the story. I miss the sweet reconciliation or the drama that enfolds in the book. The same is with our stories – that we must be present and focused on what is happening now, rather than the stories that could be or would have been. If I dwell on my own college days, I look past the leaves falling in front of me. We have a choice of leafing through pages or picking up a pen.