I came downstairs this morning to begin a Christmas tradition with my family… Making the “monkey bread” that’s a special holiday treat. There was no time to bake it on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. When I did have a little down time, we ordered pizza or ate leftovers. Or I just put my feet up and had some eggnog with brandy.
I’m incredibly blessed to have ministry opportunities in two venues: my work as a Hospice Chaplain, and my position as Assistant Minister at a progressive Baptist church. But today, I am going to enjoy my family, open some presents, ignore my phone, and share in the cooking of a good meal. I might clean up enough of the counter to have a place to sit down and eat. Or not.
But most likely, I’m going to rest. And count the blessings I see… because they are everywhere. Once I have a few moments to breathe, I’ll get some other blog posts up…
And peace be yours…
Note: This is a reposting and expanded version of a Facebook post on a private page. It retells some of my own story to ordained ministry. (If you’re a regular blog reader, you can move on now…) I share this story because RevGalBlogPals is a small, grassroots 501(c)(3) organization and can use your support.
Why do I need RevGalBlogPals?
I was ordained later in life. Even though I originally went to seminary in the 1980s, I did not complete more than a semester of classes. In the conservative congregation where I was leading ministries and worshipping, women didn’t “do” that. I was told that “good Christian women” don’t become pastors. Something inside me yearned and burned. But I didn’t know any women pastors. So I quit.
Fast-forward 20 years. I’m continuing to serve in my local church. I’m reading Gilbert Bilezikian’s Beyond Sex Roles: What the Bible Says about a Woman’s Place in Church and Family. And I meet my first women clergy at a Walk to Emmaus retreat. Privately and individually, they each said to me, “Why aren’t you going to seminary? Why aren’t you a pastor?”
I was thrilled. And terrified.
As I started seminary, I searched online for “women clergy” and found the fledgling RevGal bloggers. I joined their collective voices on-line. They were patient as I found my feet in ministry, asked my clueless questions, and challenged my tightly held assumptions about gender roles in the church, my patriarchal-brewed theologies, and my limited view of the world. They helped me laugh at myself. They freely offered resources. They cheered me on as I was ordained and began chaplaincy training.
While I’ve gained professionally from their blog posts, I’ve also benefited personally. Ministry is at times a lonely calling. The outside voices of criticism frequently drown out the Call of the Spirit. And now there are cultural forces at work that demean women in general, and progressive Christians in particular. I could not do my work without a local group of RevGals who are my sisters in ministry and my friends. We ponder, wonder and cry together. We went to Princeton Seminary’s Engle Preaching Institute and continue to study and learn together. We “found” each other because of RevGals!
There’s something else I’ve learned from being a RevGal. It’s OK to not have my stuff together. It’s OK to mess up. It’s OK to work on caring for and preparing my parishioners for Advent, and not have a stick of decoration up in my own home. It’s OK to cry out to God with my hurts as I listen to others do the same. And it’s more than OK to be intellectually and emotionally honest in my spiritual journey. There’s no “fourth wall” in ministry: I am Called as I am, warts and bruises and all, to serve God. Nothing miraculous. Just a real woman, serving an amazing God.
As a monthly supporter of RevGals, I receive back so much more than I can give. I write for the blog. I enjoy the books they write. I use their liturgies in worship. I pray for their families as they pray for mine. And I know, without a doubt, that we are bringing diverse, compassionate voices to a world that so desperately needs them.
Join me in supporting RevGalBlogPals. Together we do make a difference in our devotion and our ministries. And if you have a woman pastor, chaplain or clergy member, send them our way! We will join forces for the greater Good!
Diana Butler Bass writes in a recent article in the Washington Post about the emotional stress that has filled the days and weeks since the Presidential election. Not just stress from who won or lost, but the increase of uncivil behavior towards one another.
It’s wearying to the mind and the Spirit.
(I’m not immune to the fits of snarkyness on Twitter. But I have not threatened anyone’s personal safety or denigrated their faith.)
“Advent recognizes a profound spiritual truth — that we need not fear the dark. Instead, wait there. Under that blue cope of heaven, alert for the signs of dawn. Watch. For you cannot rush the night. But you can light some candles. Sing some songs. Recite poetry. Say prayers.”
So for Advent this year I am going to Watch for the Light. I will be posting photos on Instagram (@HolySpoons) and will occasionally write here on my blog about the places and scenes which give me glimpses of God in this Advent season.
You can join me in this exercise. The liturgical season of Advent begins tomorrow, November 27th. Let’s find those points where God breaks through and use them to encourage one another.
I’m pressed but not crushed… – Paul of Tarsus
Here’s my self-care when I’m sad and stressed:
- Cooking good food. Comfort food.
- Curbing my work hours.
- A nice blush wine (For medicinal purposes. Of course.)
- Petting a cat.
- Being with family and close friends.
- And watching a little Lord of the Rings…
Tolkien has a way of reminding me about the real and not real parts of life, particularly the reality of Good and Evil. We didn’t get to The Two Towers (again/yet/for the gazillionth time) but what came to mind the other night was the scene between Elrond and Arlen when he was pressuring her to leave with the other elves for Valinor…
Elrond: Why do you linger here when there is no Hope?
Arlen: There is still hope.
I don’t hold out hope that the Leopard will change his spots and be able to govern well. I don’t expect that lawmakers who seem to “piddle, twiddle and resolve” will get anything done. (Cynical Me believes that they might of course remove health insurance from the working class, legislate who you can love, and attempt yet again to make family planning decisions for all Americans… but I digress…)
But I cling to Hope.
Hope in finding simple ways to express that I AM an ally and proud feminist. That I care about the environment and the serious burden of higher education. That I want to see all children have access to safe water sources and a good education. That racism and prejudice are wrong… and eradicating them begins with me…
I look around and see our daughters who care about their fellow humans. And I know many of their friends who are genuine, thoughtful and caring. They give me hope.
I watch my coworkers who do everything they can to bring comfort and compassion to someone’s last days on this earth.
I cling to Hope.
I am still angry. I am still frustrated with white women, “Christian” women in particular, who supported a man who used misogyny, bullying, mockery and profanity to win an election. But then I have to let that anger go and get back to what I must do…
Amen. So be it.
I don’t speak for you.
There. I said it.
I also don’t speak for people who look like me, dress like me, work with me, worship with me, or live near me. And, most importantly, I most definitely do not speak for someone who is nothing like me!
I am just… me. A wife and mom. A hospice chaplain. A progressive Baptist. A pastor. An LGBTQ+ally (and yes — I asked and was told that I am. If that matters.)
I look like women who voted for Trump in large numbers, and that pisses me off. (White, middle class, Christian.) I supported Hillary and contributed to her campaign. I tried to influence the hearts and minds of people around me to vote for her. And apparently, I was not very good at it.
Election night, I had tears in my eyes and felt frustrated. I had no words for those closest to me who were also devastated. I heard their fears. I was distressed with them. I am deeply worried about them because of the rhetoric and abuse we all heard from Trump during the campaign. They are vulnerable because of who they are.
Here’s what I have learned in the last few days… (Sorry it’s in bullet points. I don’t have time to create fantastic, in-depth prose.)
- By accident of birth, education and economic status, I could fade into the Great Beyond of white suburbia. But my Calling, my conscience and my faith do not allow that.
- Those who know me already, know that when I wear a safety pin* or a rainbow bracelet, that I am visibly trying to signal what I believe and will do. And that I want them to be treated fairly, kindly, respectfully as I want to be treated.
- Those who don’t know me personally might think I’m posturing.
- The dying patients I serve, as well as their families, need my focus and care. Many of them are marginalized by their race, religion or gender identity.
- My coworkers who care for the dying with me every day are sad, stressed and discouraged.
- My family, friends, and parishioners have real fears, hurts and anxieties because of this election season.
- I don’t have enough money, time or energy to respond to every need around me. That means I have to pick and choose, and I try to do that wisely.
- I am praying — fiercely — for the projected new President.** (As of this date, the Electoral College has not met.)
I am trying to make a difference where I am. Today. Tomorrow. Next week. Next year. In my context. Wherever God takes me.
I will do this imperfectly. Incompletely. Ignorantly. But I will keep trying.
I will continue speak up against hate speech whenever I witness it.
I will keep learning. Growing. Praying. Reading. Listening. Serving. I’ll wear a safety pin and a rainbow bracelet. And sometimes, a cross. And I’ll try to do a better job of being an example of Christ in the world.
soli deo gloria
*It used to be that when someone wore a cross, they were expected to act “Christianly”. But today, the cross has been co-opted by political entities within American politics. It seems that a safety pin might better express my effort to be a welcoming, affirming and listening presence, without the trappings of a particular religious group.
**[edited to add] This does not mean he has my approval or my trust. (Bless his heart.) It means I am fulfilling a Scriptural admonishment to pray for those in authority.
When the package with my review copy arrived in the mail, my first thought was, “Please, don’t let it be pink!”
Thankfully, it was not! (And lest you think I am exaggerating, do a Google search for images of “women + Bible” and see what you find!)
As I skimmed my review copy, it was easy to see the intent of this edition of the Common English Bible: “to focus on stories of women, named and unnamed…”1 inviting the female reader to encounter the Scriptures with new insights and responsiveness to the written Word. For women in particular, it has been difficult to see ourselves in texts which appear to ignore women entirely, or relegate them to subservient roles in society. This invisibility was the cultural norm in ancient times, but causes many women today to question why the Christian faith is relevant in the modern world. Are our voices meaningful? Do our experiences and perspectives matter? Are women in general valued by God?
I was already acquainted with this version of the Bible. The Common English Bible was published with the intent was to bring the sacred text into “common” verbiage, without becoming a paraphrase. The translation guidelines were rigorous, and included men and women scholars. I use the CEB in my personal devotions and enjoy the approachable and clear rendering of the sacred text.
For this edition, the editors and commentary were all written by women. The individual books each have an introduction which provides background on the text, including a historical and cultural context. The introduction also highlights specific issues which will interest most women readers as they study the Bible.
I personally appreciated the indices which included: Named Women, Unnamed Women, Articles (indexed canonically and alphabetically), a list of discussion questions based on the Revised Common Lectionary, and (unusual in my experience) an index for the maps. These will be helpful resources for the novice or experienced Bible student.
For a recent sermon on John 9-10, I read and reflected on the passages using the CEB Women’s Bible. The reflection included in John 9 by Mandy Sayers on “Beggars” coincided with my previous personal study on the place of beggar in ancient society, and the radical, life-changing experience of encountering Christ — for the beggar, and for any of use who experiences the change that comes with following Christ.
My only quibble with this translation is that the gender of the Divine is consistently rendered as male. It remains an ongoing frustration for me, and many other women, who struggle at times to identify with The Holy when the pronouns for God are always a “he”… While I have cultivated the practice to “read over” the gendered pronouns, it remains a translation issue that has not been solved to my satisfaction.
Familiar faces and names are among the editors and contributors. I am delighted to see the variety of denominations, traditions and settings which they represent. The breadth of voices in this edition will inspire many women in their study of Scripture. I recommend it highly for your study and spiritual growth.
The CEB Women’s Bible. (c) 2016. Abingdon Press.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I was provided this book without cost from the publisher and was not required to give a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
1 from the Preface