Crossposting: Why I Need RevGalBlogPals

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?

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Our book: There’s a Woman in the Pulpit

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.

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My friends and co-laborers from RevGalBlogPals

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.

img_3176As 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!

The calm before the storm

The weather forecast for today and tomorrow contains dire predictions. Snow, sleet and lots of both. I haven’t heard the latest predictions, (they keep changing!) but I understand that there will be plenty of whatever falls from the sky.

In the middle of this “winter weather event” (forecaster-ese for “snow storm”), I am on call. As long as the Metro and buses are running tomorrow morning, I’ll get home. Slowly. But I’ll get home and share in the snow-blowing and shoveling and other assorted post-storm tasks. And yes, catch up on my sleep!

It’s really easy to get caught up in the hype. My Minnesotan friends giggle when DC panics over a foot of snow. If they were trying to drive in it with the crazy-pants around here, they’d be less flip about it. No, the easiest strategy we’ve found is to plan ahead, work from home, or, in my case, have a back up plan (or two).

20140211-210316.jpgThis morning I walked around the labyrinth, taking time to enjoy the quiet. There were large branches down from the last storm. The squirrel and rabbit tracks made it clear that there were a lot of foragers running around, getting ready for the next storm. The ground was crunchy underfoot, the snow pockmarked and uneven from melting. Those bricks in the labyrinth, so carefully laid in August and September, are hidden by leaves. Yet the way to follow is still there.

In my work as a chaplain, there are plenty of moments where it can be peaceful and quiet. I have learned to take the time to breathe, remember Whose I am, and gather in as much of that soaking love of God as I can. I can choose to do paperwork or take a walk-about, visiting the units and talking to staff members. (And yes, there are moments where I just sit and read social media or play a game on my phone. I’m not Super a Woman and there’s no S on my chest! Sometimes, I need a breather.)

And then life (for someone) becomes chaotic, crazed and uncertain. My pager goes off, or the overhead announcement calls out a trauma or a code blue. I carry that moment of peace, the calm before the storm with me.

And sometimes, when I close my eyes to pray with a patient or a family, I think of the over-arching trees and the crunch of snow underfoot. And then I try to convey that peace and hope in my words.

The calm before the storm… The Peace that calms the storm… I carry it with me.

Blessed be.

Looking back, looking ahead: Year’s End

It's a walk by faith and not by sight.

It’s a walk by faith and not by sight.

I wrote early in the year that I wasn’t much for New Year’s resolutions. I’m a fairly goal-oriented person and I tend to keep a running goals sheet. However, I also know that progress and growth only happen when one takes a step back and considers where the biggest “gaps” were between my goals and my reality.

Looking Back…

There’s a couple things that I feel good about from this last year….

I got more rest and was more active. Thanks to my FitBit One, I have a better handle on my general activity level. As a result, when I didn’t make my daily goal (an admitedly low goal of 5000 steps) I couldn’t fudge it. The numbers were there in black and white. In terms of tracking my sleep, I used the Sleep Cycle app.  I use it wake up more gently and I feel less like a zombie as a result. This sounds a bit simplistic. but the daily reminders help me keep my goals in sight. And as a result — I lost 20 pounds in 2013. And kept them off.

We saw our daughters grow through their challenges and graduate! One finished college in four years, (no small feat!) and one finished high school. Both did extremely well and stared down their personal dragons. I’m so proud of them. Love and prayers made a difference. They are both healthy and happy… and that’s huge. Thanks be to God!

I blogged more consistently and to a larger audience. I added 340 posts to my blog, which logged 11,000 views. That’s peanuts compared to many bloggers and authors, I’ll grant you. It was fun to blog in community with RevGalBlogPals, as a ViewPoint writer for EEWC, and to participate in the Rethink Church photo-a-day exercises in Advent and Lent. I’m grateful that you take the time to read this blog, and encourage you to comment. 🙂

I saw on a personal dream become a reality, and built a labyrinth. I blogged about both my progress and what I learned in the process. The experience has been the impetus for writing about the true ups and downs of a spiritual journey. There’s confusion, there’s frustration, and there’s also success (sometimes in very small steps.) And the joy is in the journey.

Looking Ahead…

Here’s my plans for growth (personally and professionally) in 2014…

Spiritually…  I’m continuing to learn how to be a person of integrity, sincerity and faith. It takes time, effort and self-discipline and I know it’s a life-long process. But here’s a few things that I’ve found to be personally helpful.

  • Lent and Advent  The Photo-a-day discipline is a simple way to focus on the major themes of Lent and Advent. I invite you to join me! A simple cell phone camera is more than adequate.
  • Pray-as-you-go  The  daily podcasts from Pray-as-you-go offer a great way to re-center in the middle of a busy day. Everything from the daily Scripture to the music during the meditation is frequently spot-on.
  • Bible reading plan  Here’s the beauty of on-line devotions: I get a daily email with links to the day’s reading. I can access it on my computer or “handheld mobile device.” This year I’ve decided to go with the Daily Office Lectionary Readings.

Professionally… I’m working towards board certification as a professional chaplain, and getting national recognition of my ordination and chaplaincy credentials with ABC-USA. This has taken a lot of writing, study and preparation (not to mention taking post-grad training). I’m also continuing to wait on the place God has in mind for job in Spiritual Care. It may be with a health-care agency, a church or a non-profit. I had some great interviews and possibilities in 2013, but I’m very aware that the Call needs to be mutual.

Personally I’m working on my continued overall fitness and weight loss. I don’t intend to run a marathon (kudos to those of you who do), but I want to keep my trend going in the right direction. I’m also continuing to find time to write, especially on long-term projects. And eventually, I may catch up with the laundry.

I’ll blog later about my Star Word and my watch word (Scripture for the year.)

There’s 10,000 reasons that I am blessed and grateful to God for this past year. I end my posts for the year with this song…

“A Month of Thanksgiving” posts – why I’m doing this spiritual exercise

If the only prayer you said was “thank you,” that would be enough.
Meister Eckhart

This isn’t the first year I’ve done this…

During the month of November, I’m trying to log a daily status update on Facebook (usually with a picture) of something or someone that I’m thankful for. I don’t have a list of things or people (though of course family and the like will come to mind.) I go throughout my day, thinking and trying to observe and note the Spirit’s prompting.

For some people, apparently, this is annoying. It’s not my intention, but there you are. There’s a lot of stuff that’s not my cuppa and it shows up on my news feed.  My kids aren’t athletes or cheerleaders, and we have cats instead of dogs, yadda yadda. That’s not the point of the exercise. Our lives may be very different, but I want to celebrate with you, worry with you, and laugh with you. It’s the beauty of connection! And of course on Facebook, one can always use that “hide from newsfeed” option… 😉

To others, it’s seen as bragging. (The pop term is “brag booking.”) I guess I get that. But if you know me AT ALL, then, well, you get that I’m pretty straight forward about who I am and how I live out my faith. And really, I don’t get this one either. For instance, on day One, I was thankful for fall colors… So I’m bragging about trees. Clearly.

So… Why do this?

My intent is to take the time our culture DOES NOT to be thankful. To notice the things in my life which are blessings. It’s an exercise in mindfulness. Just last month, I had journaled privately about how I was looking forward to this practice — when I saw my first Christmas commercial 10 days before Halloween! We seem to skip from Halloween to Christmas and forget that whole Thanksgiving thing… unless of course we’re talking about shopping on Thanksgiving evening.

The other main reason I am doing this exercise is because I am frequently a whining, complaining grump. There you are.

Yes, I’m a chaplain. Yes, I’m involved in ministry. And yes, I am a Christian. Far too often, I don’t express thankfulness; I don’t try to see the positive. My public practice of a personal discipline is to help me be a more positive person overall.

It may not be your cuppa, but it’s something I’ve found to be renewing and refreshing to my soul. It’s my plan to be thoughtful, prayerful and grateful. And to let God surprise me as I notice the things that fill my heart with thankfulness.

You’re welcome to join me in this discipline… or to hide my news feed on Facebook. 🙂

Psalm 95:1-2

Come, let us sing to the Lord!
Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come to God with thanksgiving.
Let us sing psalms of praise.

Video blogging

Some slight technical difficulties (my ignorance on converting files!) but I think we are ready to roll. The video blog is actually two videos in one.

The first part uses Jennifer Knapp’s song “Peace” to express how I find a deep sense of joy and peace when I spend time with God at the beach. And the second part takes a piece called “Lotus Blossom” and is an invitation for you — the next time you walk on a beach or some solitary place where God’s Creation out-shouts the noise of the civilized world… sign up for a “Meet-up” with God.

The photography was taken during the last week… the beauty and the artwork is all God’s.

Enjoy… The direct link is here…

From Where I Sit… Seeing God

As kind of an end-of-vacation post, here’s some pictures that I’ve found via my camera viewfinder. They help to express visually the restoring work of God when I’m truly on vacation — and not just traveling! The places I’ve stopped to rest and reflect vary from the porch swing overlooking the salt marsh, to a screened in porch on the seaside, to a short rest on the sand as the waves lap at my toes. The moments are a flick of my camera shutter… and like the day-to-day events we walk through, they can be missed unless you truly look for them.

Perhaps, for me, that has been the lesson for this week. To stop and see glimpses of God, wherever I go. They are always there. I just have to open my eyes.

from Psalm 36

Common English Bible

…your loyal love, Lord, extends to the skies;

your faithfulness reaches the clouds.

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Your righteousness is like the strongest mountains;

 your justice is like the deepest sea.

        Lord, you save both humans and animals.

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Your faithful love is priceless, God!

    Humanity finds refuge in the shadow of your wings.

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They feast on the bounty of your house;

you let them drink from your river of pure joy.

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Within you is the spring of life.

   In your light, we see light.

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Overcome

The last lingering light at sunset

The last lingering light at sunset

I have been overcome by the beauty and richness of our life together, those early mornings setting out, those evenings gleaming with rivers and lakes below us, still holding the last light.

Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift from the Sea

— o0o —

I am always amazed at how quickly a week at the beach can disappear. We settle into a rhythm of getting up late, enjoying a leisurely breakfast, and sitting with our coffee or a glass of iced tea on the porch, just drinking in the peace. We make as few trips into town and civilization as possible. We read, talk, laugh, and unwind.

On the porch

On the porch

Some people use the beach as a time to get a golden tan. We’re more in the fry-and-burn category. Others use vacation to get out and do as much as possible, cramming in theme parks, shopping and “must-see” sites. We work hard at — doing nothing.

We take our beach walk after the heat of the day, strolling to the point where the sea meets the end of the sandbar, around past the dunes with the plover nests, and back home again. The birds, the air, the sound of the waves… it is healing and comforting to stand and experience them without the raucous sound of traffic, music and people.

We tend to go to the beach at the end of the summer. Seasonal jobs are finished, and the back-to-school rush is just around the corner. More than anything, it has become a time to reclaim a piece or two of our souls, ones that got worn down or perhaps forgotten in our crazy work week.

FishingIt’s healing. It’s peace. It’s a chance to reflect and enjoy beauty and Creation.

Part of me wants to cling to this week, to make it last for 10 days or two weeks. But even when we can do that, it still ends too quickly. The peace and soul-quieting moments stick with me, in part because I seek to experience them fully, without trying to accomplish much of anything, without wishes or regrets.

Just to be.

I try to keep these days as precious. As a chaplain, I know that life comes with twists and turns and changes. A hurricane bulls-eye could wipe out this sanctuary. Another year we might not all make the time to travel together. Or it could be that in future summers, we will have “+1’s” increase our family circle. And that will be wonderful, too.

So instead of regrets, I allow the memories to swell, ebb and flow, and to store them up for colder nights and darker mornings. I’m grateful down to my toes for God’s goodness. I’m overcome by grace.

Thanks be to God.

a rainy day at the beach

a rainy day at the beach