4 boxes of books
3 bags of recycling
2 bags of shredding
1 (almost) clean office
(Sorry. No partridge or pear tree! But I do have a very friendly cat.)
In their early school years, we would have a “clean out my desk” day with the kids. It seemed like a good time to get back in that habit myself, even though there’s no one living here going back-to-school tomorrow. (We do have teachers in our family, but they are all out-of-state.)
I was also inspired to do some cleaning of my home office because it will have to absorb everything from my office space at church. I really needed to think about books, equipment, supplies and storage reorganization. Some items I had absolutely no problem putting into the discard pile. Some items I couldn’t wait to shred. And some gave me pause as I thought about an event, feeling, or person that they brought to mind.
I was pretty ruthless. Seminary papers? Recycle! Textbooks and manuals that are out-of-date? Recycle! Old OPM paperwork? Shred! Journal articles, old bulletins, church-specific materials? Recycle! Scholastic book about cats? Donate! Folders of schoolwork from our daughters? HA! Give them the stuff and let THEM sort it.
I was making great progress until I came across some painful memories from a previous employer. Years ago, I had written on it “demon folder” as a warning that the contents might be toxic and even traumatic. For some reason, I wasn’t able or ready to let go of those papers. But it seemed right to do it today.
Stopping to regroup, I sat for a while and processed the very real feelings of hurt, of disappointment and disillusionment. It still sucks. And in one of those very opportune moments of the Divine, a song popped up on my playlist:
Because there had been enough distance, it wasn’t as difficult as I feared. Some therapeutic shredding helped, as did a handy box of tissues. I realized how much I’ve grown past that period in my life. God is gracious.
I’m not quite done with my office clean-up, but I’ve made progress. There’s a flat surface to use my laptop, and even a space to spread out papers. The charging station for my hand-held devices is where I can reach it! (Shocker.) I found a quote or two that I’ve tucked under my desk blotter for encouragement.
I guarantee you a week from now, it won’t look this nice! But I won’t miss those shredded papers and forgiven memories.
For the first time in 21 years, neither one of our daughters are going back-to-school. Both are college graduates. Both are making inroads on the job market. Both are strong, lively, caring young women. But there’s no “Back-to-School” this year. It’s now “Back-to-Something-Else”!
From their public school days, I don’t miss the homework assignments that the student does not understand. I don’t miss the “creative” book report assignments. I sure as hell don’t miss the group projects. (And I suspect my daughters would agree!)
There’s plenty of appointments on my calendar. But there’s no dorm room to fill. No sweaty elevators or staircases. No jaunt to buy desk supplies or refills for the printer. No awkward good-byes (and tears by Mom in the car on the way home).
I gotta tell ya, it feels a little weird.
Ok, a lot weird. But in a good kind of way.
Now our years now fall into the natural seasons of Creation. The year doesn’t reboot in September every year. Instead, each new day is a new start.
I’ve put a new practice back in my life called The Daily Examen. You can use the website or an app (scroll to the bottom for the links). You can write out your own questions for daily reflection. It doesn’t matter how as long as you do it.
When the house is quiet in the evening, I pause and do a mental reset. I wait. Sometimes I worry. I pray. Sometimes, I rage. But always, I feel re-engaged and ready for sleep.
So whatever your fall season brings, I invite you to embrace it. With questions. With honest reflection. With integrity. And then with action.
Today I took a quick trip into downtown DC, to the plaza in front of the US Supreme Court building. Before I started my rounds with my hospice patients, I put on my collar and this stole. The stole was made by refugee artists from Amani Ya Juu. It was the first stole given to me when I was ordained, and has a special place in my heart.
(Make sure you visit their website — see the beautiful things they have created, and read their stories!)
The artisans of Amani Ya Juu use their love of African textiles, their commitment to their community thriving, and their skills in creating beautiful items. My stole is just one of the items they make. But the beauty of their craft is just part of what I have learned from these women.It is their example of faithfulness in the face of horrible injustice. It is how they move past those experiences and find “the peace that surpasses all understanding.” They have learned to survive life’s twists and turns, and to make sure their community thrives with them.
It is this selflessness, this desire deep within them to serve others that inspires me in my ministry. I do it so imperfectly… but their example challenges me.
So I stood on the sidewalk in front of the Supreme Court this morning, with flurries and a stiff, cold breeze. There, I gathered with many other faith leaders to speak out…
…for those who are unjustly detained
…for those who are denied due process in our courts
…for the attack on our civil liberties — ALL of our civil liberties — by those who refuse to obey court injunctions, who defy our Constitution, and who act for selfish gain.
…for eviscerating the progress made under Loretta Lynch in defending the rights of all persons of color. #BlackLivesMatter
I am compelled to respond because I believe the God I serve demands it. I am compelled to respond because I believe in the worth and value of my fellow humans. And I am compelled to respond because we have done enough waiting. We have given enough “chances.” The actions over the last ten days are sufficient.
Jesus said in Matthew 7:
“Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they?So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit.A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit.Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.So then, you will know them by their fruits.”
I am angry. Angry that the powerful do not use their power for the common good. Angry that elected officials are not governing in a way that benefits ALL of us — our country, our world, our future.
I am motivated. I have called, written and tweeted my elected officials. I have encouraged them to stand firm and defend our Constitution. I have pleaded with them to uphold “liberty and justice FOR ALL.”
On Sunday, I led this prayer… and I stand by every word, knowing that God will be with us as we stand up to injustice and bigotry.
LET US PRAY.
Lord God, we gather in your Presence, aware of your care for us and for the world. We ask for your Spirit to guide our words and our worship this morning.
Gracious God, the hungry are all around us. May we faithfully share of our pantries and cupboards, our money and our time, that they will be bountifully fed. Lord, in your mercy… Hear our prayers.
Lord of all, we pray for our elected officials, that they will serve the people and defend and protect our Constitution. We hear the words of the spiritually empty, the proud, and those who abuse their power. We pray you will burden their hearts with your Truth and convict them by your Holy Spirit. Lord, in your mercy… Hear our prayers.
God of all nations, we pray for those in legal limbo, whose immigration status is wrongfully blocked, who are doctors and teachers, researchers and laborers, parents and children. May your justice prevail and may your angels take charge of them and liberate them. Lord, in your mercy… Hear our prayers.
Healer of the broken-hearted, we your children humbly repent for the ways we have not cared for the aliens and the strangers in our midst. Forgive us for our short-sightedness and selfishness. Give us courage to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly. May our actions make a difference as we join with others who follow Christ. Lord, in your mercy… Hear our prayers.
We pray all this in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
I do not understand the whys and breakdown of common decency that led to our country’s situation today. I lean on hope in a God who is more powerful than the power-obsessed. I am resting in that Peace from Above.
Pray with me, friends…
We must stick together and believe in God’s love for us and for all humanity.
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!
How did we arrive in this unholy mess? The latest kerfuffle with the presidential election makes me want to throw things. Or vomit. Or maybe throw vomit. How did things get so thoroughly mucked up? Is this really the result of an uninvested, uneducated electorate, who were distracted by the rhetoric of obstructionist Legislatures, both national and local? (…as some pundits would suggest)
What shall I tell my daughters? They are voting in their first presidential election. The big issues like our national debt and student loans matter to them. (Hello. To me, too!) So does affordable healthcare. Getting a job. A clean environment. Global warming. A safer world. Marrying the person they love.
How shall I explain what their parents’ generation has done…and not done? They know as well as I do that it is a complex world we live in, far more complex than when I snoozed my way through “Principles of Democracy” (aka “civics”) in high school. It’s more than sound bites. It’s more than tabloid-driven news (God, help us!) It’s more than he-said-she-said.
This much I do know… I believe these young women, these wonderful daughters of ours are, inherently and personally, people of value and promise. They and their friends have much to give to our nation and our world. They have drive and dreams. They are articulate and compassionate.
They are watching and waiting with me, Lord.
I know You guide the hearts and actions of the nations.
I know You are able to steer even the most stubborn autocrat.
I know that whoever is elected will be flawed human being… just like me.
May Your peace reign.
May we hear Your direction.
May we know Your heart.
May we have Your mind.
And may those of us who are tasked with spiritual leadership
guard our tongues and increase our prayers…