The Rock Piles of Ministry: Who Knew?



Behold. A rock pile.

Not just any rock pile. Oh, no! It’s taken years to get this pile of rocks.

There was a decent start to the pile when we moved in 22 years ago. As I dug new garden beds, I’d find rocks and add them. When we added a retaining wall, the landscape crew added to the rock pile. When we did a major remodeling of our home, the builder found even more. And when I installed a simple spiral labyrinth in the back yard, there were incredible amounts of rocks to toss on there, too.

Everyone was glad to have a place to discard the rocks. It was a lot easier than taking them to the landfill. Each contractor looked at me askance (at first) when I said, “if you find large rocks, I want them.” But since it was cheaper to reuse rather than remove them, there were no arguments!

I learned a lot along the way because of these rocks. Patience. Perseverance. Techniques of rock removal (yep! there are some!) Reality checks. And seeing progress and naming it for the hard work it takes.



Some of these rocks made my new landscaping projects very frustrating. At the start of building the labyrinth, I bent every single hand tool I owned because they were not up to the task of chiseling large rocks out of clay!

So now… those rocks are no longer discards!

It was with a bit of irony that I had to haul loads of these rocks back down the hill to grace the edges of a water feature we just installed this spring. Three wheelbarrows of rocks. (Yes. I counted.) And as I heaved and hauled and placed them, I had to laugh. Here they are. Being put to good use. Finally in their right place.


It made me ponder a perverse truth about Calling and ministry…

For any of us who battle ourselves, our environments, our churches, our relationships to be finally FINALLY brought to just that right moment of ministry… it’s seems like it will never work. We interview. We candidate. We preach. We study. We try to do our best, battling the odds like rocks in hard clay. We set things aside for another day, making a muddy hillside into a landscaping feature of a retaining wall of cast-off rocks. We try to see the beauty in what we do. We keep adding to the pile. And then… and then!!!!

Those rock piles of ministry are put to use. Those mossy, ignored, strengths that we have set aside in obedience, or sometimes, out of necessity and not by choice, they suddenly become relevant. And they are beautiful, in their right setting, at the right time.

I hear you, friends. I know your sense of relief. And a bit of wonder, too, that though we felt like we were forever gathering moss, perhaps even feeling useless, we will one day see a change!  For now… NOW is the appointed place and time God has for us. There’s stuff to do – even on a rock pile. And greater things are ahead.

And if you are still waiting, like me, marking time on the rock pile with a prayer of fatigue and longing, know this…

You are not a cast-off.

You are not a mistake.

You are not in the way.

You are called… press on!

…for such a time as this…


The Day After Christmas

The struggle is real.

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…

Merry Christmas!

Happy Hanukkah!

Joyous Kwanzaa!

And peace be yours…

2015 blogging in review

It’s been a growing year. I had 98 new posts and over 5800 views. While I am grateful for each visit and comment, it was about 1/3 less than in 2014. That kinda surprised me, so I pondered why…

Rules at work about social media

I have always been very careful about what I post and how I talk about my work as a chaplain. Now I have to be extra cautious because my company is anxious about privacy laws. Violation of HIPAA laws is no joke. I would be fired and my company fined. That’s a helluva way to end a ministerial career!

So, I frequently can’t publish the things God is teaching me through m work. In fact, there are about 20 posts still in draft mode because I can’t figure out how to “anonymize” them.

Changes in my home congregation

Our senior pastor is moving into discernment with a new denomination. Our congregation is in a vulnerable place of change and growth. There’s a lot of discussion and (at times) disagreement. At this point, God is leading me and my family to another church (not sure exactly where yet, but I have a good idea).

Things are a little rough around the edges. I don’t want to blog my personal reflection on something and hurt someone. This accounts for 9 posts still in “draft” mode.

Energy and motivation

This human being has had many a night where I would rather veg on the couch and watch NCIS re-runs than write a blog post!! I’m pondering ways to be intentional about blogging (without making it busy work for myself!)  I make no “resolutions” about this — but I will be thinking through what I might do to increase my blogging frequency. It’s a clear fact that if you don’t publish new content, you don’t get visitors to your blog!

A big, huge, heartfelt THANK YOU for reading and following my blog! I write because I hope to share with the world the Light and Joy that God brings into my life.


And as a bonus… an updated, candid pic of yours truly, gearing up for the Ohio State vs Notre Dame contest in the Fiesta Bowl….

Happy New Year!

May 2016 be a year of encouragement and growth

for you and those you love!



The Movement of the Spirit

I was running to my car in the rain, doing my best to not get completely drenched. The promised wind and rain arrived and that meant traffic would be worse than usual.

Lovely. My shirt and hair were drenched, my glasses smudged, and my shoes squished. I hate seeing patients when I’m little more than a frumpy, wet noodle! Grumbling, I took a deep breath and tried to re-focus. The last visit was very taxing on me emotionally and spiritually. I leaned back against the headrest. And there it was…

One maple leaf, just turning golden, plastered on my windshield. The raindrops around it glistened, and the sun peeked through the clouds, illuminating from behind like a stained glass window.

My car became a cathedral, and my heart was encouraged. God’s Spirit blew in through that mystical moment and lifted me up. “I can do this work… God help me, I can do this!”

Words from Henri Nouwen’s book Life of the Beloved came to mind:

The movement of  God’s Spirit is very gentle, very soft… but that movement is also very persistent, strong, and deep. It changes hearts radically.

I had multiple reminders that day to stop, rest and see God’s Spirit at work. This was the first of many. There are times my work is exhausting spiritually and emotionally, but God’s Spirit is always there to guide, change, and move.

Blessed be…


The work of the Spirit photo credit: Rev. Deb Vaughn

Open your mouth and taste, open your eyes and see — how good God is. Blessed are you who run to the Lord. Psalm 34:8 (The Message)

Friday Five: “Kicking Back” edition

It’s the week after Easter. For my friends in parish ministry, it’s when there’s a collective sigh of relief. Since I’ve been on an unplanned vacation (I wasn’t scheduled for on-call hours, even though I requested them), there is a sense of a needed breather. So I’m playing along with RevGal Pat’s Friday Five this week:

1. What, if anything, are you doing to take your Easter season sabbath? Family? Vacation? Study Leave? Some combination of all three?

I did not get any scheduled on-call hours this week, even though I requested them. (I’m not sure why. It’s the director’s prerogrative.) So I have taken this week to enjoy time with Reedy Girl before her Spring break ended. I also went with the rest of the family to hear The Johnnie defend her senior thesis on Dante’s Paradiso. She. Was. Amazing.

2. What is your favorite Easter season sabbath of all time? One of those lazy weeks at the beach where all we did was sleep and read and eat. Yeah. I could do with some of that any time!!!

3. If you’re not taking an Easter season sabbath, what is drawing your attention as the Revised Common Lectionary bids us bide awhile with Thomas and gang? Is there a Holy Hilarity service in your future?

I’m not in a regular preaching gig, but I have been meditating on the Thomas passage and on faith and doubts and fears. More to come on that this weekend. 🙂

Deep... Breath...

Deep… Breath…

4. What would be your ideal Easter season sabbath? If you could go anywhere, do anything, with anybody?

It would NOT be on a cruise. I know many of my RevGal friends love cruises, but I am not a ship-loving gal. And recent events with cruise ship accidents and so on have not convinced me to try it. No, I’d be back on the beach, enjoying the breezes and a glass of iced tea.

5. Tell the truth now: Any Easter candy left? 

As a matter of fact, yes! There’s a “communal bucket” of candy and we have all exercised self-restraint!


Pat didn’t specify a bonus, but here’s one from me: Signs of spring from my backyard…