Cross-Posting: Journeying

This prayer was first posted on the RevGalBlogPals site, a collaborative and supportive network of women clergy and their friends. On the “even” months of the year, I write a prayer for Fridays. Sometimes they are more liturgical in nature, sometimes they reflect the world and its hurts. But most of the time, they echo my own spiritual journey.

A week from tomorrow, the progressive Baptist church where I have been serving these last three and a half years is closing and selling the property to another congregation. For the last eighteen months, the church was not able to pay me. I stayed, as I was there on a minimal, part-time basis anyway, and had full-time employment as a hospice chaplain. Besides, they were my community, my church family, my friends. You don’t walk away from your friends who will be experiencing a death – in this case, the death of a church. (Ok – you CAN walk away, but not for any reason other than selfish ones.)

Now as we round the final turn towards the church closing, I am wrestling with all sorts of questions: Where will I go to church? Where will I find a place to serve? What is ahead for me in ministry? Do I stay in my work as a hospice chaplain, or pursue a full-time placement in a congregation? 

These are all unknowns. And I don’t really need the answers today. Where I will be this week is in the liminal space of the now and the not yet. If I am honest, it is every week of my life, But this week, with the pending change before me, it is more glaring, more challenging.

So I wrote this prayer for my friends at RevGals who may be in a similar space. But I wrote primarily for me as I walk this road with Christ.

SDG

Deb


Looking down a country road, bordered by trees.

Holy One,

The way ahead seems lonely at times, and I fear the unknown…

But You sing,
I AM with you, I am with you always. I will not leave you abandoned.

The silence is awkward at times, and I worry I am missing something…

But you whisper,
I AM calling, I am calling to you in this wilderness. I will make your paths straight.

I am impatient at times as I peer ahead to see what is just over the hill, just out of sight, wanting the future NOW…

And you say,
I AM, I am the same yesterday, today, and forever. 

And I know that I know that you ARE, you are with me.

Thank you. Blessed be.
Amen.

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!

Refocusing

 

It wasn’t in the plans for our senior pastor to come down with some form of the Maryland “plague.” Nor had I planned on preaching tomorrow. As I did some chores and cooked dinner this evening, I meditated on the verses for tomorrow’s service. I read her manuscript (which is wonderful) and now it’s time to refocus and make it God’s Words through me…

It is a wondrous thing to have just spent the last day with some wonderful clergywomen. We listened, talked and dreamed. More will come from our time together in the days and weeks to come. But for now, my focus turns to the sermon prep I need to do.

I am not worried nor anxious. There is a sense that God has brought me through many twists and turns to come and partner with this congregation and be a part of what the Spirit would do in our corner of Christendom.

As I sat with Scripture tonight, I stopped to re-center, breathe and remember…

… deep breaths

… long talks

… friends on this journey

… Christ at the center

… the Eucharist shared with loving hearts and hands

 

What God can do next will exceed my expectations.

Holy Spirit, come.

TBTG

NaBloPoMo: Spiritual Practice

NaBloPoMo Day 17: Let’s join up with Laura Stephens-Reed: 
Write about a spiritual practice that keeps you connected to God and to others.

I have created lists of people that I care about and pray for, which I have updated over the years. I have them divided by rough categories into days of the week:

  • Monday: My husband and daughters and their significant friendships
  • Tuesday: My extended family (mom, sibs, niece and nephews)
  • Wednesday: My church and its leaders
  • Thursday: My ministry responsibilities (currently, I’m a hospice chaplain, so that’s a big list)
  • Friday: Small group or affinity group (currently it’s a group of 6 women pastors that meet together monthly)
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Here’s four of the Friday crowd! 🙂

What about Saturday and Sunday? Those are days that I just let people, situations and things come to mind and I pray.

Lest you think I am spending massive hours in a holy prayer closet, I am not… It’s a moment to stop, remember and pray. What do I know concerns them? What worries or celebrations do they have? I send a bunch of love and light their way.

Simple things for simple minds…

 

Friday Five: Push or Pull?

The traffic crawled for over a mile this afternoon and this was most of what I could see:

DO NOT PUSH (if you know what's good for you.)
DO NOT PUSH (if you know what’s good for you.)

It was the inspiration for this week’s Friday Five (which I’m hosting this week over at RevGals). Play along if you’d like!

I am fortunate to have some great encouragers in my life. The ones who know me the best are great at knowing when to challenge me, and when to just chill and let me figure it out myself. SO… think about the encouragers and challenges in YOUR life and tell us…

  1. After achieving a goal, do you set the bar higher, or rest on your laurels? I am someone who pushes herself, always going for that next goal.
  2. Which is better: a kick in the pants or a hug and a cuppa? If I’m struggling, I need “a hug and a cuppa.” I am far too self-critical and have (probably) already kicked myself around the block.
  3. What’s your baseline motivation? Fear? Competition? Not getting caught? 😉 Being seen as lazy. I’ll push past my limits to try and do it better. One of the things I’ve had to learn along the way is to let “good enough” be OK sometimes.
  4. When you’re facing a big challenge, do you need to talk it out, or puzzle it out yourself? It’s kind of a combination. I want to talk about it, but not so that you give me the answers.
  5. Who is in your corner – always? Who helps you achieve more than you imagined you could? (You don’t have to give names) Family. Friends who have gone the distance. Some pretty amazing co-workers. And RevGals that I’ve never met IRL but always have a word of encouragement when I’m feeling defeated.

BONUS: A picture, piece of art or music that expresses your experience of the push/pull process.

I found this in my photo files. It speaks to me of this process of making headway and then falling back into old habits or struggles. I also like the image of being in the process with someone — human or Divine.

Abandoned swingset. Photo credit: Rev. Deb Vaughn
Abandoned swingset. Photo credit: Rev. Deb Vaughn

Refugees and “compassion fatigue”

Because of the nature of my work (hospice chaplain) I must constantly wrestle with “compassion fatigue.” It is far too easy to be disengaged after a day of walking with those who are in an end-of-life scenario. I screw it up all the time…

But here’s my honest reflection on the nature of Calling and serving, of Christ and the “least of these.” It’s published over at RevGalBlogPals. I hope you’ll go read it.

Illustration by Dez Pain form RBGStock.com Used by permission
Illustration by Dez Pain form RBGStock.com Used by permission

Religion that pleases God… must be pure and spotless. You must help needy orphans and widows and not let this world make you evil. (James 1:27 CEV)