Sunday, August 13, 2017

We're Not Done Yet

Luke 4:16-30 & Pride (In the name of love) U2

I hear so often from folks how well the communion meditation or offering meditation and my sermons sort of flow together each week, as if we plan to speak on the same things. I really believe that when that happens it is evidence that the Holy Spirit is at work in all of us.

I find that to be also true when I pick out texts and plan sermons weeks in advance, and when it comes time to share these with you events happen that go right along with what the sermon is already about.

Today is such a day.

We’ve been working on this series all summer—music and faith—and the intersections of both and how we find God everywhere, not just places designated as ‘Christian or spiritual.’

Today’s song U2’s Pride (In the Name of Love) is a response to hate and bigotry. It is a tribute to Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr and his dedication to justice and equality.

If you had asked me a few years ago about where I thought our country was in regards to racial justice I would have spoken about how I thought we had come a long way, that most people supported equality, and that hate and prejudice no longer has a foothold in mainstream society.

And I would have believed every single word. And would have meant it the best way I could.

This weekend we have seen the largest open rally of white supremacy that we have seen in decades. 

Its ugliness is on display for all to see.

Now what on earth does any of this got to do with coming to worship on a Sunday morning.

We should keep politics out of the pulpit because that’s not what we’re here for.

Except we are. It’s exactly what we’re here for. Politics is a reflection of our culture.

Jesus was radically political when it came to injustice and disregard for other people. He called hate for what it was, and proclaimed that he was there to fight for the oppressed, the broken, those caste out onto the margins.

His sermons, his stories, his miracles, and even his meals were all about righting wrongs and shoving up against what was wrong in the world.  

In his world, just as in ours, there was hatred based on religion, culture, ethnicity, and race.

It was wrong then and it is wrong now.

And both he and his message were rejected.

When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” He said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Doctor, cure yourself!’ And you will say, ‘Do here also in your hometown the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.’” And he said, “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown. But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.” When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.

When Jesus stood to read from the scroll of Isaiah no one listening objected. When he sat to preach, they waited to hear what he had to say.

When he stated outright that he was the one that Isaiah spoke of, they did not object. They got ready to listen. They were amazed, proud even that one of their own was going to speak the word of the lord.

And when they heard what he had to say about the text they got angry and that’s when they wanted to throw him off the cliff.

The issue is not about Jesus coming to fight for justice.

The issue is that Jesus came to fight for justice for those that were not perceived to be worthy of his justice. Those that were what one scholar suggested were on the ‘outside of Israel rather than on the inside.’

Lepers—not on the inside—they were excluded from the community because obviously God’s wrath was upon them as punishment for their sins.

Widows were pushed to the side—they have no value because they have no husband, and without a husband or adult son they have no safety, no means, and are deemed a burden.

Not only does Jesus mention the lepers and widows, but he speaks of a widow in particular that was on the outside-the widow at Zarephath in Sidon. This was about Elijah coming to town, looking for bread. Who asks for bread from a hungry person? And, who asks for shelter from a widow of the same tribe as the woman who was trying to kill him—Jezebel, wife of Ahab.

Jesus was illustrating that those on the margins, those on the outside, those who are unexpected always have a place and by proclaiming that he will demand justice for them—well—those are fighting words and offensive to those in his hometown because they felt that God’s justice was for them alone.

Essentially what these folks are saying to Jesus is ‘God is for my needs, God does not care for anyone I don’t want God to care about. Anyone I don’t like, anyone I am afraid of, anyone that does not look or act like me. Anyone outside of my culture and experiences—God does not care for them. God only cares for me and my kind.’

That doesn’t sound like the Jesus I know.

The Jesus I know is always on the side of the other.

We have not been the other often enough to know what it feels like to be rejected based on the color of our skin, where in the world we were born, the language we speak, the gender we’re attracted too, the religion we hold dear.

If they are on the outside, and we know Jesus is with them, we have to ask ourselves where we’re standing.

We don’t have to completely understand the experiences of others to affirm their dignity as human beings created in the image of God and be able to stand with them.

We don’t have to completely understand their experiences in order to show compassion and that we know that God is with them.

Justice seeking is not a tame quiet process of compromise.

Justice seeking is radicalism, courage, and speaking out.

And justice seeking is supporting those who do with prayer and love.

Justice does not comprise.

We say that Jesus came for peace. Indeed, Jesus did come for peace.

But peace is not simply an absence of conflict, an acceptance of wrongdoing, just so we can go along to get along.

The peace that we talk of in the church, the peace of Christ is about God’s peace—which is affirming and upholding the worth and dignity of all God’s people. Until such a time as that—justice is radical, loud, stubborn, persistent work that sacrifices itself for others.

Peace does not mean looking the other way when there is injustice. It means confronting the injustice in a Christ like manner. We remember Christ as a peacemaker, and sometimes that leads us to believe he was mellow, live and let live kind of fellow. But he wasn’t. He was a revolutionary who carried a whip into a temple and called out those in charge and said they were vipers. He came for the express purpose of changing the way things were done so that God’s vision could be let out into the world.

Working for justice is hard. We risk alienation by our community, often those who speak out are labeled as troublemakers, rabble-rousers, as those who just want to stir things up. We can be rejected by those we care deeply about for the sake of those of whom we know little.

We look at the example in our song today of Martin Luther King Jr. At this point an iconic figure in our cultural memory. And while he was committed to non-violent protest, he was nonetheless committed to protest the wrongs of his time.

Wrongs that continue today.

This rally by the KKK this weekend proves that there is still much to be done, and that the message that Jesus preached and died for—that there is no inside or outside of God’s acceptance---is still desperately needed today.

But there are more of us than them…more of us who believe in the value of all. More of us who believe it when we hear the words that God is love.

More of us who lay claim to God’s vision of the world as a place of acceptance, peace, and dignity for all.

Let us continue together the work Christ began.


Sunday, July 3, 2016

For Such A Time As This...

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

The following is a message based on Esther 4: 10-17 I gave in my church this morning. I have asked my congregation to have words of courage, I can do no less...

Pastor Martin Niemöller was a protestant pastor in Germany during the second world war, and the time of reconciliation afterward. A time we recognize as full of great horror and upheaval. You may already be well familiar with a poem based on a speech of his, this particular version comes off the US Holocaust memorial:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

It seems that these words could have easily been written for Mordecai to share with Esther.
Both of those times were times of great risk and upheaval. Jews did not have a place that belonged solely to them. They lived without security. They lived without true belonging and safety just for being who they were.

It’s something which we all long for and need. It’s something upon which we build the foundations of our society so that our children grow up and inherit something better, safer, some place in which they can belong.

That sense of belonging—it beckons us all. We all have a deep desire for safety. These are universal needs.

Esther had every reason to be afraid. Disobeying the King would put her very life in danger. Esther was only Queen because the Queen before her was booted out for making King Xerces unhappy.

But Mordecai’s words echo down through the generations, “Do not think that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. For if you keep silence at such a time as this, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another quarter, but you and your father’s family will perish. Who knows? Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this.’

Such a time as this…

We live in a time where hate is pedaled to us like the sales pitch of an old time tonic salesman promising to cure everything that ails us.

But the idea of God not loving people is something which we can let go of.

The last time I was preaching I was unaware that morning a shooting had occurred at Pulse nightclub in Florida and so did not mention it in worship, through pastoral prayer, nor did I find a way to address it in the message.

There’s some controversy surrounding this nightclub because it was a gay club.

While most of our culture has condemned that shooting as an atrocity, a hate crime, a heinous act. Others have said, well, it’s very sad, and it’s wrong to shoot people. But, they were, you know, gay. I wouldn’t do that, and I’m sure God doesn’t think it’s okay, but they were in a nightclub doing, well, who knows what….

As if any of that has any correlation to the horror of what happened.

While I was on vacation I heard an interesting thing at my Dad’s church that hadn’t occurred to me before. His pastor spoke about how this club was a place of safety for the gay community. That there are so few places in our society where Lesbian, Gay, Transgender or Bisexual folks don’t have to obsessively watch themselves and how others respond to them.

Now, I have never thought of a club, dancing, and drinking as a place of safety. A place of complete belonging and acceptance.

But, then, I’ve never needed to do so. I’ve been welcome wherever I’ve been, and my relationship with the one I love the most in this world has always been accepted. I’ve never had to look out for us and I’ve most definitely never had to hide our love.  

And as Pastor Brenda shared this I sat there and wondered was the church as much, or more, of a place of safety as gay clubs can be seen to be?

And, sadly, for many, the church is not. If one is gay, then one can find oneself in a group of people who profess love and grace and acceptance for all, but in practice share words of hate, coldness, and be a place where one is most definitely not welcome.

But there are exceptions. Places where the love of God and God’s hospitality are a priority and are shared with all who enter. Churches that have made it their mission to go out of their way to show that they care and love all people, and do not see one’s sexuality as a hindrance to God’s acceptance.

The Disciples of Christ Church affirms that all are loved and accepted by God and encourages its churches to go through a process of discussion about how to be more accepting, show God’s hospitality, and share with the surrounding community that it believes all are welcomed by God.
But, many churches-both denominations and congregations- continue to struggle with ideas of what is acceptable to God and what isn’t.

How is that our decision?

How can we judge what God deems lovable?

If God can deem anyone unlovable, then friends, we have to realize that God can deem us unlovable too.

Esther’s answer was through her faith-fasting and prayer that gave her the courage to speak out for her people.

We, too, can have the courage to pray and speak out for our people.

Yes, our people.

LGBT folks are our people—no longer should they be shunned by the church or church folk.
Instead let us be a voice that shows God’s acceptance. A voice that speaks out against hate. Unless good folks stand up and say, no more, then this cycle of violence will continue.

Let’s not let this issue get clouded that in this one instance the shooter happened to be Muslim. He did not act in a way that is consistent with the Muslim faith as most Muslims understand it. 

Violence happens all the time to the LGBT community. And some of it is perpetrated by folks who profess to be committed Christians.

It may no longer be enough to not say hateful things or not do hateful things to this group of people. It may be time for folks who love God like we do to be more vocal about God’s love and acceptance.

Like Mordecai’s words of wisdom to Esther, our answers also lay within the courage that is found through hope. And hope, my friends, is not a weak emotion used when our backs are to the wall and we have nothing left. We lead with hope. We lead with love.

And, instead of feeding the fear and hate that seems to be rampant in our country right now, we can instead courageously and steadfastly say words of love, compassion, and truth.

That Love is always greater than hate. Hope is always greater than fear. We are not a people of hate or of fear. We are always a people of love and of hope.


Friday, June 10, 2016

Not An Accident

My fifteen-year-old son loves his independence (as fifteen-year-olds the world over do). This summer he is taking Driver’s Ed, and it’s fun to see him coolly excited about this milestone in his life. We only live about a mile away from his high school, so he walks each day back and forth to school. Just like he has almost every school day for the last year.

But today that almost changed forever.

I can hardly speak or write of it because I’m still so angry, but the anger is being replaced with the terrifying realization that I cannot protect my son from idiots.

My kid is that typical eldest male child mix of uber responsibility and, well, teenage boy goofiness. But, he takes his safety very seriously. He’s the oldest child of two oldest children. One, a prior cop, and the other a minister. Safety and responsibility is pretty much part of our DNA around here.

And today, because of someone else’s thoughtlessness and irresponsibility we easily could have had the worst day of our lives. Well, mine and my husband’s, and all who love us. Our son’s life, however, would be gone. As in he could’ve died today. In an instant.

All because some random moron was driving and texting.

My son was crossing the crosswalk. Actually, first he looked for cars and seeing none, he then crossed in the crosswalk. Safety first, after all. He takes care not to be hit by a car. “Look both ways before you cross the street” remembrances are flashing through my mind as I hold the hand of a very eager four-year-old boy. He learned his lesson well and as far as I know always, always, always does this.

But, today, that didn’t matter. No matter how careful he was it didn’t keep him from being bumped in the crosswalk by a man in a car. A death machine on wheels, basically. Because his phone was, clearly, more important than my son’s beautiful life.

I will say, my son is fine. A little shaken up, but, he was not hurt. My heart, though, it’s still not quite ‘fine.’

The man looked up just in time and screeched to a halt and instead of plowing into my son, bumped him, as thousands of pounds of metal stopped on a dime.

I am a minister. I have been with parents whose child has died. There is no worse thing in this entire world.

Nothing compares to the shattering of one’s existence. I have been witness to such events, helpless in the waves of grief, numbness, and rage that pour forth from parents whose bright hopes for the future are destroyed.

I have already had two children die through miscarriage. That grief is hard enough to carry with me, woven as it is in the fabric of my life.

But this. This would have been a monstrosity of grief.

We often use such words as ‘a tragic accident’ when something horrific like this happens. Except, when will we loudly, and with clear legal authority, claim that texting and driving is a choice? There is no accident of picking up one’s phone to text ‘lol’ or some other such inane remark. It’s a terrible, awful, selfish, soul crushing choice. On the same par as drinking and driving, which as a society we generally condemn. And, we have created ways to try and protect ourselves from people who behave with such thoughtless regard for others.

Drunk driving is a crime. Punishable by fines, revoking of driving privileges, and often some kind of jail time. But, texting and driving, well, that’s a different thing entirely. Using our phone, whether it’s texting or talking, is probably something we’ve all been guilty of at one time or another. It takes one bad decision to change multiple lives forever. We all (well those who were alive before the 90’s) are all old enough to remember having to wait until we were not driving to talk to someone, or laugh at their joke, or ask that question…it’s not a hardship to put the phone away while driving.

Just now the first of two of Noah’s friends has arrived. To celebrate the joy and freedom of summertime. They are having a hot dog & s’mores bonfire in our backyard, sleeping outside in our tent, staying up way too late, indulging in too much sugar, and making entirely too much noise.

Thanks be to God.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

No, I Am Not Your Sweetheart

Each week I meet with several other clergy for a bible study group. It’s usually a fun discussion about what we’re preaching on, what we’re not preaching on, and what we wished we could preach on the next Sunday.

There’s usually great banter about our differing perspectives and up until today I thought it was a group where we were all mutually respected as colleagues. I have learned that I am mistaken about being mutually respected.

This is the first time, in thirteen years of ministry, that I have experienced blatant condescension because of my gender.

We were discussing John 21:1-19. The one where Jesus tells Peter and others to fish from the other side of the boat. And then cooks breakfast for them. And asks Peter three times if Peter loves him. A text filled with grace that leads us to beautiful and purposeful questions of community.

But the conversation did get a little heated about what we could and could not read into the text and quickly the tone of the conversation shifted from friendly, but challenging banter, to something different entirely.

It began with these words: “Listen, Sweetheart…”


It was the verbal equivalent of “I’m going to pat you on the head little girl and you go sit in the corner while the rest of us real ministers get to talk.”

To be fair the other male clergy in the room were just as stunned as I was. And while I was the one who responded verbally, I could see from the expression on their faces that this was a comment that was not okay. I did not feel as if I needed one of them to respond for me, or ‘come to my defense.’ I felt that this was something I needed to address, myself, and immediately.

And so I responded. But I had to ‘interrupt him.’ Because he didn’t even seem to realize what he had just said.

“X, you call me sweetheart again and we’re going to have a real problem.” While looking him square in the eye and pointing my finger for greater emphasis.

“oh, well…I’m sorry.” As he waved his hand in the air. As if he were dismissing my very appropriate response to his very inappropriate comment.

There is one man on this planet who is allowed to call me sweetheart. And I can guarantee it is not this man.

Elders of my church laying hands on me
during my installation as their new pastor. 
Part of why I’m frustrated is that this is a group of ministers from liberal mainline denominations. So, I realize I made some assumptions about how women clergy were to be looked upon and treated. As in, treated with respect in conversation and looked upon as equals. This man’s own denomination has ordained women clergy for DECADES.

Clearly there is still work to be done. And lessons to be learned.

One of which is for me. And perhaps it’s past time.

When I went to church as a child or youth (which wasn’t often until my late teens) it was always a conservative church, although varied in denominations. Women were not pastors or spiritual leaders in the church. Unless, of course, it was children’s ministry. Because that’s a woman’s ‘sphere.’


It wasn’t until I was an adult that I actually knew of women who were ordained and in full-time ministry. As a young woman discovering a call to ministry it was like a door opening up and sunlight bursting forth.

It IS allowed! I CAN do it!

I am embarrassed to admit that I thought in my liberal corner of the church the work had been completed. Many courageous, intelligent, and passionate women have come before me in ministry. It is in their footsteps I follow and it is upon their shoulders I stand. I have never forgotten to be grateful for and to those women for having the courage to answer their call so that I could find it possible to answer mine. I have also been grateful for the male clergy who have supported their female counterparts and pushed the church toward a more equitable and just expression of ministry.

But I was doing them a disservice. Because I haven’t experienced direct condescension like this before this moment, I thought the fight was over.

I see now that some will always be comfortable harboring and feeding beliefs that a woman is not quite as good as a man in my profession. (And, of course, this unfortunately continues to be applicable in many professions.)

It was the unexpectedness of this comment that bothers me. I thought we were ‘us’ not ‘me’ and ‘other.’ It’s always hard to be the other. I thought we were in the same community. Turns out, that’s not mutually understood. (There’s a sermon in that, for all sorts of reasons…)

And, part of the dilemma for me in that moment is how to respond. Not, if I should respond, but how. Can I find it in me to respond with courage and dignity? Can it be a teaching moment for both myself and this 47-year veteran of ministry. One in which expands our community and understanding of ministry. One filled with grace? (Because, you know, the bible, Jesus, grace…)

Or should I respond with my first instinct of things, words that are as equally inappropriate?
It was a close call, let me tell you. I’m sure that’s God there, because it’s certainly not what I almost said.

I feel that I found some middle ground. I was firm, I let it be known that was an inappropriate comment. And then after a short pause, continued with my thoughts about the text. I did not allow that moment to control my ability to contribute thoughtfully to the surrounding conversation.

I will not be intimidated by nor internalize another’s thoughtless disrespect because of my gender. It is my strength. It is my identity. I am a woman. I am an ordained pastor. I am a wife and a mother. All of these, plus much more, contribute to who I am and how I see myself in the world. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

En pointe

Monday is no longer an average Monday in my house. It has been re-named “Dance Day.” It’s an important distinction on my four-year-old daughter’s social calendar. She has identified herself as a  
ballerina and says that ‘twirling’ is her favorite thing to do.  (Really, she’s adorable. I’m sure you agree.)

Anna watching the older girls en pointe class.
This past week the en pointe class was practicing in the classroom next to hers and from where I was sitting I could see their practice quite clearly. I began to wonder if each of them understands how strong she is and that because of her strength she is beautiful.

In all of their pre-teen/early-teen awkwardness they are strong. They are beautiful. They are amazing. They are empowered to be and do whatever they can dream of being or doing. Not just because they can dance on their toes, which in itself is pretty impressive, but because they simply are who they are.

Our culture places a high emphasis on beauty, but not beauty as strength, as empowerment, as a joyful expression of beings created by God.  

Instead, beauty is often defined as a sexual object to another and further defined by others standards ABOUT us.

There’s nothing wrong about identifying with one’s sexuality and understanding that is a core component of who we are as human beings. But one’s sexuality and being a sexual object are light years apart in understanding.

I wonder, I HOPE, these girls see their beauty as so much more than that.

They are strong, they can do amazing things with their bodies because of their perseverance and discipline. I hope they see their strength as something that gives them the confidence that they are indeed beautiful because of who they are, not because of what someone else puts upon them.
We are inundated with images of beauty ALL THE TIME.

Women can post nude pictures of themselves to their Instagram account and call it empowerment all they want, but I believe real empowerment is when we achieve something with our mind or our bodies that we didn’t know we could. It’s when we reach beyond what we’ve been told we are able to accomplish as girls or women and claim that strength for ourselves.

It’s not just these girls who are beautiful.
My beautifully strong sister-in-law,
Aunie. An inspiration to
girls everywhere

I want my daughter, and all the other mother’s daughters, to see themselves as beautiful. Because they are. Because there are no limits to beauty.

In a culture that sacrifices girls every single day to the gods of skinniness and male fantasy, I want them to understand and know how much MORE they are.

In a culture that tells girls that they must conform to any specific body standard to be beautiful, I want them to know their own strength.

In a culture that teaches women to look in the mirror and see flaws that must be fixed by any product in order to be beautiful, I want all women and girls to instead accept THAT THEY ARE NOT flawed.

They are lovely as they are.

I posed a question of strength and beauty to several women friends on Facebook, and their answers were as lovely as they were diverse. Several spoke of beauty in terms of strength of character and strength of faith. Others spoke of being able to claim their abilities and talents and being true to oneself as authentic beauty. 

But one in particular struck a chord with me as I was pondering my influence on my daughter’s perception of her beauty. “I'd like to hope that when it comes down to it, I don't have to tell my daughter anything about this. That she sees strength and beauty demonstrated by me as I saw it demonstrated by my mother.”

I realize that for my daughter to see herself as beautiful I must claim my own beauty for myself. It does no good for me to bemoan the culture I live in, or preach the intrinsic beauty of each girl and woman, if I cannot truly say the same for myself and embrace who I am.

It’s not narcissism. It’s truth. God made me. I have value. I have strength. I am beautiful. And so are you.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Why I took My Three Kids to a Trump Protest Rally...

Given all that has been happening at Trump rallies these past few months it may seem irresponsible or even downright dangerous to take my kids into the midst of hundreds of people in downtown Kansas City and have them hold signs affirming the humanity and dignity of those that Trump and his campaign have vowed to suppress.

Folks have gotten violent, loud, angry and sometimes even scary. Folks both for and against Trump. But here’s the thing, I cannot allow my kids to be witness to my silence any longer.

I am not what I would describe as a ‘political person.’ Sure, I’ve voted before, even proudly wore my red, white, and blue sticker ALL day, but that’s it. I have never protested publicly anything before. Never carried handmade, brightly colored poster-board signs proclaiming my opinion on anything. And even though I’ve protested plenty at home, or with close friends, I’ve never had the courage to proclaim my convictions to strangers.

Part of that has to do with my ideas of what my responsibilities as a pastor are. First, I’m a pastor to all people, regardless of their political affiliation. It’s important to me that I stay politically neutral as a pastor. I would hate for any political opinion to come between me and any person in need of pastoral care.

Second, as a pastor I feel that I have to be mighty careful in what I say in the pulpit (or as a representative of my church) that could be taken as promoting one party over another. My church’s reputation in the community ought not be abused by my desire to exercise my civic rights.

But, BUT, promoting hateful, racist, riot inciting speech is not a political right. And as a pastor, a mother, and a proud American citizen I feel obligated to speak out and say that this is not okay with me. It is not the community I want my children inheriting. I do not want to have to apologize to them at any time in the future because I failed to stand with those more vulnerable than I.

So Saturday night, I and several of my clergy friends got together and made some simple signs. It was like a re-uniting of Order of the Phoenix, Kansas City style. “Love Thy Muslim Neighbor,” “Love Thy Black Neighbor,” “Love Thy Immigrant Neighbor,” “Love Thy LGBTQ Neighbor.” And, two smaller signs, “LOVE” surrounded by hearts and smiley faces and “Be Nice. Use Kind Words. Be Gentle.”

Those last three from my kids, 15, 7 & 4. I couldn’t be more proud as they stood for hours in the drizzly rain, smiling and waving at those who shouted curses and flipped the bird-the younger two not understanding what exactly these folks mean, but showing love anyway because “We’re supposed to be nice like Jesus.” The older one showing love, because he was PROUD to stand in for his friends who are Gay and Bi-sexual. Who says, ‘They’re my friends, Mom. I have to do this for them.” Thank You, Sweet Jesus, for giving us that lesson. It’s a hard one sometimes.

(Good God, have my husband and I actually raised these kids? These amazing, beautiful, wonderful kids who think it’s like Jesus to stand in for those who are more vulnerable than they...and who are totally all in and willing to say it to anyone, anywhere?)

We did this protest because we are to, actually, love our neighbors.

And, for quite a while we got lots of love in return too. My daughter won the protest I think, she smiled for more pictures than if we added up all the pictures of her entire four years altogether. It’s hard to be an angry racist when a four-year-old with ponytails is smiling up at you with a brightly crayoned sign that says, “Be Nice. Say Kind Things. Be Gentle.” Eventually, though, the mood changed just enough in the crowd for me to mama bear up and take my kids home. And, to be fair, it was from both sides of the crowd. Language matters, is a powerful tool, and is able to incite hate and anger just as easily as it is to show compassion. After we left some folks tried to break through the barriers in front of the theater and received some pepper spray in response. I hear their frustration and anger at hateful rhetoric, but am glad our peaceful protest did not end so violently.

But, on this night, my kids got to see me follow their example. I will no longer be silent in this onslaught of hate. I will be as brave as they, calmly and gladly showing love for ALL of my neighbors. Even the ones with Trump signs in their yards. 

*A version of this blog post is also shared on Erin Wathen's blog found at

*For another great perspective visit Lara Blackwood Pickrel's post at

Monday, February 15, 2016

Anointed by Words...

Each Wednesday afternoon I meet with a small group for a book discussion. It’s lovely, we have great conversation about the current book, our faith, and how we understand God.  I look forward each week to seeing this group and all of the ways they make me think. It’s a joy to read and think and talk about it all together.

We meet in the home of a delightful woman, who cannot often leave her home to come to church. So, we bring church to her…and her wit and thoughts on our book and discussion are always worth hearing.

It’s a small group, this church within a church, and yet last week it was the most eventful church moment (in two parts) I’ve experienced in quite some time. I wasn’t busy ‘being’ the church as pastor, I was ‘receiving’ the church as a fellow worshiper.

Since it was Ash Wednesday on the way out of my office to attend the book study I grabbed my small wooden container filled to the brim with ashes (container bought at the Christian bookstore just that morning) and put them in my purse. No worries—they traveled safely.

Before we began I asked the woman who’s home we were meeting in if she would like to receive ashes after our study. She shared that she was hoping I would bring some and that she almost called me to make sure I would. I invited those present to remain, so we could continue in community together and if any of them were unable to attend our service that night and would like to receive also to let me know by turn.

Our regular study commenced. And then church REALLY began. In all of its simplicity and glory and loveliness, church that brought tears to our eyes and made a connection with the divine that in all its mystery and glory burst forth upon us.

She was sitting, and being a bit frail there was no way I would ask her to get up and come to me…so naturally I went to her. And on my knees I shared a short reading and prayer and anointed her with ashes, and uttered the familiar words cherished and passed down through the centuries, “From dust we came and to dust we shall return.”

Tears flowed. Church was joyful. We understood that we were in the midst of the Holy Spirt, which continually dances through our lives, but that we don’t always recognize.
Then I quietly asked, ‘are there any others’ from behind me a quiet voice said ‘me, please.’
I turned and in the same way, offered ashes to another. Saying once again, words that bring connection to all who have come before and to all who will come after.

And tears flowed.

Our hearts were full.

Then we went along our day, and what stuck out to me was the beauty and privilege of being able to offer these lovely women a ritual that has stood the test of time, that unites so many of us in different places with slightly different theologies, and connects us all to our shared past.

And, I thought I was the one who was offering the anointing that afternoon.

Until I returned to church…

A short time later I came into the church office and overheard the second woman say, with a tremble in her voice, ‘and then she…’ And they both looked up. I did not realize that I was stumbling upon my own anointing.

With tears flowing down her cheeks, she said to me, “To think. That MY pastor would humble herself like that and serve me on her knees…”

I’ll confess, it was not humility that brought me to my knees an hour earlier. It was the thought that I should go to them, help them be comfortable, and offer them what I thought they were seeking.
I did not realize that I was going to benefit in a much different way.

To hear a woman, a long time dedicated member of God’s church say to me, “To think MY pastor…”
My pastor. Not THE pastor, or even OUR pastor. But, MY pastor. In that moment she did more for me than I can express. These four plus months of newness in call, of stumbling my way around new people and new traditions, finding my preaching voice, of planning and rushing and learning what it means to be THE pastor, I understood I wasn’t THE pastor. I was HER pastor. And, with those simple words she anointed me.

She anointed me.

More than in my Installation last October I was made Pastor. And I am grateful, and now truly humbled that these people have called me be with them. It is a privilege, and may I NEVER forget that afternoon in a compact church office with a woman who taught me that I am, indeed, HER pastor.

Thanks be to God.