For a time


When the world was distanced and afraid during the pandemic, the church I served began a nightly prayer service.

Twenty minutes of nightly connection, prayer, scripture and poetry wove us together in the midst of the great sense of distance provoked by the pandemic. It was a shared ministry in all respects – leadership and prayer-ship.

After leaving that church I continued a weekly practice of connecting via the twenty minute prayer service; this time in the morning.

After retiring I continued the weekly practice.

Now, I find myself needing to step away.

Retirement is – for me – a deeply challenging time of turning to face identity and place. My concern is that continuation of a public practice begun during a needful time is somehow forestalling some turning, facing, assessing and learning that is mine to do in this needful time of my life.

I will end the prayer practice for a time.

The weekly reminder of shared community in Christ has been sustaining grace for my soul.

You bless me and you bless the world given you to love. Thank you for the many ways your souls have companioned my own.

We remain connected to all that is Holy, which includes us, each and all.



Behold, God is doing a new old thing!

I am retired.

I am retired and the sense of being un fettered means I want to be out in the world.

Cooper and I have a new camper. We are rookies at the craft of camping. We have so much to learn and time in which to learn it.

This past week we celebrated our longest occupation of the camper. We were out and about and having made a detour to attend a funeral of a beloved, we were on our way to our second destination – Bayfield, Wisconsin.

Motoring along on highway 53 there was a bump followed quickly by the realization that something was very wrong. We pulled over to the side of the road and discovered an incomprehensible thing. It wasn’t a flat or a fractured axle. The cause of the problem was that the bolt coupling the hitch to our car was gone.


The camper had slid on the power jack and was unhurt and the chains held but the camper was now down off the hitch and to the rhythm of cars whizzing past at 65 miles an hour was added our sense of NOW WHAT?

A man pulled up in a not-new car. He engaged Cooper in conversation. I watched Cooper’s body language to ascertain the gist of the interchange.

The man got out of the car and promptly got to work. He jacked up the camper. He assured us that this devastation was not a big deal. He called a friend who lived nearby who happened to have the right-sized bolt and pin to secure the camper in its rightful place. He went and got that pin and bolt and laid on his back to install it while cars whizzed by.

As we were thanking him we exchanged information and it turns out we are all ministers: Cooper and me in the UMC and the gentleman as a Jehovah’s Witness. He shared a pamphlet with us and offered to talk more with us about his faith.

As we pulled away the power of the goodness of the Samaritan who saw the plight of two pastors in the ditch was not lost on us.

He saw. He stopped. He helped to gentle our jangled nerves and he knew what to do to help us and he did it.

He showed us mercy, did our neighbor.

We seek to go and do likewise.

Unfettering Grace

On Sunday our church prayed for my friend the Rev. Marilyn Evans.

On Sunday Marilyn breathed her last.

Her death has given me opportunity to think about her life.  

Marilyn was whip-smart, people wise and she could laugh in ways that created celebration around her.

And, Marilyn was courageous.

The last time Marilyn was at Annual Conference she preached.  She unfolded in the midst of the 800 people gathered the needless soul carnage she lived as a lesbian woman serving in a church unwilling to acknowledge her fullness of God-created being.

Marilyn served the church as lay person, as ordained pastor, as mentor to many, and as a faithful witness to the transforming love of God as taught and lived by Jesus.

And, for too many of the years of her lived discipleship she was asked to be in the closet around one of the most spectacular gifts of her life:  Her beloved, Mary.

When such things became legal, Marilyn and Mary married.  I was blessed to sing at their wedding.  Those gathered with them and those who carry that day in their hearts were and are in awe of the goodness of their love.

Marilyn served in a movement – the United Methodist Church – that made her love a chargeable offense.

God have mercy.

The United Methodist Church is in the process of cleaving.  One set of Wesleyans will set up camp in what they are calling the Global Methodist Church.  God go with them.

As for those of us who are tired of the squelching of the good news, we will continue to live into the vision cast by Jesus and the Minnesota United Methodist Church.

We will celebrate the love given to all of God’s children and we will give thanks that persons continue to be called into ordained leadership and we will sing at weddings and surround those who have the courage to claim love with all of the support our good hearts can muster and we will do all of these things

in the open, out of any constructed death-dealing closet.

We will love and we will support love and we will live because women like Marilyn lived and loved and live yet.

God give us a sense of joy as the unfettering of grace commences.


This is my grandson Felix.

Felix is nearly three.

Felix is not in a subway shelter in a war-torn country. He is not on a train traveling away from his father.

Felix is all of and every child born in this world and what to do about the heart-rend of children adrift in too much in the bitter cold of this violating occupation?

I am a grandmother. I join the guttural scream shared by mothers and fathers and aunties and grandfathers and soldiers and freedom fighters and I join the keeners in believing

that this life, this wild and precious and irreplaceable life is only meaningful if it shelters the most vulnerable and that means

Felix and all children.

God, listen to your children and your grandmothers praying.


There is a scene in Gone With the Wind that has always spoken to my heart.

Katie Scarlett O’Hara stands with the dirt of Tara in her hands and she pledges her heart to the power of her place.

The pictures above have long been my Tara. They are bunkhouses where I learned to savor rainy days, play the guitar, and cultivate friendship. The one on top was part of my family’s cabin. My sister and I slept there. The one below is my friend Mary’s place.

Three years ago I sold our family cabin. The sense of soul-shift has been seismic.

On Sunday I went home again. I stayed with my cabin neighbors.

I slept under the big white pines and I immersed myself in the lake that has watered my heart for so many years.

Most powerfully, I was in the company of family.

The women who presided over the cabins on either side of mine are in their nineties. We gathered together, the matriarchs and the next generations, and we sat and laughed and spoke the stories and adventures and the love of place and people and dogs and my heart grew so very large because the truth was palpable:

It was never about owning the land.

It has always been about the weaving of life and love and the mundane and precious sharing of a story that is even yet being written.

That place of my heart is mine forever.

As God is my witness.

And She is.

was, is, will be

It is a liminal time for this human pastor woman.

Having said goodbye to a beloved congregation I await a first Sunday with a new people.

I know what was.

I do not know what will be.

The photo above was taken while on pilgrimage. The ancient walls of a much-prayed-in church in Glendalough Ireland stand as witness to enduring truth.

There is planted deep within a need to put stone upon stone to create spaces where soul is nurtured.

There is planted deep within a need to name gratitude and wonder for all that is Holy in the fulsome power of community.

There is a pandemic-enhanced awareness that loneliness and fear are not inconsequential challenges and finding a place to be called by name and claimed by kin is holy, holy, holy.

I know what was. I don’t know what will be.

I do know what is: Breath. Hope. Grief. Anticipation. Gratitude.

Stone upon stone.

The sun rises.

A new day dawns.

The Care and Feeding of Pastors During a Time of Pandemic

Pastors in the year 2020 have never done the work of leading through a time of pandemic.

Congregations in the year 2020 have never done the work of being the Body of Christ during a time of pandemic.

We are all stretched and pained by this time of distance.

I am a pastor. I have lived this pandemic ministry life for nine months.

Below are some of the things this time has made powerfully clear.

Worship is the work of the people.

When there are no visible people to share Spirit energy with – no noisy children, no attentive elders, no nodding-off distracted and pensive ones, no people to dance through sermons and prayers and song – engaging in worship is an act of faith. The worship leader has to trust that others are finding Spirit through worship. This we believe: Hearts are joined across miles.

Preaching to a camera is a lonely thing.

Surround your pastor with signs of your presence. Send cards and emails. Let your pastor and other worship leaders know that you are doing the work of worship from your homes and hearts. There is no “nice sermon, pastor” hand-shaking line after worship. There are no eyes that connect. Sermons are launched into the cyber sphere with hopes they will land in hearts.

If a sermon lands, please let your pastor know.

Empty buildings amplify loss.

Every time your pastor enters your church, they are reminded that you are not there. This hurts. You are woven into the heart of your pastor as well as into the walls of your church building. Day by day the work of the church goes on. Your staff and a very small number of carefully masked and distanced volunteers come and go. But you and your children and your stories and your souls are not in the space and your pastor feels that loss every time she comes through the door.

Pray for your pastor and your church in such a way that the walls feel plumped by the Spirit. It matters. It matters deeply.

Financial support is sign act.

Give. Give something. The lights are on, the staff depends on your commitment in order to minister on behalf of your church. Being a disciple of Jesus is not a transactional commitment. Being a disciple of Jesus means we promise to support our church with our prayers, presence, witness, service, and gifts. Your financial support is indication that you are aware that the work of the Spirit is even now unfolding through your church.

The church is not the building.

This is of course the right thing to say. It eases the pain of distance. And, it is true. The church is your living room and the church is the Spirit of God loose in ICUs and care facilities. We are the church. Together. Now more than ever, this is precious good news.

This time of separation will have an end.

We are being shaped and taught by this pandemic. Lessons learned will deserve a lifetime of unpacking. Each and all of us deserve care and feeding instructions articulated for those with whom we share life.

Somehow, into the real pain that all of us are feeling in this time, it felt important to name the pains of this pastor.

Thanks for listening.

Shards and Shine

brown and white seashells on the ground


I go down to the edge of the sea. 
How everything shines in the morning light! 
The cusp of the whelk, 
the broken cupboard of the clam, 
the opened, blue mussels, 
moon snails, pale pink and barnacle scarred— 
and nothing at all whole or shut, but tattered, split, 
dropped by the gulls onto the gray rocks and all the moisture gone. 
It’s like a schoolhouse 
of little words, 
thousands of words. 
First you figure out what each one means by itself, 
the jingle, the periwinkle, the scallop 
       full of moonlight.

Then you begin, slowly, to read the whole story.

+ Mary Oliver

Oh my.  We inhabit a “schoolhouse of little words”.

This world we live in these days is a veritable wonderment of shiny and shattered things.

How then shall we live?

Rather than look away from the broken, we are called to behold the things that are tattered and split.  It is deeply soul-grounded work, this willingness to see.

Being present to the brokenness is the way of Jesus.


There is shine.  There is shine to lend us the courage to take the shards of the broken and hear through them the whole story of God’s vision for creation.

At our church, we are seeking to honestly name the places of brokenness in creation:  Racism, the unveiling of failed systems made stark by the pandemic, and the divisive nature of our public discourse, to name a few.

To the sharp edges of the broken we bring the power and shine of the message of Jesus.  We are called to proclaim and work for relief for all held captive by oppressive systems.  We are called to bring good news to the exhausted of spirit and those overcome by despair.

We are called to shine the light of hope.  Not because we won’t look at shatter, but because we believe that the Holy gives us the power to live the whole story Jesus came to teach.

Are you hungry to join with others to fully enter the story?

Join us.  Our small groups are leaning into “Another Way: Living and Leading Change on Purpose” by community organizer/pastors Lewis, Williams and Baker.  Join us for video worship or nightly prayer or through parking lot worship or Wednesday night learning and music nights or any way you can reach your heart to another to create strength and meaning for the living of these days.

In this pandemic reality, hearts and intentions powerfully transcend geography.

Join in the story.

Living Faith

Has there ever been a time like this?

Our well-being is so exquisitely and critically communal. It always has been.

Now, we daily are made aware of the life and death ways our behavior impacts others.

An unrestrained cough can kill. Sharing communal song is dangerous. Aerosols travel. 

The simple act of protecting others from harm has become politicized. 

Somehow the COVID virus and our response to it has become a litmus test for our faith in God and our political affiliation.

Cooper and I were hiking at Itasca State Park. We went down a path to be by Lake Itasca in order to dip our feet in the lake and savor the beauty of a perfect summer day.

The area where we were sitting was visible from the path above. The area where we were sitting was small.

A man and his party came down the path, clearly wanting to access the water. We shared concern that there was not a six foot margin in that small space. We asked for space and the time to put on our masks. None in his party were wearing masks. There was no safe place for us to go. We were trapped.

Rather than wait and rather than see the sense of our request that they either not access the space or wait for us to safely vacate it, the man snarled at us, and the child with him – maybe six? – chastised us for being so afraid.

And I wondered: When did following scientific guidelines become a sign of fear?

When did a simple request become a gauntlet thrown?

The irony of being two pastors branded as contemptibly fearful (by a six year old!) was not lost on me. Somewhere along the way the young girl learned that to practice safety measures in order to contain COVID is to lack faith in God.

Who are we?

I share the interchange above not to stir up yet more anger or side-claiming.

I share the interchange above because I am, in fact, fearful.

I am afraid.

I fear that somewhere in the past months and years we have lost our call to practice exquisite care for one another.

Scripture says not one word about our God-given right to endanger others.

Scripture teaches us that our care for the most vulnerable bespeaks our commitment to our God.

We witness to our faith by the ways we are fierce in the way of loving our neighbors as ourselves.

This pandemic is not a short-lived test of our character; It is exhausting heartbreaking messy character-refining challenge.

The ways we live faithfully in and through this time of pandemic is writing our future.
What does the Lord require of you? 

Over and over in Scripture we hear that the Lord requires kindness, mercy, justice and humility.

We don’t have the answers to so much.

But we do know that the ways we comport ourselves – the posts we share on Facebook, the emails we forward and the conversations we have in front of and with our children – bears witness to our faith.

I am longing for the agony of the 160,000 lives lost and countless lives upended to lead us to deeper reverence for the power of our Holy God and the beauty of connected human being.

Humility. Mercy. Kindness. Justice.

The prophet Micah and Jesus and all of creation is calling to our hearts.

We are called to live our faith in a time like this.

Pandemic Scramble


I am trying to live in the present.

I am trying to live in the present while living social distancing and pandemic caution.

I am trying to live in the present while taping worship services days ahead of when they will be shared.

Maundy Thursday was taped on Tuesday and Good Friday was taped two days before Good Friday.

The joy of Easter was taped on Good Friday.

I am trying to live in the present and my soul is so confused because the rhythm of Holy Week has become scrambled and I am feeling it all at once.  There is no time for my soul to pause and digest.

As I have gone about this whirled week, I am feeling the grief of the so-much of this.

I ache for the community that stories my life.

I ache for my children and grandchildren and friends and I ache for the people whose lives are twined into my heart.  I miss my church.  I miss the varieties of ways people show up and I miss the connection that happens through and among us and I miss laughter and tears and I was distracting myself through these first furiously busy weeks of setting up this pandemic life and the grief was kept at bay.

Until this Holy Week.

This week, we who follow Jesus long to kneel at the feet of our friends.

This week, despair and betrayal are named and the visceral need to share the  communion of grief finds no catharsis in community.

This week, the Holy Saturday grief and stagger of those long ago disciples lives so fully in our souls.

This Holy Week I am trying to live in the present.

Whatever – and all – that it is.