While in Rome (hmmm, what a delicious notion to put in a sentence) a few years ago as a part of Women Touched by Grace experience, we learned about St Benedict (480 – 547) and his Rule for monastic living. Benedict was the first to envision communities built around the shared work of prayer, contemplation, and communal work. Our instructor was a German nun renowned for her grasp of the Rule. She shared her passion for and appreciation of Benedict in ways contagious.

One of the comments she shared struck me. She mentioned that for the (initially only) male monastics, the first thing that had to be learned was obedience and humility. The most crucial learning for a novice monastic had to do with letting go of pride and ego and allowing the structure of the community to hold them. They needed to learn to let go of pride.

When asked to talk a bit more about this, she made an off-hand comment. She noted that had it been women of the day learning to lend their gifts to community, they would be in need of a building up of pride and a sense of their own worth. Their culture surely did not nurture it. Only after building a sense of self worth could women commence to form rich communal life.

This issue of pride – the nurturing or peeling back of pride – has teased my mind since Katherine Kersten’s (Mpls Star Tribune columnist) most recent column. She seeks in her column to explain why it is that gay pride is unseemly in a church. Pride doesn’t belong in a Christian church, she maintains, because part of our journey as followers of Jesus is to disown our prideful ways, acknowledge our penchant for sinning, and ask for release and forgiveness.

Well, yes. And, those who affirm the holding of a weekend event called Pride (Pride is a celebration of the beauty of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered persons) know some things about the sorts of societal condemnations that make the claiming of pride a dream.

For so long culture has demonized and ostracized those who are same-gender loving people. The history of abuse is long: it includes the pink triangles worn on the sleeves of gay people in Nazi Germany, the families who name as dead their children who come out, the ongoing violence perpetrated against glbt persons, and the continued conversations around according rights in our society.

And in Christian community? For so many glbt persons, the message has been clear that they are not fully welcome.

Here’s the thing. Determining who is “in” and who is “out” is a function of our culture. The people who make the determination regarding the welcome are those who are “in”. Those same folks make the determination about what pride means. So claiming pride about something that “insiders” claim is clearly outside the bounds of seemly is an affront to status quo. And not welcome.

What is the sin of pride? Theologians through the ages have taught that pride is a forgetting of our utter dependence upon God. Pride is living a lack of faith in what God has wrought in us. Pride is a turning from the utter unique potential in us all.

That kind of pride is death-dealing.

But the pride of claiming self? Claiming as sacred a core component of our being – our sexuality -celebrated in covenantal respectful relationships, because God who breathed us into life in God’s image called us good?

That kind of pride? It is vitally important in our churches. Current Christian community is much like the early church and its welcome of women into leadership and full community life. We need to foster a sense of the self worth and worthy-of-pride being of all of God’s children: Gay, lesbian, straight, transgendered, bisexual, all born of God’s love and hungry for the sacredness that is community in Christ.

Living open doors, open minds, open hearts in order that all might experience the power of resurrection life. It’s the way of Jesus and our own.

So what is pride and what is inclusion and what is grace?  What say you?





Heroic Humility

…It is not humility to insist on being someone that you are not.  It is as much as saying that you know better than God who you are and who you ought to be.  How do you expect to arrive at the end of your own journey if you take the road to another person’s city?  How do you expect to reach your own perfection by leading somebody else’s life?…And so it takes heroic humilty to be yourself and to be nobody but the person that God intended you to be.

Thomas Merton, Trappist Monk  New Seeds of Contemplation

I just spent an hour or so with a beautiful woman.  She is 88 years of age, she was proud to tell me, and she is lit of eye and facile of mind and grateful of heart.  I want to be like her when I grow up.

One of the gifts of the work I do (I’m a UM Pastor) is the blessing of encountering the Holy in those I call kin through church.  I am present to the beauty of so many, and I wonder how it is that holiness speaks and lives with such stunning variety.

Midlife is a graced time.  After decades of trying to be for others:  parents, kindreds, community and church, I believe that it is time to do the work for which I am uniquely called:  living as myself, as the person God intended me to be.

Discerning who that self is is the work of these days.  I continue the vocations of pastor and mother, wife and friend, and I add to that the befriending of the uniqueness that is me.

And this, Merton would have me to know, is heroic humility.  No cape needed.  Just a heart willing to listen and open.  I like it.





What’s Mine?

I followed a Minneapolis Transit Bus to work today.  On the back of it was a widely smiling woman.  She had that look born of well-tending and well-loved and the ad had this to tell me and the city.  The woman in the picture wanted us to know about”her” cancer, and her fine doctor and fine health care system and she was happy it seemed to speak of all three with words of possession akin to those used when introducing others to the complex thing that is our being.

But oh, it made for a catch in my heart.  This radiant sales smile in the same frame as the word “cancer”.

This is so because I have a dear friend who is riddled with same.  A more courageous heart in the fight for justice and meaning in life could not be found.  And he is battling the faceless divide that is cancer.  And I am furious and heartbroken and left with the awareness of my own mortality.

Some day that woman on the bus could be me.  It is my friend.  It is the too many of this world.  

When is it this “too much” with which we live in our culture, this terror of abundance run amok in our cells;  when will our penchant for more and bigger and better be named as the deadly that it is?  When will we learn to claim things worthy of being plastered on the back of buses, things like “my rest, my serenity, my peace, my temple-of-the-Holy body”?

We will claim these things.  And through the march that is cancer into the lives and flesh of our beloveds, we will give thanks for places of healing and holding and we will know that even now we can lay claim to that which is truly “ours”:  The right now.  The smell of peonies and the sweet of the rain and the blessing of hearts that hold us when we hurt and the power of shared prayer showered over our beloveds as they work with their God-given bodies for healing.

I don’t begrudge the woman her smiles.  I begrudge the claiming and owning of a thing like cancer.


Having lived 18 years in the company of a child grown to man, today was the last; the last time I climbed the stairs to coax him out of bed in order for him to get to school.

He’s graduating on Monday.  Commencing into a new way of living in the world and a new way of understanding himself in the midst of that world and the ground of his and my life is shifting in ways momentous.

Last night Cooper and I shared thoughts about this commencement into newness of life.  We sought to remember what it was we were feeling as we graduated from high school.  How did we knit the new and the old into our emerging sense of our selves?  Who did we celebrate with and what really mattered to us and how different are we today in the longings we have for marking commencements and transformations?

Bearing witness matters.  Finding company to mark these life passages matters.  Stopping long enough to listen to our hearts and our souls and our longings matters.

So Jameson commences on Monday.  And we commence with our lives, each one of us.  Hopeful, weathered, vulnerable, and pregnant with promise.

How goes it with your commencing?  What are the transitions you are marking and what lessons learned through your commencement from high school do you re experience with each new step into the unfolding of you?

And who will have Kleenex enough for this mother as she watches her son walk into the unknown glory that is his life?