I forget. I flat-out forget.

I forget that I am a woman pastor and that somehow my gender combined with my role is offensive to some.

I forget.  And then I run into the barbed wire of suspicion or the distaste of those who are quite clear in their minds and expressed sentiments that I am abomination.

I will admit that it wounds, this sniffing around my being for the sure-to-be-found pollution lurking in my unseemly-vocationed self.  Barely hidden sneers, voiced longings for the “good old days” when pastors were men and a man could have a pastor, the boycotting of community based in some part upon the gender of the Lead Pastor; all are real and on good days they roll off the sure of my soul that speaks of God’s calling of me to this work.

But some days, I gets tired.  Some days, I ache for a world in which we are seen as the Christ first, and the dreaded other, second.  Some days I want to let fly my anger about being assumed upon.  Some days I want to weep, knowing that what I am living is a picnic compared to my sisters who have gone before.

And the waste of the power of the Holy is ongoing.

yes we can

I had a magic red ticket.

It took me through secret service checkpoints and through a maze of barriers and it took me right into the VIP section for today’s rally for Mark Dayton and his bid for governorship of Minnesota.

I was there for the main attraction:  President Barack Obama was speaking on the University of Minnesota campus.  He was there to remind us all that within us each resides the power of the vote and the power of passion and influence.

I was there with my daughter, who was the generator of said magic ticket.  Her friend is an advisor of Obama’s who urged Leah to fly from Denver to Mpls for the event.  Of course she did.  I got to be her date.

We zipped on the pink scooter through the streets of downtown Minneapolis (I am now well aware that the end of October means chill in the air), laughing all the way.  That was on the way there.  On the way home we were flying and laughing and so moved by the experience.

We were there.  In a field house filled with Minnesota goodness:  Garrison Keillor was a mere ten people away, Tubby Smith was resplendent in his Gophers regalia, Senators and Representatives and people of all skin hues, ages and walks of being were gathered and together we made a ruckus when Obama took the stage.

I don’t know how any person has the soul strength to withstand the barbs and the skullduggery that politics seems to inspire.  Persons willing to lead are scapegoated so thoroughly:  fears of a people get slathered all over their beings and facts matter less than the delight of naming a nemesis.

The text I’m preaching on tomorrow has to do with having the faith it takes to allow our own goodness and potential to be nurtured and shared with a world desperate for the light that is ours to shine.

And so I pray for all people:  keep your light lit.  Keep your light lit when people fear change so much that they will take to the light with oxygen-killing condemnation and derision.

We are meant-to-be-shared light, we followers of the Way.  Oh, yes we can.  And must. And God willing, we do.

wide open space

Yesterday a friend died. 

It felt, literally, as though a huge cosmos breath had been cycled through and with it the light and zap of Loren was released into all that is.

I know in soul-marrow territory that he is embraced and freed and for that I celebrate.  After three years of struggle to stop the growth of over-zealous cells, Loren allowed himself to be led into new life.

Here’s the thing.  His witness was of the life-changing variety.  He had passion for life and earth and love and an abiding impatience with archaic and stuck ways of thinking.  He was nettlesome and brilliant.  And, later on in life, he apprenticed himself to the finest teacher he could have prayed for his good Creator to send:  his wife, Candace.  Through her good, her love, and her partnership, Loren learned breath and gratitude.

His last breath left his body yesterday but the breath of his witness continues to be breathed:  Through the organic farmers with whom he labored, by body and heart children and grandchildren, by fledglings in ministry taken up by his imagination and placed into pulpits and voice, by friends and by colleagues and by an earth heard and honored.

So Loren, we breathe thanks for your being and we acknowledge the wide and open space that holds your hum.

God speed.

organ transplant

We are blessed with the gift of a new organ – of the pipe variety – at church.

And oh, it is a marvelous and challenging thing, this new life.  It would seem easy to pluck out the old, install the new, and all is swell and good.

But wait!  Putting a new organ in an old body is never a breeze.  The body is used to compensating for the less-than-functioning and even if it is not optimal, the old organ is known.  Things clank along and the systems work in their hampered and known way.

Well, with a new organ, adaptations have to be made in its body space.  In order for the organ to sing with its full gusto, flooring and space and lighting and sound issues have to be addressed.  It would be flat-out goofy to put a new organ in “diseased tissue” surroundings and expect it to fully function.

So a team of health professionals is at work in our church.  We are meeting and praying and visioning and truth be told we are sometimes overwhelmed (I know I am!) by the shifts and adaptations that are needed to welcome new life.

I pray for a spirit of collaboration and laughter and wonder and gratitude and patience.

Life means change and change means life.  The vision that drives our willingness to change is crucial.  Do we want full-voiced worship life?   Oh yes we do!  Are we courageous enough to wade into the adaptations that must take place in order for this new organ to thrive?  We are.

Can we listen?  That’s the crucial question.  Can we listen to each other, to the Spirit, and to the heartbeat of God whilst we prepare for new life?

There is new life singing through this Body.  Your prayers for our organ transplant are most welcome.


The whole world was watching as 33 Chilean miners were born again.

For a time the snarl of fear was vanquished.  We were all attendants at the miracle of birth.  The tube would go down, the men come up, the hugs and smiles and wonder shared, the wonder palpable.

The world was united, breathing with men trapped in the earth womb that held them fast.  Countries lent brains and technology and from every corner of the world prayers were voiced for the safe delivery of the 33.

Thirty three men brought us to a place of oneness while worlds and hearts away, hundreds of men and women and children faced the fracture of war for yet another day.

The phoenix delivered, we rejoiced, and for a time we were reminded that when the many become one, miracles are.

gratitude shine

One of my favorite saints of the church made an announcement during bible study this morning.

Today he is ninety years old.  He was shining with the wonder of it all.  How was it, he wondered, that he could be so blessed by ninety years of living?

He has raised babies, served his country, his community, and his church. He has been married for decades to a woman with whom he has made meaning, and he has arrived at a momentous and marvelous benchmark.  He is ninety.

Following bible study I called to check on a beloved friend whose body is being claimed by cancer.  He has fought so long and so hard to live.  He is 65, and not near done wringing juice and justice from his world.

And yet, he will never see ninety years of living in this lush world.

Every day we are given is gift.  Painful sometimes, to be sure, and seemingly meaningless and vexatious and so many woundings come our way but oh, to live to be ninety, with a face shining with gratitude.

May God bless our comings in, and our goings out, and our living of the gift that is life.

wonder of wonders

I’m still laughing.

A night or two into our pilgrimage, it was getting on to bed time.  A number of us were relaxing in the lobby of our hotel in Kelso, Scotland when two of our group members burst in with the most amazing news.

They were SURE they had seen Northern Lights.  They wondered if I had seen them before and what color they had been and went on to describe the somewhat clear color they had seen in the heavens and the slash of darkness that split the light.  They were amazed and excited and being prone to taking any opportunity to share such things I asked if they would show me the signs in the heaven they had seen.  A group of us piled out of the hotel in great haste lest this wonder disappear.

They led us through the night to the ruins of an abbey nearby.  The crumble of the walls was stark in the night.  Softening the stark was a garden with a very tall cross pointing toward the sky.  In order to see that cross at all hours of the night, there were spot lights that lit it, shining the message of resurrection for all to see.

As we approached the site of the sighting the women were so excited to share that it was in a specific spot that the wonder could be best viewed.  We put ourselves in the appointed place and yes, it was clear that there was a light shining with the afore-mentioned dark stripe separating the two pools of light. 

I stopped and I looked and I was instantly torn because what I could see was a shine in the heavens, to be sure, but a shine that was like no Northern Lights I had ever seen and yes, that light truly did bear a stripe of darkness and so clear to me was that the mysterious stripe looked suspiciously like it corresponded to the light those two spotlights were unable to shine through the tall cross.

I tentatively suggested that the Northern Lights were in fact the light thrown by the spot lights and the stripe that of the cross and my rational explanation was pooh-poohed in no uncertain terms until one of the sages in our midst suggested a way to solve the mystery.

She suggested that we position ourselves in the magical viewing spot and she would cover the spotlight with her jacket and then we would know.

So position ourselves we did, and cover the light she and a compatriot did.

And the Northern Lights by golly disappeared!  Poof, just like that they were gone!

We laughed so hard the neighbors were poking their heads around curtains.

So there we were.  Pilgrims on pilgrimage hungry to see signs in the heavens and the shimmer of the holy in our hearts and sometimes just sometimes wonder is shared and some old grinch (in this case the grinch bore my name) has to go and make things all rational.

A wonder of wonders became the holy communion of laughter and as for me, Northern Lights have never been so fine.

wind swept

I am experiencing elemental life here on Iona.

The warm of sun, the bluster of the ever-present wind, the sound of birds, the roar of the waves, the dance of flowers, the smell of salt in the water, the taste of unstructured days, the give of sand, and the sound of voices raised in communal worship:  these are a few of my favorite things.

We toured a small portion of the island this morning.  Stories were told, fact and legend both, about Columba, the Iona community, life on the island, the amazing gift of children being born on this island of very few residents, and the ways that this place has been magnet for the spiritually hungry through the ages.

Tomorrow we will take a four-hour hiking pilgrimage to the Southern end of the island.  We will be in the wind and the sun in the company of the holy.  God willing, the legendary horizontal rains will not join us.

I’m trying to remember when last I gave myself permission to simply be in the midst of life as creature open to wonder.

It feels as though the wind is scouring the encrusted places of too-busy from my soul.  It is holy erosion.

The Holy Spirit swept into a long ago room and did a wild sort of dance upon the heads of those gathered and a justice and life-making movement was born.

I am feeling wind swept and there is borning.

light in the darkness

Were I the perfect child of God whose faith was deep and love was broad

not doubtful, guilty, work or flawed,

I’d gladly follow Jesus.

But I’m the child of what I’ve been, estranged by much I’ve done and seen,

afraid to show the love I mean,

unfit to follow Jesus.

Yet God who knows me first and last,

who’s seen my best, my worst, my past,

has shown his love intense and vast by meeting me in Jesus.

For Christ, though killed at Calvary by sins like mine and folk like me

has risen, forgiven and set me free,

made fit to follow Jesus.

John Bell, Iona Community

We traveled from Edinburgh, Scotland to the community nestled into the crags and sweep of the island of Iona.

It was on Iona that St Columba brought a message of forgiveness and life 600 or so years after the death of the one killed on Calvary.  Columba set sail from Ireland with the teachings of Jesus because the light of the gospel was too bright to keep bound by any land mass.

This island has been host to the faithful through the ages.  A Benedictine monastery was founded here around 1200 CE, eventually abandoned, and then resurrected by a Presbyterian Scot who knew the power of this place and the power of his exhaustion with holy teachings mute in the face of violence and fracture in the world.  He founded a community dedicated to practicing the counter-cultural message of the gospel.

We joined them tonight for prayer.  Worship was at 9:00 PM.  We walked from our hotel under a star spangled sky and trusted our feet to know the path to the monastery.  We entered a space nearly a century old.  It is massive and hugely- stoned and we were led into the lap of the community by the piano and the flicker of candles piercing the darkness.

Our opening hymn put on our tongues the words printed above.

Those words found purchase in my heart.

The wonder of it;  The light of the Holy sung and lit through the ages and alive alive alive within us.

We are set free.  Perched in an ancient choir stall, surrounded by a cloud of witnesses both alive in body and heart, and surely fit to follow Jesus in all places because the light is simply too bright to imprison.

The church of the imperfect, met by Jesus, singing our light in the darkness.

with a tambourine

One of the women on the pilgrimage (we are in Scotland visiting prayed-in places) sent me an email before we left.

Shy, she is, and deep and fine.  She wanted to know if she should act on this for-her wild notion that she ought bring a small tambourine along on the trip.  Did I think that was a good idea?

Of course I shared my enthusiasm for the idea.  And, I was delighted this pilgrimage felt like a place for tambourines and shaking and new things.

She broke it out last night.  During worship we sang a Celtic “Alleluia” in a fine 6/8 that was crying out for a tambourine.  It was perfection.  She waited for the beat to sound in her bones and when she knew it in that place she made the noise given her to share.

We often are unsure about what to pack for the journey.  We put in the trieds and trues and usuals and then, just sometimes then, we are swept into a new way of imagining our selves and our way of being in community.

Tambourines come out, shaking their proclamation that the dance of our lives is accompanied by voice and instrument and heart and wild and sweet and lilt and the community of life kin join with us and we are sung anew.

So we travel; sometimes with a tambourine.