Oh, freedom

New York!

Waking this morning to the newspaper’s announcement that the state of New York has made same-gender marriage legal was a heart-whoop for me.  As Minneapolis and other cities are celebrating Gay Pride, I am filled with hope that fullness of communal life is possible for all of God’s children.

One of this morning’s activities for me was writing a newsletter article explaining to my church the reasons why I signed a petition that puts me in opposition to the UM stance on gay marriage (according to our polity, our pastors aren’t supposed to officiate at same-sex marriage services).  It seems surreal to have to explain that grace is boundless.

After the marriage amendment foolishness is defeated in God’s country (that would be Minnesota) the heart-whoops will be a constant and communally felt.  And the United Methodist Church?  The Spirit is a powerful force for hope and healing.  Fear cannot withstand Holy unbinding.

I’m readying myself for 12 whole days of vacation at the cabin.  I am discerning which books to pack (who cares about clothes; it’s the books that take precedence!). I am imagining quiet and water and time with my beloved and sun and space in which to fully know myself to be creature in God’s creation.  Climbing into that log womb gives me new life. Morning coffee on the dock is holy communion.  The swirl of life subsides and in the stillness the Holy speaks.

So, hope is real, rest is in the offing and I’m taking off my shoes and grateful to stand on the holy ground that is my life.

Oh freedom, indeed.



heart to heart

Sometimes the beauty we find one with the other is too much to take in.

This day is one of those times.  Hearts were open; both giving and receiving through the dance of wisdom and good-swapping that is living in community.

In her book “Leaving Church” Barbara Brown Taylor relates a learning she had as she was nearing the end of her tenure as a local church pastor.  She writes of being at a social event surrounded by church members.  Knowing as she does that she is soon to morph out of the wildly odd role of parish minister, she finds herself interacting with people at the gathering in a wholly different way.  No more are they a part of the clamor and hue that can often accompany interaction with church folk.  Instead, she finds herself marveling at how fine it is to interact and be with people both interesting and connected with her life and the life of creation.

Her tale was cautionary for me.  Since reading it I have sought often to mindfully stop the race of my mind and open myself to the now of the Christ in those around me.

Today the Christ was legion.  It seemed that each person I encountered had a heart for the dance of life and a willingness to reflect upon it.

After days of such shine, I am troubled not at all by the hand-wringing so often present in our thinking about the future of “church”.

Church is.  Church is found in the hallowed joining of heart to heart. In those places we are told the Christ is present.

I believe it.



It’s getting tense here in Minnesota.  We aren’t alone.

The ideology war with its thuds of rhetorical chest thumping is starting to scare us but good.  Democrats and their seeming love of throwing money out the window and Republicans with their seeming love of order sans compassion are in a stare-down that could mean chaos here in weeks.  The state government threatens to grind to a halt if compromise cannot be reached.

We have no idea what ripples will turn into tsunami pain for many if this shut down occurs.

Both “sides” cheer their standard bearers on but oh, there are lives in the mix held together by the strands of services offered by programs in danger of being slashed.  So too are lives held together by a functioning state government.

I have no answers.  What I know is that in this, as in so many things, the answers are found not through lobbing imprecations across tables and airwaves, but through sustained and respectful honoring of the boundless truth that is breathed through creation by the heart of the Holy.

What we are taught by Jesus is that we are to love our God with all we have and we are to love our neighbor as ourselves.  That means my neighbor’s children who need food, care, and excellent schools.  That means my neighbors who are elderly and my neighbors who are Republican and my neighbors who are Democrats and my neighbors who reflect the shine of the Holy. Their well-being is mine to claim as my own.  That’s God’s truth.

I seek to believe that people of both parties run for office because they care about liberty and justice for all. They are asked to do painfully hard work.  So I’m praying.  I’m praying for them and for us all that we might become a people with un-stuck hearts, open ears, willing spirits, and humble wonder.

We have been given so much.  How will we live?

from the wings

I was married for 23 years to a very fine man.

We grew up together.  We got married right out of college when neither of us knew what we wanted to be when we grew up and we adventured and played and parented and learned about life.

Part of our adventuring had to do with seeking to support each other as we sniffed the winds for vocation.  Jim knew his calling strongly from the get-go:  he wanted to write musicals. He wanted to write musicals that would play on Broadway.  So, we sought colleges for graduate work, took ourselves and our then almost two-year old to Pittsburgh where he studied at Carnegie Mellon, had another babe whilst in Pittsburgh, and moved to Duluth where we completed our child flock with son Jameson.

While I tasted the maybe-good of seminary (of course I loved it) and commuted for five years from Duluth to Minneapolis to get a Master’s of Divinity, he supported the adventure.

We were good for each other.  And maybe most heartbreakingly, it came to be clear that being good for each other meant being not married to each other.

In the time since our divorce, Jim has devoted himself to his muse and to his craft and now he has a musical opening off-Broadway.  Our children will be there for opening night and while I will not be there physically, my heart and wonder will be there.  I suspect that the tears that would be rolling down my face will shine on the faces of our children.

It has been a relationship of applauding, one for the other.

It continues yet.

Break a leg, Jim Olm.


A day in the life

What do pastors do?  Well, on this Tuesday I:

Met with the Nominations Committee to staff all committees.

Wrote worship for two services.

Spoke with a parishioner about a pastoral care concern.

Interviewed an incoming intern and discerned with him how to match his gifts with the needs of the church.

Dropped in on a birthday party for one of our small group leaders.

Fine-tuned a job description for a full-time Spiritual Formation Director. Planned for how and where to post said position.

Answered tons of emails and questions.

Recruited some children’s sermon providers.

Ran a staff meeting; more birthday cake for a staff birthday (hard work, someone has to do it!).

Had a meeting with a parent about baptism.

Wrote articles for the newsletter.

Prepped for a Bible study class on Isaiah.

Made hospital calls.

I think that is it.

Part of what makes the vocation of ministry so fulfilling for me is the jumble of gifts that get tapped and adventures that get entered into.

A day in the life is never dull.



bittersweet gratitude

Three years ago our church welcomed a new pastor.  The new pastor was new to the church.  He was not new to me.

Max and I became friends during seminary.  We gravitated toward each other because of a shared love of good coffee, deep laughs and the zing that is life in community.  Max visited my family in Duluth, and when I heard about my move to Richfield, it was Max who hosted me and my family as we looked for a new home.

So when it became real that he was going to be appointed here at Richfield, I was excited for the church to partake of his goodness and light.

It has been three years of enjoying his voice in song and leadership, his great ability to connect with people and the ring of his laugh.

And, he is moving to pastor a church excited to receive him.

Tomorrow, on Pentecost Sunday, we will bless him on his way.  We will worship and hear him preach and share a meal together in fine UM pot-luck style (only one English-speaking service tomorrow at 9:00; the Vietnamese service will be at its usual 11:15 time in the sanctuary).

Poet Anne Sexton wrote that “The joy that isn’t shared dies young”.  The joy we have shared whilst in the company of Max will bless this church into its future.  It has a life that will sparkle the air for always.

So we pray traveling mercies and gratitude for joy shared; taken into heart and unloosed through our own willingness to live light and love and our intention to share the communion of joy so often as ever we can.

Blessings, Max.



Being felled is such good.

It has been a tumultuous sort of time for me.  I’ve been bumped physically and professionally (fear not, all is well) over the past month or so.  Both created tailspin of great introspection and self-searching about life and my being in it.

And, both brought to the forefront of my being the importance of reflections of the Holy in human form.  There are many of us – I surely am one – who get rolling in life and the tasks and duties of the day become so intense that the sacred stuffs of relationships get put on the to-do list of some future day when there is time for such seemingly non-essential tending.

Foolishness, that.  What I discovered when faced with recent challenges is the stunning beauty of hearts and ears open and able to hear pain.  Sitting in the company of those willing to mid-wife wisdom through the power of their presence and care is reminder to me that relationships are the core of any richness I might name.

I am blessed.  I am blessed with people who are able to hear pain and listen without seeking to solve.  I am blessed with people who know well that answers are to be lived into and questions sometimes the most holy of teachers.

Human beings crave a sense of belonging.  We need a place we can call spirit home; a place where, as Parker Palmer puts it, “it is safe for the soul to show up”.  I am held in many such places.

As I name my gratitudes, the circles of care that sustain and hold shine in my heart.  May it be so for us each.

May it be so.


On Saturday I put myself in the hands of another.  I sat in a chair at our church carnival and had a mini massage in the midst of the chaos there.

On Wednesday I was in Urgent Care with neck muscle spasms.

I am awed by the power of angry muscles.  Most times when things are not clicking right it is possible to push past them.  There was no pushing past the gripping of my head in a vise of pain.

It was almost funny.  I had led men’s Bible study with only one spasm and figured that I could roll over the whole thing.  After class, I had time to do the thising and thating that is pastoral ministry as I waited for a funeral home to pick me up for a committal at Fort Snelling.  I was set.  I was prepared.

It didn’t matter.  As I readied myself to go with the funeral director, I was gripped by waves of pain I can’t much describe.  With tears running down my face I had to quickly explain to our Vietnamese pastor Phillip the ins and outs of leading a committal service, and explain to the compassionate director that it would be Phillip leading prayer and not me.

The ride home made me aware of just how many pot holes there are in our streets.  Every bump was registered.  Luckily my chauffeur is strong and huge of heart.

Drugs are amazing things.  Muscle relaxers are my friend.  The storm has subsided and I am left with a body aware of its own fragility and ability to feel pain and delight, both.

I’m also left with a huge well of humility.  A seemingly small thing like sitting down for a mini massage can lead to immense things that swoop in with ferocious power and take us where we do not want to go.

So it is.  Every day.  The small decisions made have implications we cannot imagine.

Today is a day of little pain and much gratitude.

I’m paying attention.


This weekend we celebrated evangelism through bounce house and band.

On Saturday our church parking lot was swarming with a rainbow of neighbors who came to pet animals, eat popcorn and soak in funky music.  We hosted a community carnival as a way to welcome folks into the flat-out fun that is community in Christ.  There were local celebrities in the dunk tank, church-made egg rolls and grins all around.  Four hours and a sunburn later, I went home via the air.  My heart was lofted.

This morning we led worship at the Lake Harriet band shell.  On the stage were an amazing assortment of musicians and two oh-so-giddy Pastors.  In the benches were church folk and neighbors who were there to take in the opportunity to praise God with a sailboat regatta backdrop.  The swallows in the rafters of the band shell joined in the song of thanks and together we celebrated life in the wonder of creation and community. The potluck that followed was shared with all who had hunger.  We met new people.  We broke bread in an elemental meal of abundant thanksgiving.

Again, the road back to home was flown.

It is so good to peel back the walls of the church and share the heart that beats through our ministry.  It is so good to share who we are and what it is that grounds us.

We reached out not through some grim sense of ought but because we are so blessed we can’t sing or taste it enough.

Holy play makes for good.  It was a romping weekend.

It was church.

prayerful dissent

I am an ordained Elder in the United Methodist Church; somewhat miracle, that.

My heart got swept into the movement of people who are moved by relationship with the Christ to engage in the world in such a way that healing happens.  We touch with justice and compassion out of gratitude for our daily wash in grace;  we can’t help it.

We are an international church.  We make decisions that affect the life of our movement every four years.  At this gathering, persons come from across the world.  The numbers of delegates sent to vote on policy matters are determined by the numbers of people who know themselves as United Methodists in that area.  United Methodism is strong in numbers in Africa and in the Southern United States.  It is not as strong in numbers in areas traditionally less conservative.  In the case of Minnesota for the upcoming General Conference, we are able to send only 3 clergy and 3 lay delegates to represent our entire state.

So trying to impact church-wide policy in ways held to be crucial by many is a sometimes long and painful process.

And so it is that while the ELCA, Presbyterian Church USA, Episcopal Church, the United Church of Christ and the Disciples of Christ movements of Jesus have all voted to enflesh the meaning of baptism by ordaining persons who are heterosexual as well as homosexual and offer services of blessing to couples of the same-sex who desire the elemental good of the celebration of relationship within the bounds of community, the United Methodist Church has not been able to free itself from the bonds of a long-lived denial of baptismal and inclusive grace.

When we are ordained as UM clergy, we agree to uphold the Discipline of the United Methodist Church.  Many of us, as we made this vow, knew that the challenge of upholding that discipline would be great, given the jangle of unjust embedded within it.

I certainly knew the challenge of it, even as I took my ordination vow.  But I figured I would work with all that I had to pray and listen and lead the church into a more grace- based embrace of all of God’s children.  I have organized regional conferences, spoken at the state capitol numerous times, been a contributor to a published teaching piece put out by the Human Rights Campaign, led two congregations through a Reconciling process, and spoken from the pulpit about this issue (some would say incessantly!).

As the years have unfolded, the pain for me has become magnified.  Beloveds of their creator have found community in churches I have pastored and while the joining of hearts within longed-for community in Christ has been stunning in its beauty and power, the reality has persisted:  we welcome, we delight in the being of all of God’s createds, we proclaim the abundant, amazing and endless grace of God but when it comes to blessing the love work of same gendered couples and the pastoral work of same gender loving clergy, the policy of the UM church maintains that there are limits to grace and clergy are ordained to Word, Sacrament, Order and Policing.

I have had couples come to me.  Couples who are in love and in the throes and celebration of mutual unfolding and they are desirous of blessing.  For whatever reasons, including taxes and inheritances and other such state-driven impediments, they do not desire legal marriage.  But they wonder: might they call together their beloveds and hear spoken over their love a blessing by their pastor?

Desirous as we are for integration of our loves into our spiritual and social lives, of course such blessing is a natural outgrowth of a fulsome life.

And yet, we deny such to persons who live and love and raise children and bless their churches and the world with the living of their discipleship.  We deny blessing.

This year at Annual Conference a petition was circulated.  The text is below.

We joyfully affirm that we will offer the grace of the Church’s blessing to any prepared couple desiring Christian marriage. We are convinced by the witness of others and are compelled by Spirit and conscience to act.  We thank the many United Methodists who have already called for full equality and inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in the life of the Church. 


We repent that it has taken us so long to act. We realize that our church’s discriminatory policies tarnish the witness of the Church to the world, and we are complicit.  We value our covenant relationships and ask everyone to hold the divided community of the United Methodist Church in prayer. 

I signed.  I signed because in the teachings of Jesus I see the outreaching of grace and life lived in the seeking of justice enfleshed in community.  I signed because my words about the expansive grace and welcome of God are clanging gongs if I am not willing to participate in the healing good that is blessing and naming relationships that make for life.  I signed because my pastor’s heart can bear no more the double-speak of grace abundant and barricades maintained.

I do not know what this means in the living of my call.  It can mean being brought up on charges.  It can mean losing my credentials in a movement I have given my spirit to.  It can mean being booted out of the open door church.

Prior to putting my name and heart to the petition, I talked with our Staff Parish Relations Committee about my inclination to sign.  I didn’t want to sign without the blessing of the church body I am amazed to know myself a part of.

They gave their blessing.

And so, God as my partner, witness and guide; so will I.  I’m a minister of the gospel of Jesus the Christ.  God has graced me with a hunger for lived wholeness and hope in community sprung from the heart of Jesus.

The time for heart healing, the time for blessing, the time for prayerful dissent is now.