me too

I’m doing one of my favorite things:  looking at scripture texts for a season to come and seeking a theme to draw them into the hearts of those who come to worship.

Our church Sunday School follows the inter-denominational selections of scripture called the lectionary.  By encountering the same stories on a given Sunday, we like to encourage families to discuss what they were intrigued by in classes and through worship.

But today?  Today these stories burnished by time make me so very tired.

The scripture texts in January and February are some of the foundational stories of our faith.  They are the stories of men made heroes by the telling of their exploits.

They are the stories of men.

Women are near invisible.  They are seeming bit players in God’s sweeping story.  When on the stage of story-telling consciousness, women are often possessions to be managed or acted upon – sometimes with unspeakable violence.

In headlines and in conversation circles this past month the stories of the near-invisible are being told. Stories of abuses of power perpetrated by the predatory privileged are being told. Women and men are speaking of the shame and soul-warp of sexual violence perpetrated upon them.  Those who say “Me too.  This happened to me, too” are breaking silence.

And you know the two are related.  The silencing of women in our core faith stories is no mere oversight.  We have lop sided faith story for centuries and we who tend religious institutions have all too often colluded with a culture that has storied abuse of power into assumed life.

Patriarchy kills.  It kills futures and it mangles girls and women and all who have the audacity to embody a gender identity that is not binary.  Patriarchy harms all who are objectified and it contorts the souls and hearts of men and I don’t want to collude any longer.

Not in my heart, not in my body, not in my soul, not in “my” church.

I choose to mindfully work for a day when the church stories faith in such a way that “Me too” has to do with how it is all are welcome, safe, and celebrated.

 

 

 

moorings

My mother lived for most of her life within eyesight of the greatest of lakes.

The comings and goings of ships into the Duluth/Superior harbor was information she filed in her heart.  She was Duluth.  From the crest of the big hill to the shoreline of Lake Superior, she lived and moved and had her being.

A number of years ago – in 1985 – a freighter by the name of Socrates grounded on Park Point.  The storm that tossed it onto the sand bar was the stuff of legends. My mother was one of the many who were drawn to the incongruous sight of that mighty grounded boat.  It was evidence of what wind and water can do to the best-laid of plans.

And so it was yesterday.

Yesterday a storm hit Duluth that rivaled the power that tossed the Socrates.  Winds in excess of 60 mph whipped the snow that fell.  The temperature was in the low 30s.

After 19 months of somehow not being able to release my mother’s earthly remains to the elements, my siblings and I had determined that yesterday was the day.  We discerned that mom would want to be released in (at least) three places:  her beloved church, her beloved lake, and in the cemetery where her parents and siblings are buried.

When we made these plans we joked about snow.  It’s Duluth, after all.  Anything is possible in late October.

It was an epic day.  The wind howled.  The waves were so high that the road to Brighton Beach was swallowed by the lake.  The snow pelted.  We shivered and hugged and wept and laughed and here is what we learned:

She who has always calmed our storms is with us yet.

As we committed her body to God’s earth, we laughed about the tough, scrappy children who learned by their mother’s example that whining about cold is no way to behave.  We were out in the elements that she taught us to love:  wind and water, tree song and wave crash.  We held each other and gave thanks for the tiny immense scrap of a woman who gave us more than we will ever know or name.

The lake roared.

Our family is no grounded boat.

We are afloat and alive and she is in it all.

Well done, mom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rise up

Here is a juxtaposition.

I was recently in Norway.  Part of our experience was spending twenty-four hours on a ship.  We were on a fjord.  The sun was shining, the waterfalls cascading, the wind was whipping and whilst bundled in blankets to keep warm I tuned into a soundtrack I had heard a lot about but never had the time to listen to.

Alexander Hamilton.

Oh.  My.

Instantly I was taken into the story of hearts, ambition, and freedom fighting.  A new nation was born through so much violence and hope.  I cannot shake the soundtrack.

On the same journey I was reading a book called “The Nordic Theory of Everything:  In Search of a Better Life” by Anu Partanen.  The author was raised in Finland.  She moves to the US and comes to ask why it is a society that is built upon the belief that all people are created equal would institutionalize disparity.  Partanen speaks of the supports for new parents in the form of child care and paternity and maternity benefits.  She goes on to speak of the educational system in Finland that seeks to create excellence in all schools; private schools are nearly unheard of.  And then, there is the access to college because tuition is free or very very low cost.  And health care.  For all people.

In 2017 there is no less passion in the hearts of those who long for freedom.  This past year has brought so many summons to awareness:  Charlottesville, growing financial disparity, earth distress and chicanery in Washington DC haunt our sense of well-being on a daily basis.

Who are we, anyway?

Days after white supremacists marched in Charlottesville, people in Rochester gathered under the big top of this church.  We were brown and white and Muslim and Christian.  We were heart broken and shaken and needful of a place to remember who we are.  We heard each other’s despair and hope.  We spoke prayers and intentions about working for a world where we ask – as the musical “Hamilton” does – who it is who lives and who dies and who tells the story of a life and a people?

How will our story be told?

We cannot pretend that what currently exists is working, save for a very small and privileged few.

I am one of those privileged.

Through my work as a minister of the gospel, I am part of a movement grounded in the belief that all people are sacred and invited to partake of abundance.

We have work to do.  I have work to do.

Who lives, who dies, who tells our story?

not sure

I don’t know.

Maybe it is because the earth is moaning through hurricanes and wild fires.

Maybe it is because our president continues to desecrate sacred truths.

Maybe it is because I miss my children and my mother and my cabin and my naiveté.

I don’t know why I am polishing silver today, but it helps.

Oh the privilege of bequeathed beauty.

Oh how needful it is to provoke shine somewhere.

Somehow.

 

 

 

heart place

All of my life I have been a two-world dweller.

One world has been governed by schedules and expectations.  Shoes were obligatory and cultural assumptions and tasks shaped the days.

The other world featured wide open barefoot living.  The song of water moving and the particular of the light set the stage for exploration.  Schedules were set by flesh needs. Lights got turned off when books were ready to be put down for a time.  The day began with the dance of light reflected from the lake onto the oak leaves outside my window.

At the cabin, I was immersed in wonder.

I lived sanctuary as a child, and I have savored it into my adult life.

I am going through deep soul change.  The cabin is soon to be adopted by a new family. Others will learn the rhythm of the days and the protocols of communal life (don’t make noise before nine AM, honor the privacy of neighbors, realize that if you get a jet ski you might be shunned).  The cabin will be inhabited by a different branch of the clan Macaulay.

I pray that it will be sanctuary and wonder-full for them.

My soul is paying attention during this time of transition.  Who will I be without the place of my heart?

I’m praying plenty about how it is that sanctuary is not containable.  The peace and freedom nurtured by the logs in the cabin breathes in all places.  The soul hum of full welcome lives beyond Sand Lake.  I know this in my head.

And, my heart knows that the sacred of the particular is real.

Letting go, blessing, and living into being an integrated one-world dweller are work for these days and beyond.

Perhaps it is time to bring my worlds together; to realize that the sun-dance on water and the treasured smell of a place are witnesses to something so much larger.

I live in God’s expansive world.

I don’t have to own a piece of it to know the peace of it.

 

 

Day by Day

When I was a new pastor, there was a tradition at our yearly gathering at Annual Conference.

Each retiring pastor was given three to five minutes to address the plenary – some 800 people. 

I was so moved by the power of that witness.  Here were women and men who had given so much to the movement of United Methodism.  They were eloquent and boring, pedantic and poetic.  I savored it all and wondered what it would be like to speak a whole lifetime of ministry in three to five minutes.

My husband the Rev. Cooper Wiggen is retiring this year at Annual Conference.  He has not been given three to five minutes to speak.  Apparently many felt that the utterances of pastoral hearts made for a long listen, so we don’t get to hear those speeches any more.  More’s the pity.  Instead, Cooper and his wife will be given corsages, Cooper will be given a plaque, and a scant paragraph will be read sprung from the heart of God’s called preacher.  There will be cake to eat and hands to shake.  

Oh, the lives that have been touched by those retiring: Baptisms and weddings and bread broken and tears shared.  How is it that any one soul could be called to be so faithfully open to the souls of others?  How is it that Cooper said “yes” to the call to ministry and continued to say “yes” for 42 years?  Where does such steadfast faith and tenacity come from?

 God calls the craziest souls into community.  God calls us each and all to say “yes” to showing up to our lives and to the world.  God calls us to offer water and bread, forgiveness and laughter to each other and through that offering our very lives are made whole and alive.

What a wonder.

This I know:  I will water my corsage with my tears.  I will weep in honor of my husband’s courage and grace. I will thank God for the boom of Cooper’s voice as the gospel was preached and the tender of his soul as he unpacked with others the gift of being human.  And, I will thank God for that which is yet to come.

Ministry is a life-long endeavor.  We are each forever called.

My favorite poet asks it best:  “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with our one wild and precious life?”  (Mary Oliver)

Through the grace of God we answer the question day by day.

For the newly retired there is a piercing spaciousness to the question.

What is it we plan to do, each and all, with this wild preciousness called life?

Praise God for questions worthy of our heart’s work.

grief

I live in these days with a pervasive and powerful sense of grief.

I love the vision of the nation in which I live.  All are created equal, right? Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are certain inalienable rights.  But the whole precious – and who knew how fragile? – vision of what I thought was shared and sacred has been huckstered and profaned through and certainly beyond this past election.

What to make of a nation squandering its heart in fracture?  What to do with earth and women and the poor and the vulnerable collateralized by powerful elite who have no concept of what it is to be other than privileged by gender, race, orientation or social status? What to do with the falling-in-behind the dismantling of compassion by those people who espouse the teachings of Jesus as bedrock in their lives and hearts?  How can Jesus be used as mascot for the impoverishing of millions and the despoiling of this precious earth?

I love the vision of the United Methodist Church.  Transformation of the world is sore needed and the hope of the living Christ as lived through the followers of Jesus is call to lived compassion.  We are called to be antidote to fracture.

What to make of a denomination that condones hate speak?  How can we be about transformation and open hearts, minds, and doors as we participate through our polity in the shutting of doors to the called and the beloved?  How do we preach the Jesus message of dismantling systems of oppression whilst enduring the realities of ministering through a denominational structure bound by just such oppression?

Grief is real.

I’m choosing to feel it.

This coming Sunday is Pentecost.  Pentecost celebrates the ways the Holy Spirit took up dancing on the heads of the fractured and frightened.  Through the power of that Spirit barriers were eradicated and people could hear the hearts and behold the sacred humanity of those they never thought they would understand.

Oh come, Holy Spirit, come!

We are sore in need of the dance.