Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Morning Prayer

I thank you, Lord for your spirit which continues to flow with me.

And I pray that I might experience your love, grace and wisdom today.

I pray that this might be a day of joy for me and those I encounter.

I pray your blessing be here
your peace within me
your love surrounding me

What I know is that too often I block your abundance
with anxiety, worry and a need to be in control

Release me
Flow through me
Use me.


Wednesday, April 11, 2012


In the past few days I have experienced several inspiring events and I just want to mention a few.

Easter evening we had a very different worship service at 5 PM> We had four people do first person narratives of that passion of Jesus - Deric was simon of cyrene, Melissa - the cross maker, Rich - a centurian and Kerry was Mary Magdelene in the garden with Jesus. Each person did something that really surprised me and touched my spirit. It amazed me that there was such a freshness to the whole thing.

Today I went to "Stephanie's Champions", a luncheon which was started by Stephanie Spielman to honor the champions - the support people for those who have cancer. Her husband Chris was the first honoree. Now in its thirteenth yeat - and 2 years after Stephanie passed away- this luncheon continues as an important fundraiser for cancer research. This was my third time attending this event and the first time was with Lisa Baluk as her mother Trixie was a champion. Now Lisa has passed away and we continue to go in her memory. I sat and heard stories of selfless giving by loved ones for cancer victims and it touched me in so many ways. Life is so unfair as you learn about young people (like Lisa) who have cancer and there is no making sense of it. And yet seeing these stories of love and faithfulness were just inspiring for me.

Finally tonight I led our Wednesday night Bible study - for the first time in 7 weeks. We had taken a break to do our "Listening to the Spirit" study. It was so good to be back - especially to have Bill and Darlene Brown with us again. They returned from wintering in Arizona. During the time that they were gone, Darlene had a slight stroke. She seems to be herself and it was just a great blessing to be together. We read some wonderful texts from the Bible and talked so much about our own stories of experiencing God in our lives. Surely the spirit of the Lord was in that place tonight.

And so, I need to go to bed, but I want to remember and record these moments that come and go and remind me of the goodness of humanity and the blessing of a life of faith.

A Mother's Journey

This is an article I wrote for Audrey for the GLAD website. I thought I would share it here as well.

Mother’s Journey

Seven years ago my daughter, Audrey came out to me via email. She was about to be go before the commission on ministry in preparation for ordination and wondered if she needed to share her sexual orientation during this process. My response – again via email - was that she did not have to answer a question that was not asked.

And my private response for the next week was a lot of tears and sadness. My first concern was that she would be stigmatized and rejected by people who had previously loved and accepted her. In addition, she was about to become my colleague in ministry and I had dreams of seeing her succeed in the conventional way – of moving “up” to serving her own church. I had watched my daughter grow up with great gifts for ministry and was overwhelmed with fears for her future in living out her call.

At the same time, I knew that she was God’s child and that God would care for her as she continued on her journey. And so, it has been a tremendous blessing in my life to witness and share in the ways in which her identity as a lesbian woman has given her a unique role in ministry.

What I want to share how her life as a lesbian woman in ministry has changed my life and my ministry. I have always self identified as a “Pastor” more than a “Prophet” in ministry. For years I have been drawn to Bible study, prayer, healing ministries and spiritual direction. But in the last few years, I find myself more and more involved in social justice ministry. And one of the ways that God is surely calling and moving me is in our ministry to the GLBT community. There was a moment in time in which I came to the understanding that the rejection that I feared for Audrey from the church was not something that “They” were doing, but something that “We” are doing. At the last General Assembly I was particularly moved by the sermon that Mel White gave at the GLAD banquet. How long are we going to discern?

And what I realize is that often in the local church we do not discern at all. Instead we say that we “welcome everyone” and pretend that we are all alike. The church that I serve has become more open and accepting and welcoming to the LGBT community over the years. We have gays and lesbians who serve in leadership, on staff and we even have participated in the gay pride parade. However, we are prone to “don’t ask, don’t tell” because you might upset someone.

In the year 2012 we are exploring what it means to be a church of “Radical Hospitality.” With workshops, movies and study we are actually engaging in discernment. I have learned that many people have not been given the tools for real Biblical interpretation and instead have limited themselves to reading the Bible at “face value” or allowing others to interpret for them. And I have also learned how much we have needed a safe space to talk about the most intimate part of our lives – our sexuality. I have no doubt that God is at work in our lives leading us through this time of learning and struggle.

Frequently from the pulpit I will remind the congregation (and myself!) that we are being called to live “counter culture” as Jesus shows us a different way of self giving and humility. However, in this issue the teachings of the church is affect the culture. Too often homophobia is given credibility by people of faith. Conversations about gays and lesbians in the media and among ordinary people frequently reference particular interpretations of the Bible. For the church to remain silent, then, is to allow these understandings to remain unchallenged.

And so, my journey as Audrey’s mother continues to bear fruit that I would not have imagined. God is leading me out of fear into faith and out of passivity into engagement and out of empty gestures of welcoming into leading a congregation into a time of true discernment.

And God is not done with me (or us) yet.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Lenten Reflections

I have not written for a month and a large part of that has to do with my Lenten disciplines.

I come to the church every morning at 8:30 for contemplative prayer. I light a candle, play some music and do one reading from Wondrous Encounters by Richard Rohr. Then we sit in silence for 15 - 20 minutes. I opened up to anyone and Kerry Baker has joined me every morning and Gail Taschner has come often. It has been very meaningful and often the "starter prayer" has stayed with me all day.

However, what I have not done is my usual journaling - and that writing often is the seed for this writing in my blog and so - a month has gone by.

The other Lenten discipline for me has been in leading three groups through the book Listening to the Spirit, a handbook for discernment. And the discernment is around this question: "What is the Gospel Message to our Church as we relate to gay and lesbian Christians?" These groups have involved about twenty people and they have met Wednesday and Sunday nights and Sunday morning. It has been really interesting and fulfilling to lead these groups.

There are some passages that people point to that seem to say that gays and lesbians (well gays actually, since there is no mention of lesbians in the Bible) are engaging in sinful practices. However, as we have studied them, it is clear that there are other ways of interpreting all of these texts. For many people this class has been a time of real growth in learning about Biblical interpretation itself. In some ways the Bible contradicts itself and so we all have to have greater understanding than just reading a verse at face value. In addition to that, Jesus comes and opens up the word, so to speak. There is much of the "Levitical Law" that he rejects - for example about touching the ill, eating certain foods and circumcision. So, how do we decide what continues to be "sinful" in the light of the grace of God.

There are subjects that I think about and preach about in which it is very clear that the culture is always at work affecting us. For example, Jesus shows us a way of life that is putting our trust in God - not in mammon. And we live in a world in which we are encouraged to compare ourselves to others and find self worth in how we look and what we have. But when we talk about the issues of gays and lesbians - it is often the church and the Biblical interpretations that have affected the way the culture responds. And for those of us who are open and accepting of gays and lesbians, our inclination is then just to ignore or reject the Bible.

Instead, these classes have really opened up the Bible to me and to others and helped us to a deeper understanding of God's message to all people.

Anyway, my point is to say that it has been an very different Lenten discipline to have these groups as a regular part of my week - but I believe that God keeps calling us to learn and to struggle and so we have.

Today is the Tuesday of holy week. For a pastor we are preparing for so much - Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and then Easter. It is always somewhat daunting for me to be both at the cross and at the tomb. What I know is that the pastoral needs that are real - like death, depression, marriage issues, etc - remind me how important it is for us to have Jesus who suffered for us and suffers with us.

And the good news of Easter - is always going to be the hope of the world. There is life after death, there is spring after winter and there is peace after the struggles of learning, growing and preparing.