#ashwednesday is for….

Ash Wednesday is for when all four of your checks hit after the bank closes but before you can put your husband’s check in, including the really big rent check, and they therefore all BOUNCE!

Ash Wednesday is for your four year old child throwing up all over the house, and not quite getting the try to aim for the bowl or the toilet concept

Its for your special needs kid being better focused in class, even as you worry about his continual bad smell

Its for losing your voice on the night the pastor has to lead service

Its for your eldest who is struggling to concentrate getting a good email from the teacher.

 

Ash Wednesday is to lay out your whole self before God

To confess yourself, not to feel ashamed, but to be able to see yourself as God’s beloved

The very act of owning  who you are and your reality, the act of being you as God’s, frees you to be reflective of God.

I confess myself and seek God…because to me, they are the same thing….

Ps 34:4-5  I sought the Lord, and he answered me;
    he delivered me from all my fears.
5Those who look to him are radiant;
    their faces are never covered with shame.

#Christianity, you keep saying that word, I don’t think it means what you think it means

1. Christianity to me isn’t about finding all the answers, but asking the essential questions (look at the Gospel its people asking Christ ?s and Christ asking people ?s) gathering together and acknowledging that God is bigger and greater than our understanding of things, and we’d rather see thing more God’s way than our own way, because our way is too small

2. Church is a the practice of community and worship so that when moments of extreme trouble come, you have a healthy way to bring them to God and process them. (Like fire drills). Every week isn’t revolutionary but every week is important.

3. Church is about community, there are few places where we commit to practice community with whoever comes thru the door Church is a practicum in faith just as its a place to explore spirituality.

4. Prayer is the ongoing conversation between you and God. As it is an ongoing, unique and individual conversation, my job as pastor is to act as mentor, guide and/or teacher. Where you are with God is based upon who you are, that’s why relationships with God can change a person because the two are so intertwined. This is why mature Christianity is (w)holistic Christianity. The kind where the Bible doesn’t necessarily tell you how to vote, but you have an evolved understanding of learning what God’s purpose is for the world and you apply that purpose wherever you are and as much as possible.

5. Faith is about seeking out relationships with God, people and the world. Loving things into a more real, truthful and essential existence than what they have before that love. Its not about controlling another person, quite the opposite, its freeing them to be who they are.

My Being #poor : Personal Thoughts

I didn’t know how poor we were.

I mean on the one hand, I knew we were living paycheck to paycheck for going on 5 yrs

I knew we have ongoing credit card debt

But our credit is ok

We eat healthy food

We are able to provide for our 3, yep that’s right 3 children

Although I would sometimes wonder (at least in my head) if there was a different decision we could have made

Like maybe saved a little bit of money during seminary? Maybe we shouldn’t have backpacked thru England on our honeymoon? Maybe we shouldn’t have had 3 children? (

But I don’t think I realized that we have literally been on the line for qualifying for food stamps for now close to five years…this is on top of our way too much in credit card debt, two car payments………and college loans which (thankfully) we don’t have to pay back yet.

We don’t own a house, we rent, and of course that price goes up every year.

I guess I’ve been raised middle class, my family are middle class, everyone is very white collar, and we have education. I have great education, I went to Seminary at Princeton, I undergraded at Oberlin. We know how to make smart decisions and we don’t have to worry about the power being shut off or not having enough gas to get somewhere (about 99% of the time at least). We make our decisions from a middle class, long-ranging, educated mind-set.

I work hard. My husband works hard.

I work full time. My husband works part time and has been trying to get full time forever working a little more every year (at one point working 3 jobs just to get 20hrs a week), oh and helps take care of our 3 children 2 of whom are still in preschool…esp. now that the kids are almost all in school, its going to be totally worth it…

Someday..

But I’m tired. I’m tired of stressing about what money comes from what. I’m tired of just paying off one medical bill and getting another one in the mail having had no clue what it will cost and having no extras to budget towards it anyway.

I don’t know if we really will get food stamps, its close. Too close, probably we won’t get it (should I not have been negotiating for raises every year?)

People act like being poor is one big bad decision, or one big bad thing that happened.

I can’t find that thing, and I think because I couldn’t find the “wrong” thing we did, I couldn’t consider us poor. We went to school, we pay our bills, we work as much as possible, we trade, we economize, we don’t waste, we accept help from friends and family, we spend money on a few things to keep us “sane” but try to continually cut those costs.

So we are poor. This is why I get so angry about the “lazy Millennials” narrative. This is why I’m so vehement about offering vacation and sick to even our most part time workers on staff at the church (we can’t pay them lots but at least we can treat them like human beings). This is why I relate so well to those who facing socio-economic problems and come to the office. The number of times we have granted a congregant/community-member a short term loan when prob. I should be asking for one for my family…..

Its not like the church doesn’t pay me, they do. That’s another reason why I didn’t realize we were poor, because my church is struggling off of an endowment. And any pastor (esp. a female) who is working as a solo full time pastor is considered a good gig, plus I get paid above the minimums which makes the job seem downright cushy in these tough times.

I must say and clarify that I love my church and they pay me well (plus the professional/personal benefits are awesome). There are obviously other factors at work here.

When I consulted with a financial adviser last year the advice was basically, your making all the right decisions, you just need to be making more money.

“just”

Theologically, I believe in the abundance of God.

The other reason I had trouble believing I was poor, is because God has been abundant with me. I have friends, I have an amazing husband, I have three healthy children. My family and I get to talk regularly, as do my in-laws and I. I am working in a field I love, full-time. I am able to be me and connect to the community. We have love and laughter and libraries full of free books. I have a housing allowance and health insurance. I also don’t want to take for granted some of the hegemonic rights that we are privilege too including high education, white ethnicity and cis-hetereo-normative identifiers.

So…I don’t know what to do with all of this. It ends up being a laundry list of data, which tends to remind me that most people consider themselves to be middle class without having a clear idea of what that means, other than being part of the American Normative…

But of course, I’m not normal. I’m a fantasy – loving pastor who is open-minded but runs a traditional service, who desperately believes in queer rights but wants to walk with people wherever they are. I’m a millennial who got married and had children exceptionally young and yet am highly educated. I have lotsa children (statistically for my generation) and yet work full time. Plus, I’m a solo woman full time pastor who loves small church contexts. Oh, and I like to dress weird.

Plus, most Millennials I knew are struggling as much as I am, living with their parents for an extended period of time, always searching for more work, learning home-made crafts and arts as hobbies.

I’m not sure what all this means…but its def. a lot to think about….

Open to relationships

My colleague Rachel Young wrote an interesting piece about being missional http://pres-outlook.org/2015/02/can-introverts-missional/

which reminds me of an ongoing conversation that I have with people.

I try, try, try to practice trust, and yet still be safe. Its a particular balance. It means that sometimes your credit and debit cards get stolen right out of the church office, because you tend not to lock. I am still uncertain whether I was being too trusting or not….I now only lock when that particular group is in the church.

However, I think that the only way to build trust is to give it. You treat people with suspicion and the likelihood is they will return the favor. Plus if you don’t take chances its hard to have a relationship. You have to say hi, you have to share about yourself. Eventually you have to share your address if you want people to come over.

Basically, I feel like that trust and grace go hand in hand. In order to trust someone you have to be gracious with them, trusting that they are doing the best that they can and being gracious when people can’t live up to your standards or do things differently

Henri Nouwen calls this forgiving people for not being God i.e. all knowing and perfect.

It doesn’t mean being stomped on either, it means calling people into account, whether its because they are disrespectful to you during a meeting or they leave a mess in the church or they siphon money off the church’s accounts.

So much of my job is being open to be in relationship with people, whoever, however and whatever state they may be in. That takes trust, and graciousness and hope. It means worrying a little less, setting safe boundaries and then building a community of people who can help you if the relationship does not work out.

But I think that is a good way to describe being a minister.

Open to being in relationship with the church, the community and the world…..That is true ministry..and one in which everyone can get in on.

No Strings Attached

no-strings-attached_2

http://www.mbird.com/2009/06/theologian-of-glory-vs-theologian-of/

Ok, so according to this I am more a theologian of the glory than a theologian of the cross…sad day…wonder if these terms should be more of a balance (its the mainline thing, I like compromise)

Thoughts? Its def. a good reframing, but I’m trying to figure out the truth of it (I tend to take preaching the Good news part of my job very seriously)

Anectdotal Woman (or) 24 churches and a feminist

There are lots of stories about women in the Bible. Not all of them have names, but its nice to experience the parable.

So I’m going to tell a parable about an unnamed woman. And then I’m going to tell a lot of anecdotes that are by no means scientific but start to bear out what a woman may feel in ministry…they certainly confirmed my own experience

An unnamed woman I know got referenced for a local solo pastor position (yay!). This was very cool for many, many reasons, the first and foremost reason being that this woman is currently serving as an interim and needs a new position. This church was liberal, and Southern (thereby making it even more liberal) so looking at a young woman pastor was a pretty cool move.

She got turned down for the job, and the person who got hired was…..a man.

I have nothing against men, I think they are awesome. However, women have outnumbered men in seminary for many years now, as of 2012 only 1/3rd of pastors were women. Yep, that’s right, the PW reported to General Assembly that fully a third of pastors were women.

I am a liberal person, the PIF process is a long one. Once upon a time (a while ago) I applied to 24 “really liberal” churches. They were the “cool” ones that were Presbyterian Light, Rainbow-Friendly and environmentally sound. They were changing the style of worship, being creative in mission and had worship committees who were involved in writing liturgy.And Open, they were really, really, really, really, really, really open to ALL types of everyone/thing peoples….

24 self-proclaimed really liberal churches.

Basically none of them even called me back for a phone interview (I think I’m not hipster/cool/lesbian enough for the cool churches…I more dynamic extroverted female pastor who still does traditional worship in normal clothing, so most churches are uncertain what to do with me)

So anyway, I was deciding when/if I should follow up with my self-referrals, and it was too cumbersome to do phone calls. Since these were the hip churches they all had fully functional websites (something that drew me to these places in the first place). So I simply looked at their newsletters<–which always proclaim when new pastors come.

I noticed a pattern. I didn’t mean to notice it. I didn’t want to notice it. But after the 4th and 5th church had it, there was no stopping it.

23 of the (self-proclaimed super liberal and open) churches had hired men……only 1 hired a woman. That’s the broad perspective

On a more personal level–I am convinced that I would be in a totally different place were I male….or a different kind of female….
Lets just say that when I do the intervieiwng thing, I bowl people over (and that’s not always a good thing)

They weren’t expecting…..me….

I think the word that is the problem is Pastor…..

“You saying its hard to picture me as a Pastor…pastor, pastor…..

19789999.jpg

I don’t fit the word “pastor

into what I have found to be the three traditional roles for women ministers. Please note, I am naming these stereotypes as I see them perpetuated in culture. As I do not fit these, I also know many women for whom this stereotype falls short even if they fit it on the surface.

1. Those introverted, superfocused and reflective awesome chaplain types who can do pastoral care like no one else! Associate for pastoral care, go!

2. Those extroverted women who are loud & bombastic and obviously need to put their energy to use with the youth (preferably the younger children, leave the teens to an extroverted “very cool” male who has not yet realized his call to be the head pastor of a multi-staff church but will probably realize said call and be parachuted into said congregation once he catches up<–I’m trying not to be bitter about this pattern). Youth Associate Go!

3. The really creative and out there single mother/lesbian/crazy single lady who has short spiky hair (usually of some outlandish color), many piercings and tattoos. Amazing Solo Pastor who probably overworks for a half or three quarter time ministry, Go!

I guess I break the Mold

I am, in fact, a woman who unashamedly pursued a full time solo pastorate

and when people meet me….you know people who are looking for “the pastor”….
they don’t know what to do with me

Because I am a woman

an extroverted woman who is a great preacher, a good people person and who works really really hard at the ministry of listening and the ministry of presence….but otherwise is not shy, retiring and is not afraid to speak my opinion and to (kindly) tell the truth. In fact I rarely participate in the politicking that is usually associated with my gender.

Anecdote: I have been called many things, once I was called edgy for quoting the Book of Order, Another I was called unusual when I talked about serving the neighborhood. Some of this is part and parcel with the job, but I do think that I say things that people would expect um…..a man to say…..Specifically: I laugh a LOT in the pulpit. Every want ad for pastor I’ve ever seen wants a pastor “with a sense of humor,” but usually at some point I’m told that I laugh to much in the pulpit, because when a woman laughs, when I practice what I consider to be a spiritual practice of Good News, people assume I’m irresponsible. Laughter and Joy in a woman is assumed to be a point of flightiness (I am type A…..so I’m really wayyyyy on the other end of taking my responsibilities TOO seriously). I also have been called “young lady” whenever I tell a hard truth and speak to my authority, by multiple people.

I am a woman

A mother, who is not interested in being a children’s associate. I studied Christian Education to support the entire church’s learning and (fingers-crossed-maybe-someday) hopefully would be able to partner with those who are already doing the Christian Education in my church. I am not planning on only being a youth minister, despite the fact that I do indeed have three children…

Anecdote: I have a space marked “pastor’s spot” at the parking lot, which isn’t really my thing (special honors, no thank you), but it actually saves a lot of time. I don’t look like a typical pastor, esp. when I have a couple of kids in tow. Sometimes I have to convince people I’m a pastor, usually I have to repeat it more than once, and I’ve even had to argue with people about it (usually I just turn it into a joke). The parking spot saves me a lot of explaining, you can tell they’ve had that internal argument so by the time they arrive they are able to say “So YOUR the pastor”

I am a woman

a girl-next-door-looking-woman (brown hair and glasses to-boot, oh and I look a LOT YOUNGER than I am) who is super creative about how I build partnerships and relationships, full of energy and life I am ready to spark the excitement within the church and yet somehow does not have a million tatoos and piercings.

Anecdote: When I was in seminary I got hired on to do ministry at a Korean American church, to this day I am convinced I got hired because Koreans are used to people holding their Asian/youthful look against them and instead looked at my VERY impressive resume which states that I (always have and probably always will) have experience beyond my years! Yay for Bethany Pres!

I am a woman, and the church hasn’t found a stereotype for me……..

I have a VERY successful ministry where I am, the church is doing great, I am proud of all I have accomplished, and I’m still me, but some days its hard to have to consistently explain that not only am I actually a Presbyterian Pastor…..but I’m actually the only Pastor that I know how to be….

I think I’ll just start handing out cards that say
“atypical pastor” do you think people would then get the message not to expect whatever it was they were expecting?

And, how can we train churches (and the outside world, who seems to be just as surprised) to expect those types of people we aren’t expecting….

Faith and Doubt

Faith and Doubt

If you read the about me statement of faith, you will see that I don’t believe everything all the time (technically I think that’s impossible). However, I stand as a Christian and trust that God fills those gaps for me (partially thru the church). Here is a post about a pastor who is wrestling with belief/doubt, and faith and what atheism means. It raises good, complicated questions about how pastors and churches should be looking at faith…

 

“I was trained to believe that there was no hope outside the Cross. That people are constantly looking to fill the God-shaped hole inside of them. That we are all looking for a Savior. I am not so sure about that anymore. Sure, some people are. Others are content to live in the moment, find happiness where they are, and simply be. Wherever I come out, it will not be the reformed charismatic pastor/theologian I once was.”

Picture a pasto…

Picture a pastor–chances are you didn’t picture someone like me…now picture church–nope that’s not how I do that either… 🙂

You keep saying that word, I don’t think it means what you think it is