Sunday, December 01, 2013

Regarding the Elf on the Shelf

I do not like that smirking elf,
     the one that sits upon a shelf. 
He spies on children every day
     reporting all they do and say,
Of course, you know it’s all a scam,
     disguised as Santa’s “Naughty Cam.”
It’s meant to keep the kids in line
     eliminating Christmas whine.
And yet I think it’s more than cruel
     and shows that Santa’s just a tool.
This season should be filled with joys
     instead of frightened girls and boys,
     who come to think that love is earned
     and you’ve been bad, if you get spurned.
I’d rather have my children see
     that love’s a gift we give for free.

Friday, November 08, 2013

Let's go outside and talk about Jesus!

“What is public theology?”  I was asked this question during week seven of the “Introduction to Public Theology” course.  It was one of those moments when you take a deep breath and wish that there was someone else in the room to answer the question.  Twenty pairs of eyes looked my way and I couldn’t help but wonder why the question came up in week seven instead of week two?  And where was my co-leader with the PhD?

For seven years, I had been listening to faculty, students and staff talk about the seminary’s commitment to public theology, but for at least six of those years, I wasn’t sure I knew what they were talking about.  It had to be more involved than doing theology in public.  Right?

It’s not.  At least that’s what I told the student who asked me the question.  It’s talking about God and doing God’s work in the public forum.  It’s being straight forward about who you are and what you believe, with whomever you encounter in daily life.

The next question came. “Well, why is that important?”  I wondered if it was a trick question until I realized the student was sincere.  I took one more deep breath and hoped I would successfully make my point.  Public theology is important because we aren’t just called to do theology inside the church.  We’re called to go out into the world and share the good news of Jesus Christ.

I think he wanted a more complex answer or permission to just deal with the folks inside the building.  But I don’t believe that’s how it works.  All theology if it is going to be effective has to go public at some time or another.  If we only talk to each other, we’re only doing half the job.


Wednesday, October 02, 2013

I love this picture!

The RevGals have recently reformatted their blog.  As always there is a lot of great writing going on, but there are also some wonderful new photographs in the banner of the blog.  Sent in by women around the world, the artwork gives a peak into the lives of members at work and at play.  This is ones of my favorites.

Many of my colleagues have made comments about this photograph.  The little girls are so engaged and full of energy you can practically hear their bouncing questions and answers. That's not why I like this picture though.  You see, when I was a little girl, this picture would not have been possible.  There were no women pastors in my denomination in the 1960's.  Women typically didn't assist in worship and little girls were not able to serve as acolytes.  Women simply were not in the chancel area unless they were doing the work of the Altar Guild before or after worship.

When I was the size of these little girls, children were not invited up to the altar area.  There were no children's sermons.  You sat in your pew while the grown-ups went forward for communion. While I wondered what was happening up at the rail, I usually kept a tally of the women's hats. Two blue ones, three black ones, a white one..  I was pretty sure something serious, if not sad was happening up front.  The adults always looked so somber.  Sometimes there were even tears.  Nobody was exploring the font or sitting on the floor or giggling with the pastor. Worship was serious business.

Worship is still serious business, but now little girls can splash in the font and talk about the water and the word.  Pastors debate theology with their youngest members and everybody is welcome at the table. 

I love this picture.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Do We Still Know How to Tell a Story?

This week's homework asked us to write a 100-300 word essay on a topic related to the "Digital Reformation" and its impact on the church.  I wrote my essay, but I went off in a slightly different direction when it came to publishing it for the class.

Friday, September 13, 2013

The Importance of Passion and Integrity

When my mother was growing up, a part of the Confirmation program was memorizing Luther’s “Small Catechism.”  Whenever they had committed a section to memory, they would make an appointment with the pastor to recite the chosen passage.  The finale was the Sunday when each student was publicly examined by a member of the Church Council.  Being a kind fellow, the pastor would let the students know which portion of the Catechism they would be asked about.

As a confirmand, I was thankful that my pastor did not require us to memorize the catechism.  As a pastor, I couldn’t imagine demanding such rote learning from my students.  And yet I wonder.  What did I miss by not learning the Catechism by heart?  I know bits and pieces.  “I cannot by my own strength or understanding come to believe in Jesus Christ my Lord.”  “It is not the water but the word of God that does these things.”  “…whoever believes these words has what they declare and state, namely ‘forgiveness of sin.’”

Those biblical and theological ideas are foundational to who I am as a Christian.  They are a central part of the toolkit that I have shared with students for more than twenty years.  They are a platform on which to stand; a set of beliefs that can be publicly declared.  I am not proposing that we return to the Twentieth century model of learning the catechism by rote, but what would it look like to so immerse ourselves in the language and theology of the catechism, that we couldn’t help but remember those passages we find particularly significant?

One key to this immersion would be an intentionality on the part of the congregational leadership to find ways to lift up the content of the catechism in as many ways possible without degrading the integrity of the work.  A second important factor would be the enthusiastic engagement of the pastor and church leaders.  If you’re not passionate about teaching fifth graders about the benefits of Holy Communion, you are selling them short.  If the kindergartners don’t know that it is just plain old water in the font and that it is the Word that makes baptism powerful, then get to it!  If adults still feel that there is no good news in the Ten Commandments, then why bother discussing them at all? 

Luther’s Small Catechism is one of the best tools we have to offer people.  It is succinct, poetic, theologically astute and deeply biblical.  To not raise it up again and again in parish life, is a mistake.  To share it without passion or integrity is a waste.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

but put the best construction on all that they do.

Something perverse happens to girls during the summer before they enter the eighth grade.  Having previously been fresh faced twelve-year-olds with a childlike sense of the world, they arrive three months later wearing too much eyeliner and demonstrating their ability to verbally eviscerate anyone who gets in their way.  Strangely enough, these same thirteen-year-old girls are also extremely fragile creatures willing to believe the worst lies, gossip and misinformation.  It is to these children of God that a wise catechist should introduce Luther’s explanation to the eighth commandment.

We are to fear and love God, so that we do not tell lies about our neighbors, betray or slander them, or destroy their reputations.  Instead we are to come to their defense, speak well of them, and interpret everything they do in the best possible light.

In a culture that is dealing not only with old fashioned harassment, but also the cyber-bullying that happens in social media, the Small Catechism provides pastors, catechists and parents an opportunity to discuss this important topic from a Christian perspective.  Research “tells us that children really do look to their parents and caregivers for advice and help about difficult choices and decisions.”[i]   The Lutheran “so that” found in the explanation to the eight commandment can guide conversations about how we can prevent bullying by putting the best construction on the actions of our neighbors.  Equally significant for the person of faith, we do these things, not because we are frightened or simply obeying the rules.  We do these things because we love God and God’s people.
Author's note:  This is an essay written for the course, "Catechism as Platform: Teaching the Catechism in a Digital Age" at the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia.  

[i] [i] “Make Time To Listen...Take Time To Talk...ABOUT BULLYING,” U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES,  Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Mental Health Services, accessed September 3, 2013,


Friday, July 26, 2013

Investing in the Future

in·vest·ment     noun       /inˈves(t)mənt/
  1. The action or process of investing money for profit or material result.
  2. A thing that is worth buying because it may be profitable or useful in the future.
Over the last eight years, many of us have invested in the RevGalBlogPals.  Not with anything so mundane as money.  Instead people have participated in this ministry by giving their time, their words, their dreams and their passions.  They have done it willingly, earnestly and at times with a sense of desperation, knowing that if they couldn’t speak those words somewhere they might just break apart into a million pieces.
RevGals gathered for a celebration, RevHRod at 11 o'clock.
The shared value of writing and reading has been incredible.  We have laughed and listened.  Cried and crowed.  We have blessed and prayed and cheered each other on.  The return on our investment has been tangible, for as Anna Quindlen has said in her book How Reading Changed My Life, “I have traveled, not only to other worlds, but into my own. I learned who I was and who I wanted to be, what I might aspire to, and what I might dare to dream about my world and myself.”

Now the time has come to step up our investment. RevGalBlogPals is ready to grow in some new directions, but in order for that to happen we need to generate some income.  A clever dictionary writer has proclaimed that an investment is “a thing that is worth buying because it may be profitable or useful in the future.”  Without question, the RevGals fall under this definition.

For me, the financial contribution I make to RevGalBlogPals is an investment in my mental health.  It’s cheaper than therapy and it’s also tax deductible.  Please consider sharing in this investment and be assured your gift will make a difference.

Please make a donation via PayPal or send a check to:

RevGalBlogPals, Inc.
2101 West Oak Street
Denton, TX 76201

RevGalBlogPals, Inc., is a 501(c)3, and all donations are tax deductible.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

We Heard It's Your Birthday!

The RevGalBlogPals blog ring is 8 years old.  Over at the blog, Teri posed the questions for this week's "Carnival Ride."

Because eight year olds love things that are slightly complicated but not really, and because 8 year olds are some of the most imaginative people I know, we'll be doing a two-part carnival this week!

  1. What's your birthday tradition?
  2. If you were blowing out the RevGal birthday candles, what would you wish for us? What's your dream for RevGalBlogPals?
In the land of my childhood, the tradition that was probably the most significant was standing on your chair.  After dinner or at your party, you got up and stood on the chair.  The dining room chair!  The lights would be dimmed and the lit cake would be brought in as everyone sang "Happy Birthday."  My mother was brought up in a family where the motto was "Don't make a scene." So I suspect the chair thing was my father's idea. 

The only time I have ever willingly stood on a chair was on my birthday.    For someone who has always had a fear of falling, this would not have been my first choice for an established tradition.  And yet, I have this clear memory of the feelings it created within me.  A sense of delight combined with a certain shyness and a feeling of danger blended with joy.  I remember wondering what I should do with my hands.  

My wish for the RevGalBlogPals is that we would stand on our chair.  This group includes brilliant minds, published authors, funny, caring, compassionate pastors and lay people.  The generosity of spirit. The transparency within relationships.  I wonder if we always claim all that we are. Are our dreams big enough? It's time to stand on our chair.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Silly, silly Friday Five

The task for the morning, use these five words, in any tense, in a sentence.  On your mark, get set, GO!

  1. I wrenched my back and said a really bad word, (think puppy's mother) bending over in the pulpit, just as a mouse scurried out from under the first pew and into the chancel area.
  2. I love that in Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf, the part of the Grandfather is played by the bassoon, but I weep in my chair and say a prayer whenever I hear the timpani play the gunshots of the hunters.
  3. Wednesday as we were driving through Maryland, I wished we might see some turtles walk across the road and yet my heart beats rapidly and I want to shutter my eyes at the thought of running over one.
  4. I trust that after you finish howling with laughter at the story of my recent fall you will worry more about safety and less about looking out the window at those boys!
  5. Bob laughed at the hat that the old gardener wore but sighed with delight when the young shepherdess strolled by. 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Who did you meet on your way to the fair?

I am late to post to this week's RevGalBlogPal's "Carnival."  I've been on a three day road trip with the Soda Chicky and I had minimal contact with anyone but the girl.  By the way, if you ever have a chance to go to Assateague Island
which is half in Maryland and half in Virginia-  go!  Seeing the wild horses that have lived there for about 300 years is amazing.

About six years ago, I was a more regular blogger and had a variety of RevGalBlogPals who I regularly read and posted comments with.  One was a younger woman, single, working at a Lutheran church and thinking about seminary.  I hoped she would meet the particular challenges she was facing and I loved her sense of humor.

One day I got a message from my blogger friend "Ruth" at Lutheran Flavor saying that based on my self-description she was pretty sure I worked at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia.  If this was true, she hoped that we could meet when she was visiting the campus.  We met, we chatted and the next Fall she was a student at LTSP.  My friend the Ukulele Player worked with me at the seminary bookstore for three years and we had a marvelous time.  Here is a photo from her non-air conditioned ordination.  I am the soggy one in the back row all the way to the left.  

This past December, Soda Chicky and I took another road trip.  We attended the wondrous wedding of Songbird and Will Smama.  Then we went to see the Ukulele Player at her parish located in the birthplace of Converse sneakers.  It was a wonderful visit.  We spend New Year's Eve eating junk and watching TV.  The next day we watched "Some Like It Hot,"  "Connie and Carla," and finished up with "Victor/Victoria."  (We were on a roll.)  
Somehow, I suspect we would have met even if not for the RevGals, but because we did, we didn't start our "in person" friendship at the beginning.  We were already in the middle when we met. Such a blessing.  So cool!

Another aside - at age 20, my daughter has met a variety of RevGals. (She has wanted to be a RevGal for years.)   She is Facebook friends with some and a member of the Facebook RGBP group  I have promised she can go to BE 8,0 after she has turned 21. She wishes she didn't have to wait.  Who knew we were so cool?

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

My Fine Friends

This month my beloved RevGalBlogPals have double dog dared us to write something every week in July.  It's a "blog carnival" and the first question is What does Galship mean to you?*

About eight years ago I discovered the world of blogging.  My friend Lutheran Zephyr recommended it and at the time it gave me a place to anonymously vent about this and that.  A month or so later I had discovered the RevGalBlogPals ring and tentatively asked permission to join.  I read.  I commented.  I blogged.  I laughed and cried and confused my family with talk of SongbirdWill's Mama, Elastigirl, the Vicar of Hogsmeade and so many others. When the first Big Event was advertised I signed up and then instantly regretted it.  

What if nobody talked to me?  What if they didn't like me in real life?  What if I got seasick or lonely or bored? I didn't really know these women!  What was I thinking?

My daughter, who was 12 at the time, told me to "Stop worrying. It'll be fine!"  So off I went, feeling nervous and shy and slightly nauseous.  

The daughter was right.  It was fine.  More than fine.  It was one of the best weeks ever.  I relaxed.  I got to put voices and faces with names and stories. My online community became tangible and touchable.  

Since then, these "gals" have shared my joys and prayed when I sorrowed.  They have held my secrets and proclaimed the gospel.  I have delighted to spend time with them in the presence of my 78 year old mother and my 20 year old daughter.  They have saved my life on more than one occasion.  

Sounds mushy, I know, but galship isn't just girly friendship.  It is a deep, compassionate, honest, committed relationship centered in a shared faith in Jesus Christ.  It is not so much rare as remarkable.  It is fine, which if you check, may be defined as 
  1. of superior or best quality; of high or highest grade:
  2. choice, excellent, or admirable:
  3. keen or sharp, as a tool.
*I have edited this post three or four times.  In part this was related to my lack of enthusiasm for the word gal.  I struggle with it because so often it feels like people use gal when they really mean woman.  Please know that my feeling about this particular word is no reflection on my deep love for those known as the RevGalBlogPals.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

GRACE at the Parkway Lot at JFK Blvd and 30th St

On Monday I parked my car at a lot about two blocks from the 30th Street train station before boarding Amtrak for parts north.  In my imagination, this whole venture was going to be simplified because I was leaving my car behind for three days.  Oh, the powers of the the imagination!

When I got to the other end of the line, I was met by a delightful new friend who was on the planning team for the event.  We had donuts, picked up a third rider and made our way further north.  All was good.

On Wednesday afternoon, it was time to go home.  Through no body's fault, I missed my train.  No problem, another one always comes along.  Unfortunately, Amtrak thinks that not all trains have the same value, so in order to get home, I could pay anywhere from $50 to $12 in additional costs.  I went for the later, cheaper train, knowing that this now meant I did not have to make dinner!  However, I have dawdled over replacing my ATM card.  It was fraudulently used to attempt a purchase of $400 worth of something from QVC.  So after I paid for my new train ticket, I no longer had enough cash to get my car out of the parking lot.

My husband was going to be mad.

Or at least righteously indignant.  I had procrastinated and now I was in a fix.  He was going to have to come bail me out. That's when something good happened.

I explained my dilemma to the parking lot attendant.  I had no expectations, I just wanted to find out how much the bill was going to be.  I was nearly twenty dollars short.  I prepared to go back to my car and wait for my husband to rescue me, when the attendant started to look around her booth.  She called her manager and after a very brief, matter of fact conversation, he forgave my debt.

I had pulled one of my business cards out so that I could write an IOU.  Now these are not my serious cards.  These are my "go play and make new friends" cards.  On the back of each one is a word.

The one at the top of the pile was GRACE.  I don't know if the attendant made the connection, but I certainly did.  As she read my IOU she said, "I wouldn't worry about it.  I think once you drive away that's the end of it."  She wasn't cheery.  She didn't smile, but I thanked her for her graciousness and headed for home.

If you need a place to park near the 30th Street Station, I strongly recommend Parkway at JFK Blvd and 30th Street.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

You are there and I am here.

I read a Facebook post this afternoon from someone affirming how the presence of a certain online community had strengthened her during a tough week.  Oh how I know what she means.

I have friends all over the world who are connected by the magic of the internet.  I've met a lot of them but not all.  I have prayed for them.  Laughed with them.  Had snarky little fights with a few.  Debated theology.  Wondered about life.  And then in less public forums, I have cried and been comforted.  Had my hand figuratively held.  Had my butt kicked a few times when I needed it.

The Bug Man finds it all rather mystifying.  He's not interested in chatting or texting or posting.  For him, the internet is what allows him to watch his beloved St. Louis Cardinals even when they're not playing the local team.  Anything else is unnecessary fluff.

Some would argue that all this technology is causing us to be insulated and separated from the world.  I know when my daughter texts at the dinner table I find myself feeling disconnected from her.  I suspect I do not have her full attention in those moments, no matter how scintillating the conversation may have been before her phone made that chirpy little bing bong noise.   And yet-  I have friends all over the world.  And just knowing that they are there, makes a world of difference.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Romans Five and the Dandelions

While many of my friends and colleagues were debating on how to best discuss the Trinity with the kids at church-  I ran in the other direction.  I've been down that path before and I just didn't want to go there today.

Instead we talked about the lesson from Romans.  

Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. 3And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5and hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

The trick it seemed was how to give them something concrete to attach to the abstract.  They had great definitions for suffering, endurance, character and hope.  Then we talked about dandelions.  The suffering, pushing, struggling and change that a seed must go through in order to spring from the ground.  The endurance of a young seedling that has survived and kept at the growing process.  The character of a bright yellow flower with strong roots and confident color.  And the hope as the clocks float in the air to become new flowers.

Does it connect?  It worked for me.  Time will tell what the young theologians will remember.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Where've You Been?

It's funny how a habit can broken.  It took me months to quit smoking but somehow it was much easier to abandon my blog.  I blame Facebook.  Suddenly I could chat with people I used to follow in the blogging world.  I could post photos.  I could stalk my teenage daughter.  All was good.

And then this week I was talking to a friend who gets paid to write and talk for a living.  (Lucky woman!)  As we chatted on our way to the airport, I realized I don't do that much public writing anymore.  No church newsletters.  Not as many sermons.  So here I am.  With my "voice" a little hoarse from not being used.  Let's see what happens.