Tuesday, January 21, 2014


Women were not ordained in the Lutheran church until 1970.
I had never heard a female preacher until 1996.
But yesterday reminded me that we've come so far in one generation.

I attended the MLK celebration at Luther Seminary, where Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton and Pastor Kelly Chatman led the service. Pastor Kelly read a text from Revelation and then proclaimed, "This is God's wildest dream. We are God's wildest dream!" Looking around, I believed him.

The pews were full and people were standing, some rocking babies. We were praying and singing in so many languages. The scene was a wide community - people of different colors, races, ages, genders, sexual orientations, abilities, incomes and vocations - all united in Christ's saving love.

I caught up with my local bishop, Ann Svennungsen, in the narthex and thought, "It is a big deal that she is a woman…and yet it isn't."

I received absolution and was invited to the table with words from my national bishop, Elizabeth Eaton, and thought, "It is a big deal that she is a woman…and yet it isn't."

I held out my hands for Christ's body and blood from Pastor Kelly and thought, "It is a big deal that he is an African-American…and yet it isn't."

My daughters will soon be born into a very different church than I. In one generation, much has transformed. Many more are included. Being the church has become significantly more difficult, which is a sneaky and Spirit-filled blessing.

There is still work to be done. Women burn out of ministry more quickly than men do. We are still subject to stereotypes, assumptions and the negation of our calls by some. 98% of part-time pastoral calls are held by women and we are often passed over for solo and senior roles because we don't "look" administrative.

And yet I am a solo pastor who planned her own maternity leave and then proposed (declared?) it to the church council. For every naysayer who questions my discernment and leadership, there are 99 people who don't seem to notice or care that I am female. I believe some of my greatest strengths as a leader are for stewardship, preaching, and conflict resolution. As the baby boomer generation of Lutheran pastors (mostly white males) retire, there is some new space for my generation of colleagues rich with diversity to lead well.

This is God's wildest dream - that our welcome gets wider and our passion for God's call gets deeper. My eyes filled with tears during the service as the girls kicked and rumbled inside me. Do they already know? Do they already believe they can be and do anything?

I am humbled and energized by Pastor Kelly's declaration. We are all called to do great and hard things. And the Holy Spirit is always at work, chipping away at our boundaries and divisions so there is room for God's wildest dream in the midst of the church. So there is room for very pregnant pastor mamas to amble up for the sacrament. So there are female bishops. So Pastor Kelly can preach with passion on MLK day. So the babies being rocked in the midst of it all know belonging from the beginning.

It is a big deal, but it is mostly a big deal because it's not a big deal.

Friday, January 17, 2014

crabby love.

I love crabby, angry Jesus. It good to be reminded that God's relationship with us is really hard for God, too. We can be frustrating and dopey. God can be impatient and jealous. What a complicated, totally common thing we've got going on here between heaven and earth - it's raw and dicey and holy just like so many of our human relationships.

This Sunday's text is Jesus Cleansing the Temple in John's Gospel. John puts this story right after the Wedding at Cana. Joyful celebration turns to sorrowful anger in a hurry. As God's people congregate in Jerusalem for the Passover celebration, they are focused on the transactional rituals of the season - the buying and selling and bringing and bartering of this holy time. (Sounds like a few Christian holidays these days, right?)

Jesus enters the temple prepared for the relational rituals - prayer, breaking bread, hearing the Word, being made new. But the transactional is so much louder and more urgent. It is a physical and spiritual barrier to the good things the temple has promised for so many years:

a place for God's holy name to dwell

a place that blesses and renews

a place that calls us to divine holiness

a place where heaven and earth meet

Jesus takes one look at the moneychangers and sacrifices available for purchase, then flies off the handle. He will not put up with this crap. I don't know that I've ever been mad enough to actually make a whip out of cords, but Jesus finds that rage early on in John's gospel and gets to work chasing out everything that distracts from the relational.

And then all that anger turns into a great promise.

There will be another temple,
     but relational: broken and rebuilt.
There will be sacrifice,
     but not yours.
There will be transaction,
     but what you bring are empty hands and hungry hearts.
There will be dwelling,
     but it will be made of flesh instead of stone.
There will be blessing,
     but it will not be earned.
There will be holiness,
     but it is not calculated in doves and sheep.

Jesus promises his body and blood so early in this gospel.
Despite all fury and frustration, there is deep love and true sacrifice.

It comes all the way to us and then that flesh gets inside our flesh,
tangled up in grace - raw, dicey, holy grace that makes us new.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

a & b.

34 weeks & 2 days.

This is where you live, A. 
Quietly, but urgently.
It is clear you will set the pace for our Olympic team of three.
I will breathe deeply and follow.

This is where you live, B.
Always dancing and stirring.
I will expect the unexpected when it comes to you.
I am along for the ride.


I fear I become a brassy know-it-all right before giving birth.

I'm impatient and tired. Sleeping in 30 minute intervals and using the restroom round the clock makes me feel snarky and demanding. Thus, I have words for the House and Senate as we approach the January 15 stopgap spending bill deadline.

My whole professional career has been during this recession, which has made me a crafty saver and a thoughtful spender. My husband and I are probably over-educated for our respective earning potential, but love what we do and that's what matters.

I get frustrated watching our leaders whine and butt heads about this country's finances, as though everyone needs to get what they want and their reelection is our collective priority. So here are my suggestions, you stumped politicians. Take 'em or leave 'em.

1. Fall in love with someone who differs from you politically. Pull a Carville | Matalin and figure out how to be passionate about the issues and respectful about the people. Learn to play Devil's Advocate well. Begin to believe that there are smart people out there who think differently than you do.

2. Sign a legal document that ties you to them for life and sleep with them. That's when you know it's not just posturing! I think this would work well among our nation's politicians. Stop sleeping with your aides and nannies and instead draw names with your colleagues across the aisle. You'd probably get more accomplished and we wouldn't have to hear so much about your Twitter feeds and sleazy emails.

3. Try running a business (or pastoring a church) that makes miracles happen on a shoestring budget. Budgets aren't just about slashing or just about handouts. They're about careful generosity. They're about planning well and having really hard conversations. They're about faithful flexibility. And when you find that sweet spot between responsibility and extravagant relationships, there's nothing partisan about it.

4. Accidentally get pregnant with twins. While you're trying to balance a tiny business' or congregation's budget, find out your personal budget is about to get blown out of the water by 20 diapers a day and two more mouths to feed. Then take a Xanax, buck up, and get to work with your partner across the aisle. Together you'll figure out something that works without bickering and blaming. Why's that? Because you'll be in it together, silly. You'll be rooting for each other and your collective future.

5. Stop leaning so heavily into deadlines and the eleventh hour. Getting pregnant with twins will be good practice for this - especially if you're orchestrating your own parental leave logistics while balancing these budgets and loving someone across the aisle. With multiples, your due date doesn't mean much, so you can't take that third trimester for granted. You work ahead and you work hard. You communicate well and do your best to make sure people aren't left in the lurch if you run out of time.

So there you have it. My brassy, bossy, Big Mama opinions about January 15 and life in general. If these kids come soon, you won't have to deal with another outburst from me this winter…but aren't you glad you got this one?

Monday, January 6, 2014


My Facebook newsfeed is filled with midwesterners commenting about the weather. It's cold. It's polar vortex cold. Minneapolis Public Schools are closed and many are working from home today. Local and national news can't stop talking about the deep freeze, offering common sense advice for people who drive cars and manage functional thermostats and have the luxury of either going out or staying in.

But there is little chatter and news coverage about the ones this brutal weather actually affects. Buses are still running and people are still waiting at stops. Urban shelters are overwhelmed and some are still turned away. Social services are stepping up, doing what they can. Single moms who need milk or formula today might bundle up all three kids and walk several blocks to the store to get what they need.

I am not concerned about people driving insured cars with emergency kits in the trunk or folks working from home. I have some empathy for parents scrambling to find childcare today, but they will be inconvenienced, not physically unsafe.

It is cold, but we are Minnesotans, people. Buck up. Embrace the polar vortex and turn the focus. It's a chance to shiver in awe of this wild world and all the things we cannot control. We are called to slow and hunker and care for the safety of one another.

If you live in the Twin Cities and see someone who may be homeless and struggling today, read this and call the number for help.