A Blessing for the Preachers

Festival of Young Women Preachers
April 7, 2016 | Eden Seminary | St. Louis, Missouri 

Festival of Young (Women) PreachersA Blessing for the Preachers

Bless these hands as they handle sacred Scripture, and sacred stories, and sacred moments of the preaching and pastoral life.

Bless these ears as they strain to hear a living, breathing word, as they listen carefully, tentatively and generously.

Bless these eyes as they behold a world beloved by you, O God. Bless these eyes as they see both its beauty and its brokenness. Bless these eyes to see your new creation.

Bless these lips as they speak what they have seen and heard and learned. Bless these lips as they speak from the mind and from the heart words of truth and compassion for your people.

Bless these preacher-pastors as they embody your sacred presence and invite others into that presence. Bless these pastor-preachers as they bear witness to life in all its fullness. Give them courage and hope for their calling. Amyn.

 

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This blessing was written for the new preachers who took part in a preaching festival sponsored by the Alliance of Baptists prior to the annual gathering.

Easter – Practice Resurrection

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These orchids from Thailand are endangered. Whole regions are absent their beauty although they used to grow wild in many places around the region. I took these photos as I walked the trails in an orchid farm near Chiang Mai. People are cultivating space to keep the plants growing and regenerating. Sometimes resurrection takes a carefully cultivated practice. It is still not guaranteed. That’s not how resurrection works. But sometimes in the daily practice, the miracle – like these beauties – comes bursting into our lives.

Farmer and poet Wendell Berry knew it: We need to practice resurrection more than we need to believe it.

Easter Blessings to you!

Practice Resurrection

 

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Anatomy of a Schism – Book Cover

I’m a little stunned by this… When I was testing out possible book cover designs last fall, I never dreamed that University of Tennessee Press would take my suggestions outright. But I’m so completely delighted that this will be my book cover!

The photo is one I took in the chapel at First Baptist Greenville, SC. Such a gorgeous space. And lucky pic.

This week I’m working on second proofs (making sure every correction was caught in the text) and planning for my pre-publication tour in NC Feb. 21-25. See the schedule HERE!

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Epiphany | Martha Stearns Marshall Month

CBTSScholastica2015(10of103)ERCR+1Martha Stearns Marshall Month*
Six Stages of Why You Should Invite a Woman to Preach

Why should you invite a woman to preach in your church during Martha Stearns Marshall Month, this February? Well, it depends on where your church is along the pathway of accepting women in ministry. Whether you are at the “Been-there-done-that!-Have-two-women-pastors-and-a-T-shirt-to-prove-it” stage or the “We’ve-heard-that-women-can-preach-but-oh-my-goodness-can-we-do-that?” stage, you should choose a Sunday in February and invite a woman to preach. Let me help you see what I mean. Here are six stages of why you should invite a woman to preach!

Stage 1: “We’ve-heard-that-women-can-preach-but-oh-my-goodness-can-we-do-that?” If you are at this early stage of accepting women as pastors and preachers, then it is high time you get more experience! Women do not bite. Although their preaching might have some teeth. So make your invitation today. You are in for a treat. You can do that!

Stage 2: “We’ll-probably-get-kicked-out-of-something-if-we-have-a-woman-preach.” If you are at this stage, it is time to take a risk. Perhaps getting kicked out of your association or state convention will be about as devastating as getting kicked out of the Book of the Month Club. It’s a loss you can handle, and you might have been in the wrong club anyway!

Stage 3: “Oh-yes-we-support-women!-We-heard-one-preach-here…Umm-two-years-ago?” Put your money where your mouth is. Support for women in ministry can’t be in word only! Invite a current member of your church or another woman to preach, and take her out to lunch. Give her an honorarium: at least the same amount you would give a male supply preacher! Don’t just talk about your support. Show it!

Stage 4: “But-we-have-women-on-staff-already!” Perfect. Ask one of them to preach in February. If it is not among her regular duties, this is an opportunity for her, and for you as a congregation, to stretch and grow. Participating in MSM Month will affirm the value of women’s leadership as well as this particular woman’s value to your church! If you and she are really sure that it is not her gift or desire, then invite another woman to preach! Need a name? Ask Baptist Women in Ministry, and they will help you find a woman near you!

Stage 5: “But-we-just-called-a-woman-to-be-our-pastor!” Great! And you might have MSM Month to thank as one of the many ways she found support for her call to ministry! Or perhaps MSM Month helped open up your congregation to be ready to call her as your pastor. Opening and widening the vocational pathway to ministry for more women is a great reason for churches – even those with female pastors – to observe MSM Month every year!

Stage 6: “Been-there-done-that!-Have-two-women-pastors-and-a-T-shirt-to-prove-it!” If you are this far down the path of accepting women’s preaching and pastoral leadership, then MSM Month is an even bigger gift for you! It gives you an opportunity to a) bring a seminary or a college student into your pulpit and expand your church’s teaching and encouraging role with the newly called; b) give your pastor a respite from weekly preaching while still enjoying worship with you; c) make a more prophetic and public stand for the sake of women in ministry; and d) build a culture of calling and support for women and men to engage in ministries of shared leadership.

Whatever stage you find yourself, Martha Stearns Marshall Month is for you! Now pull out that calendar… February is just around the corner!

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* For more about the woman, Martha Stearns Marshall, click here. To learn more about MSM Month, click here.

 

Advent | Week 1

HOPE

For Advent this year I’m taking up the invitation from the Anglican Communion to pray through the season with an #AdventWord each day and an accompanying photo or video. This post is the summary of Week 1 of Advent. Hoping….

#WAKEUP

#WAKEUP

11.29.30 The #AdventWord is #wakeup
I made this pic of the early morning fog from the megabus ride last week heading from AAR to East Tennessee for Thanksgiving. I was just barely awake at the time.

If you want to participate in the advent season through sharing themed photos, you can take a look here… http://aco.org/adventword

#PROCLAIM

#PROCLAIM

11.30.15 Today’s #AdventWord is #Proclaim.
My congregation – Glendale Baptist – does it oh so well. Yesterday I saw & heard proclamations of hope and longing, word and song, laughter and lament. All the best ways to open the season.
And besides that I love the liturgical blues.

#GIVE

#Give

12.01.15  The #AdventWord is #Give. Even on this grey and rainy day (4th in a row) these Bradford pear trees just keep giving, adding color to the morning, standing sentinel on the changing season.

#FORGIVE

12.02.15  The #AdventWord for today is #Forgive.
There is so much in life that needs forgiving and forgiveness … that which is personal and needs relational repair … And that which is corporate and needs restoration for systems of harm and injustice. Forgiveness is an everyday practice.

In my experience harms large and small are often a lack or failure of loving well enough. So I’ve chosen a video for today’s advent word.

If you’ll listen to Marketa Irglova all the way to the end you’ll here the beautiful mantra that ends the song ‘on my mind.’

#REPENT

#REPENT

12.03.15 The #AdventWord today is #Repent. It’s been on my mind all day. Hard to choose an image….
This broken heart from last summer reminds me of the emotional and embodied cost of lasting change born of repentance.

#WORSHIP

#WORSHIP

12.04.15  Today’s #AdventWord is #Worship. This pic is my first-Sunday-in-Advent Zentangle. Hope, peace, joy and love feel tenuous in our shared world at the moment. So we hold on to them like one would hold a small bird (as Parker Palmer says) – not too tightly lest we squeeze the life out of them, nor too loosely lest they fly away. God have mercy.

#BELIEVE

12.05.15  Today’s #AdventWord is #Believe. For me growing up believing was all. It was highly overrated. Didn’t really matter that you hated your Jewish neighbors or thought you’re Catholic family members were going to hell or used up the environment as if there were no tomorrow. All, A–L–L that mattered was that you could say you believed in Jesus as the only way of salvation. So simplistic.

What I believe and what I do and what I say and how I feel are related in very complex and sometimes incomprehensible ways. For advent we are invited to renew our belief in love. We’re invited to renew our feelings of love and our practice of love. And our inspiration for advent comes in the love of mothers and fathers and babies and the scandal of God’s love for inconsistent and messy human beings. Like me. And you.

Here is Mumford and Sons singing #Believe.

 

Ordinary Time – Praying for Faith Leaders

Beirut-Paris-Iraq-Syria

For everyone who needs to preach and pray publicly this weekend – from any faith perspective – and especially Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders, I’m praying with and for you and the tensions you hold as you …
… speak truth to power
… hold out lament and hope
… bear witness to the good and evil of humanity and of religion
… imagine how to lead in a world reeling in chaos and grief
… offer good news of love and peace in the face of doubt and despair
… pray.

Blessings for you as you speak, hold silence, sing, cry out, guide, sit in ashes, provoke, comfort, and shepherd your people.

#Beirut #Paris #Iraq #Syria

Wednesday Words for Writers ~ B

BLOCKSBlocks

What usually comes to mind when you think of “writer’s block”? Is it the blank page or flashing cursor on the screen? The stories and words that won’t be fully formed in your mind? Or is it that elusive idea that seemed clear, yet now seems far away? It’s commonsense that writer’s block is a fear of writing itself. A blocked writer freezes up like a reluctant diver stuck at the top of the 30 meter platform or a spelunker unable to enter the cave. All wish to dive in, but they are paralyzed by fear. Blocked.

Recently I saw writer’s block in a whole new way. Neither writing nor the fear of writing are the true source of the blockade. Rather writing acts as a big overwhelming distraction. It stands in the way and keeps you from noticing something else. You’re not blocked from writing. But rather the writing blocks you from something else by distracting you!

What exactly might a big ole giant writing project distract you from? It distracts you and overwhelms you and prevents you from feeling whatever it is that your unconscious doesn’t want you to feel. In fact the unconscious is filled with everyday tensions, chronic anxieties, and ancient unresolved feelings of anger, rage, disappointment, sadness, disgust, as well as other socially questionable thoughts and feelings. The unconscious is like a prison guard determined not to let those reprobate feelings and beliefs out!

The writing itself – your book, poem, essay, or devotional — in sneaking fashion becomes part of the prison system, one of the jailers, that keeps your dangerous feelings hidden from you. “Hey look at me! I’m an impossible and daunting task!” says the writing. “Focus on me! See how I’m going to exhaust you and ruin your life, and you’ll forget all about those wayward feelings from your past.”

Many who read this won’t believe, but the ones who are willing to suspend their disbelief can try the following exercise. Julia Cameron, Naomi Goldberg, Robert Boice are wise writers about the writing process, and they each support this plan: try a brief, timed session of free-writing. Fifteen minutes will do. Don’t exceed 25. Don’t lift your pen from paper or fingers from keys. Go until your timer says stop.

Free writing with no restraints is like a secret underground tunnel that lets the blocked feelings and other bunk find their way out first… There will be shame and rage and sadness and longing. You’ll see old stories of your deep down blueprint about what you believe about yourself come pouring out. Eventually. These feelings and beliefs are the safety strategies from your infancy and childhood that keep masquerading as “helpful” even though you’re an adult now. And the threats perceived in your young life are no longer real, present or dangerous. These feelings and beliefs are mirrors of the major traumas and chronic disappointments of your early experience, and if you put your pen on paper and don’t hold back they will come flowing out in a flood of words and images, ideas and beliefs. And when they are all out laying there helpless on the paper they will no longer be as big or overwhelming.

They can’t distract or block you if you simply let them out.

And then – after several daily brief sessions of this kind of free writing – that big writing project will not look so big or overwhelming either. The big bad writing will no longer be the distraction that keeps you from feeling what you need to feel. The prisoners have escaped. The feelings are out.

 

The writing becomes possible because the writing no longer needs to be the jailer but instead can become a chaplain for your healing process. The writing becomes not only possible, but urgent, pulling you forward. It will flow not in perfection, but in situated possibility. And by sitting calmly and patiently for one brief session at a time, and giving the prisoners a way out through the end of your pen or your fingertips pressed to keys, you will find the liberation you’ve been seeking. And the stories and poems and essays and books you know are somewhere in you can be patiently invited into the world… Bit by bit, word by word or as Anne Lamott puts it “bird by bird” instead of block by block.

This post brought to you by the letter B.

Ordinary Time #KellyOnMyMind

Praying for Kelly Gissendaner
… and putting the prayers into action

Kelly Gissendaner and Jürgen Moltmann, 2011. Photo by Ann Borden, Emory University
Kelly Gissendaner and Jürgen Moltmann, 2011. Photo by Ann Borden, Emory University

The following six messages can be tweeted out in succession – each already has links and hashtags to advocate for Kelly’s life.

How can you help commute the death sentence of #KellyGissendaner? Put your prayers into action.
Here’s how in 5 tweets #kellyonmymind

#1 sign the petition
to ask  @GovernorDeal  to commute #KellyGissendaner’s sentence to life http://action.groundswell-mvmt.org/petitions/governor-deal-use-your-power-to-stop-the-execution-of-kelly-gissendaner #KellyOnMyMind

#2 Watch video
of Kelly’s children: Forgiving our mother was the best way to honor my father’s memory buff.ly/1V7513u #KellyOnMyMind

#3 Pray for #KellyGissendaner and @GovernorDeal and @GA_ParoleBoard & share your prayers w/your friends and followers  #KellyOnMyMind

#4 Watch & share
the video about 200+ women whose lives were changed by Kelly. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uzBUz2JS7Jo #StruggleSisters  #KellyOnMyMind

#5 write
a kind & respectful tweet, email or letter: @GA_ParoleBoard & @GovernorDeal Ask them to commute Kelly’s sentence #KellyOnMyMind

 

Wednesday Words for Writers ~ A

AASK

Writing is often a solitary enterprise. Yet all kinds of connections are needed for writing to begin, to improve, to be published, and of course to be read.

In the early stages of writing one of the best things a writer can do is to talk about the ideas and problems of the writing as they are emerging. Sharing aloud helps solidify concepts and solve blockades. This means asking someone to listen and converse about the writing. Often at the midpoints of writing, thorny knots appear. When they do, I often ask myself: what is going on? Free-writing can really help me through. Yet occasionally, I just need someone to listen while I loosen the knot. And when I think I am finished, I still must ask for feedback to polish the writing so it shines with a bit more clarity.

All the way through the writing process, asking ourselves what is going on and asking others to help by listening are essential tasks. If you’re feeling stuck at any point in your writing process, look around for someone to listen, and then ask.

This post brought to you by the letter A.