God Says Yes to Me

It’s been a while since I have blogged. It has been a meantime for me – a time of letting the field lie fallow for a season, a time of in-betweens. Somewhere in the muddied middle of the past, somewhere in between the now and the not yet. It has been a season of profound joy and some of the deepest sadness and loss I have ever known. But it has been a journey. We are all on a journey.

Over the past few days I have had the opportunity to think about conflict as a spiritual practice. That may seem like an oxymoron to some or anathema to others, but I am learning that it can be both and neither. Where two or three are gathered, Jesus said, my spirit will be in the midst of them; not only in their joys but in their conflicts.

Seeing conflict as spiritual practice, giving thanks for all the messiness that conflict brings – these can lead us out of the valley of despair into a land of hope. A land that flows with the creativity and possibility and potentialities of all that can be. A place of the ultimate yes, where God says yes to me.

Yes, I have called you to coach and to write and to provide spiritual direction to those who are seeking to know Me more deeply. Yes, you are the good and whole and grace-filled woman I created you to be. Yes, I will lead you on your journey with others along the way to support you. Yes, I will be with you always.

A dear colleague and friend, Deidre Combs taught me this eternal truth that comes out of the wisdom of all the major religious traditions. It says, “When conflict comes, be grateful.” I’ve had a tough time believing the truth of this. But conflict provides disruption to our otherwise peaceful lives. If we are willing to live through it and let it have it’s way with us, we can move from disruption through the messiness of chaos and hopelessness to a place of creativity and potential to a new cosmic “Yes!” from our creator.

What do you need God to affirm in you? What is God saying YES to in your life?

I share this poem because it says more eloquently than I can my experience of God’s cosmic YES.

God Says Yes To Me by Kaylin Haught

 I asked God if it was okay to be melodramatic

and she said yes

I asked her if it was okay to be short

and she said it sure is

I asked her if I could wear nail polish

or not wear nail polish

and she said honey

she calls me that sometimes

she said you can do just exactly

what you want to

Thanks God I said

And is it even okay if I don’t paragraph

my letters

Sweetcakes God said

who knows where she picked that up

what I’m telling you is

Yes Yes Yes

“God Says Yes To Me” by Kaylin Haught, from The Palm of Your Hand. © Tilbury House Publishers, 1995.

Day 188: In the company of wise women

Today, I am going to be in the company of wise women. As I grow older, it is becoming more and more important that I make time for such activities.

About a year ago, a friend and I talked about our experiences as women clergy — both good and bad — but mostly about how isolating it can be. We work in solo pastorates, or in campus ministries, or in entrepreneurial ministries — and we rarely have colleagues. If we do have colleagues, they are rarely other women in ministry. We wanted to change that. We wanted to create a space to be together, to share, to love one another, to uphold each other, to be companions for each other on our respective journeys. We started by gathering monthly virtually on ‘GoToMeeting’, and are for the first time gathering together in person. I can’t wait to be in the company of wise women.photo

There is something very special about women’s wisdom that is often forged out of our experience of community. Women, I believe, are more communal creatures than men — we have a much more profound sense of ‘ubuntu’ (the Swahili word which means, “I am, because we are.’) Women have a sense of needing to be in the company of other women with whom we can share our joys and our struggles. We need to know that we are not alone, that the struggles we share are not new, that this too shall pass. When we come together in this way to share our hopes, our fears, our dreams and our struggles, something beautiful happens. We forge community. We are community.

If you need a community like this one, find one — or start the conversation. We need each other, and we need to remember that we are not in this life alone. We need to experience ‘ubuntu’ in the here and now. We need to be in the company of wise women.

 

Day: 118: That’s what good music does.

“He took his pain and turned it into something beautiful. Into something that people connect to. And that’s what good music does. It speaks to you. It changes you.” 
― Hannah HarringtonSaving June

Tonight on my Blog Talk Radio Show, Spiritually Speaking with Rev. Jen, I was joined by Rebecca Stevens to talk about music, children, women in ministry and other good topics. To listen to the archive version of the show, click here.

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Day 108: Good news on Good Friday.

Papal meditations remember abused women and children

15 April 2014 12:33 by Abigail Frymann

Pope Francis’ Good Friday meditations will reflect on women and children who have been abused, desperate migrants and those who have lost their jobs because of the economic crisis.

The texts of the meditations for the Way of the Cross, which Francis will lead at Rome’s ancient Colosseum on Friday, have been written by Mgr Giancarlo Bregantini, Archbishop of Campobasso-Boiano in southern Italy, who has fiercely opposed the mafia in his writings. They were published today by the Vatican publishing house Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

In his meditations for the 14 stations, Archbishop Bregantini reflects on the social consequences of the economic crisis such as “job insecurity, unemployment, dismissals, an economy that rules rather than serves, financial speculation, suicide among business owners, corruption and usury, the loss of local industry … This is the cross which weighs upon the world of labour, the injustice shouldered by workers.”

Reflecting on hope, he notes: “Let us leave behind our unhealthy nostalgia for the past, our complacency and our refusal to change.”

In a reference to harm done to “little ones” that is wrongly concealed, he wrote: “In Jesus, innocent, stripped and tortured, we see the outraged dignity of all the innocent, especially the little ones. God did not prevent his naked body from being exposed on the Cross. He did this in order to redeem every abuse wrongly concealed, and to show that he, God, is irrevocably and unreservedly on the side of victims.”

Archbishop Bregantini also mentions “those who knock and ask us for asylum, dignity and a homeland”, those “who die of loneliness”, women who are physically abused by men, abused children, and mothers who have lost their children to war, or to drugs or alcohol abuse.

Christ’s own suffering, he writes, resembles that of prisoners in overcrowded prisons bogged down by a slow justice system and the stigmatisation of being known thereafter as an “ex-convict”.

Just as Jesus fell three times on the way to Golgotha, only through helping each other can we hope to bear the weight of the cross, the archbishop writes.

(This article first appeared in the online version of The Tablet, The International Catholic News Weekly.)

Day 106: How resilient are you?

“Resilience is accepting your new reality, even if it’s less good than the one you had before. You can fight it, you can do nothing but scream about what you’ve lost, or you can accept that and try to put together something that’s good.” (Elizabeth Edwards)

I’m not sure I’m all that resilient.

Sure, I can make the best of a bad situation, I can put on a good face. But I get mad about it. I don’t want to have to be resilient. I’d prefer to whine, or feel righteous anger. And I acknowledge the privilege in being able to do that.

Many folks don’t have the choice to be resilient. They have to be resilient. Or they die. Or their children die. Or their hope dies. They don’t have time to whine. They only have time to move forward, work their plan B, and keep their noses to the grindstone. They have to choose to live.

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If you are living one meal or one month away from hunger or homelessness, or are already there, you have no time to whine, cry or bemoan your situation. You better start figuring out how to make things better if you can. If you are living with a terminal illness, you don’t have time. You have to live full out in every minute that you have for every day that you have. What most of us forget is that tomorrow isn’t promised to any of us.

Life is terminal.

How resilient might we choose to be if we remembered that simple fact? How resilient are you?

Day 101: Have an interesting conversation.

I am a former newspaper reporter turned church secretary turned vampire novelist. I wrote my first complete novel, ‘Nice Girls Don’t Have Fangs,’ at night while I was working as the receptionist for a Baptist church. That was an interesting conversation with the pastor. (Molly Harper)

Yesterday, I read a blog post from a colleague (or more accurately, fellow pastor; I’ve never met the man, and I can’t really tell from his blog whether or not, as a woman, he would consider me a colleague) entitled, “Ten Things Pastors Hate to Admit Publicly.” While I didn’t find the list offensive or spot on, I did think that it had more truth to it than many other pastors were willing to admit and way more truth than many lay people wanted to hear. To be completely transparent (or as transparent as I am willing to be in this format), I found the comments to be as enlightening as his blog post. At first, I was engaged by what started out as an interesting conversation.

We need to be willing to have interesting conversations in the church, and everywhere else for that matter. But from what I see, we really aren’t so willing to do that. We want to be Minnesota nice, we want everyone to like us, and as pastors, we want our jobs to be as easy as parishioners imagine them to be. And considering that I am both an ordained minister and a pastor’s spouse (I do refuse to refer to myself as a “pastor’s wife”) I know this issue from both sides. But let me make it clear from the outset that I speak only for myself. While what I write may resonate with pastors both male and female (or not), I am not trying to speak for anyone but me.

I’m frustrated because I find that too many folks are not interested in having good conversations. I’m finding more and more people who want to shut conversations down if they don’t want to hear what you have to say. It’s counter-cultural to have an interesting conversation and downright subversive to agree to disagree. We live in a litigious, contentious society that would rather fight than exchange ideas. This is why Fox News exists. It’s only purpose is to provide “information” that people want to hear — whether or not it is true. It’s secondary purpose is to denigrate the ideas of anyone who doesn’t agree with their version of “information.” They want a good fight. They’d rather start a knock down drag out fight than have an interesting conversation.

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In the comments on the blog I mentioned above, a man named Phil commented that his wife was a pastor, and so as a pastor’s male spouse, he didn’t think that there were as many expectations on him as parishioners place on a pastor’s female spouse (or something to that effect.) Several comments down (and I had to go back and see what this comment was referring to) another man wrote, “So Phil, how does it feel to be married to a woman living in sin?”

As I said, I had to go back and figure out who Phil was and what comment this person was referring to, and then I realized that to this man, I too was living in sin. Bam. Conversation over.

What has happened to civility? This man didn’t know Phil or his wife — who’s only known sin was making the obvious sacrifice to spend her life in service to God. You don’t believe that women should be ordained? Fine, go to a church that doesn’t ordain women. But don’t troll the internet with the expressed intent of offending other servants of God. (And no, I did not call you a sinner, or a jerk.) As Matt so eloquently expressed throughout his post, it’s tough enough to be a pastor.

And no, I’m not complaining. I love what I do and I can’t imagine doing anything else. God has called me to it and I feel blessed to be living my life in service to God in a formal way. (And just to be clear, I think that all Christians do this as well, but in less formal ways.)

I just want to say “thanks” to Matt for his transparency, and all those who were willing to engage in the conversation without trying to shut it down. Don’t be afraid to have an interesting conversation.

 

Day 96: Talk with your hands.

file0001005216081“The first language humans had was gestures. There was nothing primitive about this language that flowed from people’s hands, nothing we say now that could not be said in the endless array of movements possible with the fine bones of the fingers and wrists. The gestures were complex and subtle, involving a delicacy of motion that has since been lost completely.

During the Age of Silence, people communicated more, not less. Basic survival demanded that the hands were almost never still, and so it was only during sleep (and sometimes not even then) that people were not saying something or other. No distinction was made between the gestures of language and the gestures of life. The labor of building a house, say, or preparing a meal was no less an expression than making the sign for I love you or I feel serious. When a hand was used to shield one’s face when frightened by a loud noise something was being said, and when fingers were used to pick up what someone else had dropped something was being said; and even when the hands were at rest, that, too, was saying something. Naturally, there were misunderstandings. There were times when a finger might have been lifted to scratch a nose, and if casual eye contact was made with one’s lover just then, the lover might accidentally take it to be the gesture, not at all dissimilar, for Now I realize I was wrong to love you. These mistakes were heartbreaking. And yet, because people knew how easily they could happen, because they didn’t go round with the illusion that they understood perfectly the things other people said, they were used to interrupting each other to ask if they’d understood correctly. Sometimes these misunderstandings were even desirable, since they gave people a reason to say, Forgive me, I was only scratching my nose. Of course I know I’ve always been right to love you. Because of the frequency of these mistakes, over time the gesture for asking forgiveness evolved into the simplest form. Just to open your palm was to say: Forgive me.”

“If at large gatherings or parties, or around people with whom you feel distant, your hands sometimes hang awkwardly at the ends of your arms – if you find yourself at a loss for what to do with them, overcome with sadness that comes when you recognize the foreignness of your own body – it’s because your hands remember a time when the division between mind and body, brain and heart, what’s inside and what’s outside, was so much less. It’s not that we’ve forgotten the language of gestures entirely. The habit of moving our hands while we speak is left over from it. Clapping, pointing, giving the thumbs-up, for example, is a way to remember how it feels to say nothing together. And at night, when it’s too dark to see, we find it necessary to gesture on each other’s bodies to make ourselves understood.”
— Nicole Krauss (The History of Love)

Day 93: A dream deferred.

A #2 pencil and a dream can take you anywhere.  (Joyce Meyer)

I’m not exactly sure what Joyce Meyer meant by that, but when I think of #2 pencils, I see those standardized “darken the circle” tests that we took as kids, the ones that got scored by machine. I think of getting an education. I think of becoming the person God created me to be. That #2 pencil has gotten me a long way.

Although, I know others that hated those tests — my creative friends whose creativity was never tested, their dreams were never measured, their ability to think outside the box never praised. They hated #2 pencils, and everything that they stood for. Test days were purgatory at best and sheer unadulterated hell at worst.

On Tuesday, I made a new friend. I’m pretty sure she was one of the creative kids, because she is definitely one of the creative adults. We met as I was walking around the quaint little town of Chester, Connecticut and happened into a store called Lark. I didn’t realize that this was the first day that she had opened the doors of this new store to the public, nor did I realize that she hadn’t celebrated her “grand opening” yet.

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The beautiful “vegetable ivory” bracelet I bought at Lark.

Lark is not a typical gift store. It is a store whose spirit you can feel the minute you walk in, if you are attuned to listening to the spirit move in your life. She has beautiful pieces from around the world, gathered in a way that ensures the sustainability of the environment, and the economic welfare of communities. She also has artisans that she has “collected” — not only because they make beautiful things, but because they have beautiful stories and amazing spirits.

I was only in her store for a matter of minutes, but I knew that I had met a kindred spirit. We knew each other almost immediately. What a gift. This is for her the culmination of a dream — a dream she only recently realized that she had. She has been an artist for many years working the art shows and street fairs before she ever thought about opening a store.

Today, Suzie is officially opening Lark with all the bells and whistles. It is her official Grand Opening. Congratulations!  If you are anywhere near there, please stop by and meet Suzy and visit this wonderful little place.  If she hasn’t run out, she will give you a little stone to keep with a word that may mean something to you. Listen to what it says to you. I, of course, forgot to pick my stone, but I hope to go back there again soon.

In the meantime, I’ll doodle with my #2 pencil and dream.

 

Day 85: Claim your solitude.

Women need real moments of solitude and self-reflection to balance out how much of ourselves we give away. (Barbara de Angelis)

I can’t imagine a day without solitude. So many women I know can’t imagine a day with solitude. Which are you?

You can’t give what you don’t have. You can’t ask others to commit to things that you yourself would not be willing to do.  You can’t encourage others to slow down, if you are never willing to do that yourself.  If I am challenging my clients to slow down, spend time in prayer, find time to do what they love, and I am not doing the same — what kind of a coach and spiritual director would I be? Physician, heal thyself!

One of the most important things I have in my day is my solitude. It allows me to concentrate, read, write, plan, and pray. It gives me the mental space to accomplish what I need to do for the realm of God. I can’t give to others on an ongoing basis, if I am not taking the time I need to re-energize my being, reconnect to God and replenish my spirit. Solitude gives me the opportunity to do all that — and more.

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So decide how much you need and make it happen. Take 5 minutes to start. Slow your roll. Let your brain take a breather. Try to stop thinking for just a minute or two. It can feel really uncomfortable at first, but stick with it.

I was having a conversation with a client of mine who just recently realized that she can only be present to the people and activities in her life because she is spending time in solitude and prayer. Because she has made this change in her life, I have seen her transform before my eyes. She is energized, loving, vital and prayerful. She is being reminded daily of all that she is being called to do — and that includes being a mother, a daughter, and a wife — as well as a pastor.

In our society, you have to decide how to claim your solitude, because our lives are not designed with that as a part. You have to be intentional. You have to live it out.

How, when, and where will you claim intentional solitude? Just do it. Take time to be present to yourself, your thoughts, your breathing. Do it today. Be good to yourself.

Day 83: Keep it real.

“Tis’ better to live your own life imperfectly than to imitate someone else’s perfectly.” ― Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love


As those many years my junior would say, “You’ve got to keep it real.” Be who you are. Have integrity. Don’t be afraid to live your own life.

I remember being 13 years old and wanting to be anyone other than who I was. I had glasses and a bad haircut. I was a little pudgy, but I thought I was ENORMOUS. I was smart, but who cares about being smart at 13? I just wanted to be pretty. I wanted to be thin. I wanted to look like the girls in Seventeen (even if they were photoshopped, or “re-touched” as we used to call it.) I didn’t want to wear glasses, or have pimples. I wanted to be like everyone else. Exactly like everyone else. I wanted to wear make-up.

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One day on the school bus coming home from school, a beautiful girl who was a senior (so much older and worldlier than I!) told me how pretty I was — and that I had a “fresh face” (aka no makeup). God bless her. I remember that her first name was Diane, but I can’t remember her last name. She was an angel to me. She was older and pretty and kind. I think she was elected Homecoming Queen that year. And she was the first person who made me really feel like it was ok to be me — even if I didn’t look or act like everyone else. And she didn’t fit the beauty queen mold either, she had red hair and lots of freckles.

God doesn’t create any of us to be just like someone else. God created us to be just who we are — with certain gifts and graces that grow and blossom over time. We may not live our life perfectly, but it’s better to live our life imperfectly than to try and live someone else’s life perfectly. It’s not our life. It’s not who we were called to be.

As a spiritual direction and life purpose coach, I love helping my clients discover who God is calling them to be, and what God is calling them to do. I love helping them live into the life that God has for them. It’s not about me, or what I think, it’s about them and the nudging they are experiencing from the Holy Spirit. It’s about breathing deeply and allowing your heart to find it’s way. It’s about living with a decision for a while to see how it rests in your spirit. It’s about living the life that God has for you, and you alone.

I love what I do, and I know that God has called me to this work. What is it that you are called to? What makes your heart sing? What shimmers in your spirit when you think about it? Do you want to write, to speak, to preach, to teach, to counsel, to create beauty, to cook, to clean, to garden/farm/landscape? How can you live into the person you feel is most deeply you?

It takes courage to change; but it also takes courage to be your most authentic self. Take it for a test drive and see how it feels. Love that person. The world needs what you uniquely have to offer.