Posted in Uncategorized

Be Gentle With You

My mind is pretty jumbly. It sometimes helps if I write things down. I could do that in a paper journal — but then I’ve done that eleventy times before. If you need a journal that is nearly empty but for the first 7 or 8 pages, I’m your girl.  So, maybe this kind of journaling will be better for me, OR maybe I’ll forget how to log in and leave this journal in the same pattern of the others…


Posted in Omada

Omada Week 1

I should remember this:

When I’m frustrated by something, being really judge-y about it, I’m probably learning something important.

But, I don’t remember it. I just get frustrated and judge-y, absolutely sure I know better, or at least that I know something is wrong or dumb. And then that familiar feeling starts creeping in, that thing where humility starts to hover nearby, but I ignore it in order to stay judge-y. Maybe mostly, so I can stay “right.” I love being right.

I was excited to start the Omada program on Sunday. I had logged in and created my profile, but that’s all the website/app would let me do until it was unlocked for me on Sunday. On Sunday, I’d get to start diving into all the tools and exciting things on the website. I received my scale that sends them the data wirelessly, and I had weighed myself each day leading up to Sunday …because they told me to.

I am a good student. I have always been a good student. If you tell me you have something to teach me, and there are assignments and group work and goals and such, I’M ALL IN. I think that’s why I managed my way through a couple of Whole30s last year. It’s an assignment. Someone sat down and decided what I should do, made me a list I can follow. A puzzle to solve. I’m good at those.

I was ready for Omada to have various tools like calorie calculators or places to track my water intake, my exercise, my sleep, my stress, my choosing a small piece of dark chocolate instead of piece of chocolate cake. I was ready for a goal tracker, a countdown…anything that shows progress and feels like an assignment.

Sunday came, and the website opened!

I weighed myself (check!).

I read the profile of each of my cohort members (check!).

I read the assigned article (check!).

I wrote a response to the article in the group-chat section (check!).

I clicked around and saw where to record my physical activity and how to sync my Google Fit step counter to the Omada app. (check!).

I started charting my meals in the app….wait, what?!…this app isn’t like the ones I’ve used before. It’s super lame. You just type in what you ate. There are no calories listed, no fat grams, no salt, no carbs. You just type in anything you want. So, like, just type “pizza” if you want. Lame.

Then, when you have typed in your list of things you ate for that meal, two questions pop up:

Would you say this meal was small, medium, or large?

Would you say this meal was mostly unhealthful, somewhat healthful, or mostly healthful?

That’s it. Lame.

For three or four days I dutifully inputted my meals and snacks, answered the questions about size and quality of the meals/snacks, and felt wholly underwhelmed with the program.

Then, a couple days ago, I had some chocolate midmorning. I typed in “1 ounce dark chocolate”, selected “small” for the size of snack, and selected “mostly unhealthful”
as my judgment of the snack. Of course, I thought, dark chocolate is healthier than milk chocolate, so should I select “somewhat healthful”
instead? But, I left it as it was.

Sometime mid-afternoon, I had 5 or 6 bites of coconut cake and a small glass of 1% milk. So, I went back to the snacks input thingy and added the cake and the milk. In the other apps I’ve used, you record each snack separately, but Omada has just one place to put all your snacks for each day. When I added the coconut cake and milk to the dark chocolate, it asked me those questions again:

Would you say this meal was small, medium, or large?

Would you say this meal was mostly unhealthful, somewhat healthful, or mostly healthful?

Okay, so now I’m picturing a plate with a small piece of cake and some squares of dark chocolate on it – with a small glass of milk next to it. What size is this snack? It’s not small anymore, so I guess it’s medium. And it definitely doesn’t get a change from the “mostly unhealthful”
I gave it earlier.

In the evening, while I watched TV, I had some goldfish crackers and an Izzy fruit soda. (Izzies are my I-want-a-soda-but-I-shouldn’t-have-one drink. They are carbonated fruit juice. They are 90 calories, not 150. They weigh me down with less guilt than Pepsi does.)

When I pictured a plate with some squares of dark chocolate, a small piece of cake, a pile of goldfish crackers…and a glass of milk next to a can of Izzy, well it was definitely a large snack and it was mostly unhealthful
(thanks 1% milk for showing up with your calcium and a bit of protein).

So, Omada, with its lame-o meal recording app had me wondering all day long about my snacking habits. It had me shifting my understanding of snacking and how they add up. This is not news whatsoever. Every diet/exercise program has some kind of lesson in it about how “even small snacks add up in the end!” But, I had not thought it through in this way until this week…when someone asked me to put them all in the same place, rather than recording each one separately. Helping me to imagine sitting down to all of them at one time, rather than grazing on them throughout the day.

The Omada folks have said in every email or blurb or video they’ve provided me that this is not a weight-loss program. It is different. It’s about examining habits. Data. Patterns.

That’s what drew me in. I don’t have a lot of weight to lose. It’s really not about the long game of how to lose 100 pounds. For me, it’s the long game of not losing the same 10-15 over and over and over. Living healthier. Longer.

It’s 16 weeks long. A third of a year. Long enough to track some trends and examine some habits and wonder differently about food, health, activity, stress, sleep, etc. So, why I expected it to look and feel like other things I’ve experienced, I don’t know.

I guess I just like to be right. And when I do things I’ve done before, my odds are better.

Posted in Ordinary Holiness

Truth for Lent

I have been very productive in my work lately. I’ve worked with a team to craft curriculum for a week of camp focused on prayer. I’ve crafted liturgies for our congregation’s anniversary and to use during Lent. I worked a 14-hour day on Sunday – doing some of the most beautiful things a girl could get to do.

I have been attentive to my need to learn new and complicated things lately. I took a six-week course on the Israel/Palestine conflict. Every Tuesday, I drove 90 minutes round trip to sit at the feet of excellent teachers and learn. And I’ve read a couple books about various saints of the Church.

I have been attentive to my needs for a social life lately. I threw a fun party with a pretty table setting for the meal and a table full of craft supplies for afterward. I saw a movie with some friends. I have two friends in some pretty solid crises, and I’m loving them over text messages and phone calls from far away.

I have been attentive to my need for exercise lately. I started working with an app on my phone that dictates a 7 minute workout, and I do it nearly every day. If you are thinking, “Seven minutes is not a lot.” I say this: 7 minutes is 100% more than zero minutes – and me using the word “daily” when it comes to exercise is quite new.

I have established some new ecologically friendly methods in my life lately. I use flannel squares I can toss in the wash – instead of cotton balls. I use a bar of shampoo – instead of liquid in another plastic bottle. I use handkerchiefs – instead of Kleenex most of the time. I’m using bar towels – instead of paper towels in the kitchen. It takes a bit more energy, but I’m learning to change some things.


  • The hairs on my chin grow wild.
  • The craft supplies are still on the table.
  • The sink seems to be birthing dirty dishes.
  • My car is so messy.
  • My desk upstairs has paperwork on it that likely has some overdue stuff lingering in the stack.
  • My ever-shedding dogs need brushing (again)!
  • The skin on my face has dry patches because I haven’t given it the regular moisture it needs.
  • Pretty sure I don’t want to know what is in some of those containers in my refrigerator.
  • I’m pretty sure the rain gutters are full or plugged somewhere.
  • And poop-scooping? Let’s just say I’m behind on that.

I really can’t do it all.

Or at least I can’t do it all …well.

During Lent, I’m trying to be very honest with myself about some things. Confessional, I’d call it.


I am strong and capable, and I can do anything.


I am distractable and do not live with a team anymore, which means I cannot do everything.

(Okay, you are maybe thinking: If you were had laser focus and lived with a family, you would still not be able to do everything. I think you are right, but I’m acknowledging some old and new truths, here.)

I’m not feeling self-deprecating, here. I’m not beating myself up or dripping with shame. I’m just listing some truths that God is revealing to me about…me (again).

It’s confessional in that I’m searching myself, acknowledging the things that nudge up against me and have the potential to scoop shame on my head, and saying them aloud.

It’s confessional in that I have responsibilities lingering in paperwork stacks and home repair/upkeep and pet ownership, and if I let them linger too long, people and animals could suffer.

It’s confessional in that, in my life, after confession comes forgiveness. And just now, writing that sentence and typing the word forgiveness caused me to take a deeper breath, offer this physical body of mine an extra dose of oxygen. Knowing, as I do, that after confession comes forgiveness means I’m safe. And when I feel safe, I really can do anything.

But seriously, even being safe (saved) doesn’t mean I can do everything.

Posted in Uncategorized

ELCA/Portico Biometric Screening

We clergy folk are among the least healthy folk.

(Don’t believe me? Here’s just one piece of journalism about it.)

I’m a pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), and my church is doing what it can to help me be healthy. Our benefits services include a “Call to Live Well”, with an abundance of resources for our spiritual, financial, emotional, social, intellectual, vocational, and physical health.

We have financial advisors, our health insurance covers services for emotional and mental health, and we are offered lots of opportunities for continuing education and even sabbaticals for our intellectual and vocational health.

It seems we might have a hard time taking advantage of the benefits regarding our physical health. Each year, they try something new to get us to pick up good habits, drop bad habits, and make good choices about our physical health.

Each year, there is a different challenge which literally pays off if you do it.

One year, we were asked to start and chart a new habit for 6 weeks: drinking more water (and less soda and Starbucks), tracking what we eat, walking more, attending to our sleep habits, etc.

That same year, we could choose, instead, to stop something: drinking sugary drinks, smoking, fast food, etc.

Upon completion of the 6 weeks, we were to log in to our benefits account, self-report what we had done, and write a few sentences about what we learned about ourselves while we did it.

I can’t remember the exact amount, but I think it was about $300 of Wellness Dollars. And when my husband was alive, he was eligible, also. So, each year, we earned hundreds of Wellness Dollars, which can be spent on medical expenses.

We used to take a wellness assessment online also (for more Wellness Dollars). One year, my health assessment resulted in the shocking news that I needed to exercise more! So, they let me have coach who set some goals with me, and then checked in with me each week over the phone to see how things were going. (Having the coach was completely my choice; nothing was required in that way.)

Things have changed a bit each year, as they work to find ways to help us be healthier.

This year, there are two ways to earn $200 Wellness Dollars.

  • $400 total
  • $800 if your spouse participates, too

ONE: Have a biometric screening.

TWO: Log in to your retirement account, make sure your retirement plan makes sense for your life plan, make any changes you might want to make, and when you click back to your Portico page – there are $200 Wellness Dollars in your account. Immediately. See? It probably took me 10 minutes to do a good thing for my financial life…and earn some money.

Okay, but what about the Biometric Screening? That sounds like way more work…and what’s it all about?

Seriously, it is not difficult. Here’s how it went for me:

I clicked on “Complete or review your biometric screening at Quest Diagnostics”, and it took me to a page where I could choose to:

  • print off a page and take it to my doctor to complete
  • find a diagnostic lab near me to complete it

I chose to just go to a lab near me, and right there online, chose a lab 1 mile from my house, selected an appointment for 2 days later, and received a confirmation email that my appointment had been set. Maybe 5 minutes for all that.

So, yesterday morning at 9:30, (having fasted after midnight and hydrated myself with plenty of water) I went to the lab near my house.

I signed in at 9:28.

She asked for a copy of my I.D.

I was called back into the office.

She measured my:

  • Height
  • Weight
  • Waist
  • Blood pressure

She drew 3 small vials of blood and asked for my signature.

By the time I got in my car, it was:

…and I went home to eat breakfast.

That was yesterday.

Today, I got this email in my inbox:

So, I clicked into it. Inside it was a link to the Portico site, where I logged in, and was able to view my results.

And it brought me to some pages of VERY EASY TO READ charts and explanations.

Here’s a page that says there is one area of my health that is out of the normal range when assessing for Metabolic Syndrome. I’ve cropped out all the personal information here, but the one area is my good cholesterol is too low. And it gives me suggestions for improving it.

If I click on the Heart Disease tab, it says 5 out of 5 of the criteria are in the normal range, so I don’t have an active risk of heart disease. Still, it suggests I get or remain active, taking walks, etc.

There is a one-page document that I saved to my computer in my “health” file. It simply lists my screening results in each category, and the normal range for reference.

So, I went to check to see if my $200 Wellness Dollars were in my account yet. But, I saw a notice there that said it may take 2 to 3 weeks to process that.

Why write all this here?

Because every year, some of my clergy friends do not claim this money.

Because all of us can use some help being healthier, and our employer is trying to help us.

Because I write things down sometimes.

Be gentle with you.

Posted in Ordinary Holiness

Waste and Such

I really want to be one of those people who can put all her waste for the month in a small canning jar. I dream of shopping in zero-waste or nearly-zero-waste stores, y’know, schlepping my containers in there to buy the hemp soap and whole grains like barley and farro and fill my olive oil jar from the big drums with little spigots and perfect funnels. Those people are so crunchy granola, and I think they are awesome.

But, I don’t know what hemp soap is, actually.

And I buy barley and farro…and then I throw them away 3 years later because, well, because they are not rice, I suppose.

And I buy a giant bottle of olive oil at a ridiculously huge store that I love, love, love…and when I’m done with it, I recycle it.

See, I’d like to be a zero-waster, but it’s probably a good idea for me to just learn to waste less things. Like it would be super easy not to waste farro by throwing it away when it is farroancient and has made me feel weird every time I clean out the cupboards and find it in there…again. I could actually be honest with myself at the store and say, “Jennifer. You have bought farro twice. The first time was because that Italian couple on the Food Network was funny and clever, and they were cooking with farro, which they told you was super healthful for you (oh, they likely said it was healthy for you, but grammatically, that makes no sense, so…), so you Googled it, and they were super right. Farro is packed with healthful nutrients. So you bought it, cooked it, wished you liked it, but you didn’t, but you weren’t going to give up on it, so you put it away in the cupboard…until you threw it away years later. You bought it; you tried to like it; you threw it away. We are going to give you that wasteful move as a freebie – because you didn’t KNOW that you weren’t going to like it when you bought it. (Oh, you could have given it to someone who likes it, but you didn’t even try to find that person, mostly because you are not certain that Italian couple would take your calls…or your partly used bag of farro.)”

But the second time you bought it? (and waited a while) And threw it away? WASTE.

And the gluttony in your freezer that you don’t eat, gets freezer burned, and you throw it away? WASTE.

So, you see, there are one million ways I can reduce my waste without learning about hemp soap or whatever. And actually, I’m becoming more convicted that focusing on one small and fairly odd way to reduce my waste is, in fact, just a distraction from what I already know is true.

Sometimes I waste things (including money) because I don’t remember that I already bought them.

Shampoo is on sale.

Do I have a bottle in the cupboard?

I can’t remember, so probably not.

I’ll just get a bottle because it’s not like I don’t need shampoo.

It’s not a splurge or anything.

*sighs while shoving the new shampoo bottle in the crowded cupboard under the bathroom sink…next to the other 4 bottles of shampoo.*

I could put three bandages on my body every day for the next year…and still likely have some to share with you. Though I’m completely uncertain that you would like to use Rugrats Band-Aids which are for-the-most-part still sealed for sterile use. I’m pretty sure Sage picked those out in elementary school.

I have more Chapstick and Visine and aspirin than I can use in 5 years. Not because I feel like I need more, but because I do not have a real sense of what I have.

I. Have. That. Much.

So, last January, I started something new. Now, starting something new is nothing new for me. I am always trying a new system or pattern because I always feel scattered, and if just one part of a system or pattern will stick to me and help me out, it’s worth it all.

Last January, I took a little measuring cup into the shower, and when I washed my hair with two pumps of shampoo (for my long hair), I pumped it into that little measuring cup first and discovered that I used 1 ounce of shampoo each time I washed my hair. Then, I looked at the giant pump container of shampoo from the giant store I love and saw it contained 70 ounces. Then, I calculated how many ounces of shampoo I would need for the year, and I went to my ridiculous shampoo stash and calculated that it would last me the rest of the year.

I did the same for body wash, discovered I would need to buy 1 more container to last the year, AND I BOUGHT IT.

I checked out my toothpaste and mouthwash and floss.

I figured out how many dishwasher detergent pods I use in a year.

I calculated how many kitchen trash bags I use, how much laundry detergent and hand soap and dish soap and paper towels and AA batteries and Qtips and deodorant and multivitamins and …you get the idea.

I figured out how much/many I need for a year, inventoried what I already had, and bought the rest of it.

Here’s what this means for me and my distractible mind that struggles to sort and remember things:

Shampoo is on sale.

(unless it is currently December) I don’t need any.

I did it in 2017 and learned a lot about myself and my needs.

I’m doing it again in 2018, and while it is an initial outlay of extra cash, I am beyond certain that I’m saving money.

And I know I’m not wasting as much. I buy in bulk, so there is a bit less packaging. I’m not buying so much of something, so I may spend a bit more on a brand that treats the planet better in their processes and packaging.

One of my favorite purchases was/is toilet paper. I found a great company that shipped a box of 48 rolls of toilet paper to my house. (I know there is a huge ecological footprint in the shipping industry, but the TP I buy in the store down the street is shipped there, so, I’m not sure what to do about that.) It’s made out of bamboo, so it’s not depleting forests. The company spends much of its profit on bringing sanitation supplies and toilets to the developing world.

And it has the best name:

And this toilet paper comes in paper wrappers in a cardboard box, so while that is still packaging, and we still have to process it, it is recyclable – unlike the plastic wrapping on the TP from the store. So, there’s one tiny way to create less waste.

I’m not that girl who can put all her month’s trash in a little jar, but I’m learning to do things better.

I have a compost pile, and I just bought a bar of shampoo to use after I finish the bottle of shampoo in my shower. I know, right?! A bar of shampoo? Yep. I’m going to try it. It would mean buying less plastic bottles, which would be fantastic.

But, it could be that I have a partially used bar of shampoo to go with that partially full bag of farro.

Thomas Merton etched something on my heart when I was in college. I read and memorized this prayer of his, and the sentences I have highlighted below echo through my life in many ways. In this case, I may not be going about reducing my waste in the best way possible, but I believe that my desire to do so, and my actions to that end, matter and are good.

“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always, though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”

Posted in God's Love

The Light Persists

(I wrote this article for our local newspaper last month. I’m posting it here on my blog and adding some pictures, so I can share it with someone over the internet.)

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

John 1:5

This short verse from the gospel of John contains the fullness of what Christians believe about what God did in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Jesus is the Light that shines in the darkness, evil, jealousy, hatred, fear, and injustice in this world. A long time ago on a Friday, Darkness threw everything it had at Jesus, and Sunday morning, Darkness learned it had not overcome the Light.

Light persists. I see it everywhere. Light shines in musicians who hone their skills and

Classical flute and guitar concert at First Baptist in High Point

offer them to us live in sanctuaries, concert halls, and nursing homes. Light shines in local agencies like BackPack Beginnings, feeding hungry school kids and Reading Connections, helping adults become literate.

Light insists. It will not relent. Light glows in women who say #MeToo, shining its rays in old, painful corners and exposing ugly truths. Light glimmers in the holy work of those who serve refugees in this and all nations. When people have awkward, honest conversations about race, the Light shines. The Light insists on justice for the oppressed and reconciliation where there has been disunity.

We Christians who follow the liturgical calendar are in the season of Advent. It’s a four-week period before Christmas wherein we spend time anticipating the birth of the Light

Emmanuel Lutheran bell ringers – ringing for the Salvation Army at the grocery store.

among us. We hear the prophets foretelling the Messiah, the promises of God, and the way Israel longed for a Savior. While ancient Israel waited for a Savior to be born, we wait for Christ to return, to set all things right.

While we wait, we look for the Light in the world around us. My friend, Chantal, glimmers with the Light of Christ as she works planting a new bi-lingual and bi-cultural Beloved+OfficialChristian community in Winston-Salem. But, the Light isn’t only found in congregations and Bible studies. It glows in foster families and animal shelters. You can see it shimmering among friends laughing over a good meal and adult children caring for aging parents. In every parent who is patiently negotiating mealtime or bedtime with a toddler, the Light shines.

While we wait, we participate in the Light; we run into the darkness with our candles of

Carolers from Emmanuel Lutheran visiting some of our homebound members.

hope. We reflect the Light’s rays when we have a hard conversation in order to work on forgiveness. The light glints off the barrel of our pen as we write a check to a helping agency. When we pile in a van to visit a lonely friend and sing carols in his living room, we are rays of the Light.

Living in a divided nation, in a world pulsing with war and injustice, we might feel hopeless, like the Darkness is winning. But it’s just not true. There is more love than hate, more Light than Dark. Our call is to keep walking with our candles, to keep persisting and insisting in our parts of the world that the Darkness did not overcome the Light. If you look just so, tilt your head and squint your eyes just right, you’ll begin to make out the shape of a candle and the glow of its flame in your neighbors’ hands, too.

Reverend Jennifer Krushas is pastor at Emmanuel Lutheran in High Point, NC.

Posted in Ordinary Holiness

Jennifer, Table for One

I have lots of friends who are single. Many of them have been single for years.

For me, it’s been 2.5 years of singleness.

And I’m noticing something.

I do big things alone, now.

There are a hundred thousand little things I do now as a single person that are slightly different. I’m finally learning not to buy the family pack of chicken breasts and to stop checking the price of espresso (which I never drank, but Ken loved). I don’t wonder who is going to start the dishwasher or get the mail every day or put the trash by the curb every week. I manage all the bills and taxes and HSA account balance. The little day-to-day pieces of life, I have slowly put in place. Messily, to be sure. This scatter-y mind of mine doesn’t sort and make workable systems very well. But, over the last couple years, I’ve figured out how to shove the little tasks into piles I can recognize and manage. It’s a good life, this little household of huskies and their mama.

And then…this week, I felt very single.

While waiting for the tow truck to arrive and give my battery a jump-start yesterday, I had some time to pay attention to what I was feeling. Weary. That’s what I came up with. I felt weary because I had managed some big things this week…alone.

My son got married a week ago today. It was beautiful, and everyone was sparkling. I had tissues with me – because weddings – and I thought I’d be a blubbery mess. But, I wasn’t a mess; I was amazed. I walked down the aisle in my mother-of-the-groom dress with Jenna’s beautiful mom, Mary Lynn, and took my seat next to my darling mother. I reminded myself to really pay attention, to leave the program on the pew (it doesn’t matter if you know what comes next), to watch Jenna and her daddy walk down the aisle toward a new chapter, to look at my kid’s face when he made some whopper promises, to marvel at his sister’s beauty and maturity standing there among the bridesmaids, to love every word my mother’s lips formed as she opened The Velveteen Rabbit and read about being real, to be so grateful for my big brother, Karl, standing next to me.

It was extraordinary.

But, it was also amazingly clear that I am single. When Micah was born and I started dreaming about his life, I imagined standing next to his dad on the porch when Micah drove away on his first date, sitting next to him at Micah’s choral concerts, holding Tom’s hand while we bore witness to our kid marrying the person of his dreams. But, it didn’t happen that way. And, as it turns out, Ken wasn’t there, either.

At my son’s wedding, I was flanked by my brother and my mother, two of God’s best pieces of work. But, that wasn’t really the plan.

When I got home from the wedding on Sunday evening, I was pretty sure I was getting the cold about which I’d been saying, “I don’t have time to get sick!” for about a week. By Monday morning, I was feverish and achy. It’s the first time I’ve been sick since my nest emptied a couple months ago. And it turns out that even when you are sick, your dogs need to be fed and let in and out to do their business…and they are lousy at getting you a glass of ice water or another box of tissues from your stockpile in the shed.

The week was one of tissues and cough drops and naps and gallons of hot tea…and by Friday morning, I really wasn’t better, so I went to the doctor, so she could tell me it was a virus about which she could really not do much. But, she wrote me a prescription for a nasal spray she hoped would help with congestion, and I went to Walgreen’s to have it filled. Cleverly, I left my headlights on while I went in and waited for the prescription to be filled, so then I got to wait for the tow truck to jumpstart my car.

And while I was sitting in my car, waiting for the tow truck, I texted my mom about my predicament. She texted back that my dad said if my battery died that quickly, I might need a new one. So, I knew my plan for a quick trip to the doctor and then crawling back to bed had to be scrapped.

And I thought, “If Ken were here, he would bring me his car, tell me to go home and crawl into bed, manage the tow-truck-jump-start, and go to AutoZone and get a new battery.”

Right there, in my juiceless car, I realized I was weary from doing big things alone. All the feelings of Micah’s wedding and all the fatigue from managing life while sick…and now a car thing…these things are things often made easier with the right partner.

Of course, I’m not alone. Not by a longshot.

  • Because I was flanked by my big brother and my darling mother while my son made promises and my daughter bore beautiful witness (not to mention my cousins, aunt, sister-in-law, niece, and beloved friends).
  • Because Linda, Eileen, Stan, Patrick, and others all checked on me this week while I was sick.
  • Because I got to share meals and great conversation with Katy, Jake, and Ann this week.
  • Because my mom is always a call or text away…with dad’s sound advice about a battery chiming in.
  • Because my oldest brother, James, called this week to ask how the mother-of-the-groom was doing, how my heart felt.

I’m absolutely not alone.

But, I’m noticing more and more that I am definitely single.

Posted in God's Love, Ordinary Holiness


When Sage was maybe a middle schooler, she brought home a new word. I don’t know how she had found the word, but when she told me about it, her eyes were so alive with fascination…and maybe relief.

She said she never knew there was a word for something her imagination had dwelt upon for hours on end – over months and years. She said she had always looked at the person standing in front of us in the line at the grocery store and thought, “They have a whole life just like mine. They have friends and maybe siblings. They have ideas and dreams about what they want to do, and they have people and circumstances in their lives that help them get there – or stand in their way. They go to school or work and there are parts of their days they like and don’t like. Their life is as complicated and full of people and relationships as mine is.”

It turns out the word for that concept is sonder. If you would like, check out this video about the concept of sonder.

It happened to me a little bit today while I was at my friend, Daniel’s, installation as the pastor of a congregation about an hour and a half away from where I live. He started working there a couple months ago, but today was an official installation service.

Daniel asked me to preside at the Lord’s Table during the service of installation. As I drove toward his church today, I thought about what an honor it was to have been asked to lead in this way, how much I miss having him nearby to have lunch and study the biblical text each week, how it would be nice to see his amazing family today.

When I arrived at the church and found the room where the pastors were putting on their robes, Daniel smiled when he saw me. I’m sure I smiled, too, and we hugged hello.

Then another pastor came in, another friend who was leading a different part of the service. Daniel smiled when he saw him, and they hugged hello. Soon, the room was filled with maybe 10 pastors, all of whom made Daniel smile. One of them was his mother.

And I thought to myself how wonderful it was for him to have so many people who love him in his company on this important and holy day.

Then, we moved to a hallway just outside the worship space, and the choir was lined up ready to go in before the line of pastors would enter. And the choir members greeted Daniel, and he smiled a warm, honest smile.

As we processed in, singing a hymn, walking down the center aisle and taking our places in the front row, we walked past row after row of people who had come to bear witness to his installation. Teenagers and tiny kids, middle aged folks and those certainly in their 80s and 90s. They were at the beginning of their relationships with him, and some of them were surely already trusting him with their worries, their dreams.

I thought about the people in my congregation, and how much I love them. I thought about how my life as their pastor is just rich with our relationships! With some, I have shared serious and scary moments in their lives. With some, I have hysterically funny memories. Daniel just left a congregation full of those relationships, and he is beginning that same journey with these folks at his new church.

After worship, there was a reception where people mingled. Every person I met said something like, “We just love Pastor Daniel. He is exactly what we need here.” And I thought, “That’s precisely how I feel about him.”

And while I felt sad to drive away because Tuesday will come, and I won’t be meeting him for study and lunch, I felt mostly amazed at the ways God knits us all together. I felt mostly astonished as God offered me a tiny glimpse of the ways Spirit is stitching Daniel’s life together with more relationships and laughter. I felt mostly grateful that love is not finite, that there is enough love-thread to stitch and keep stitching us one to another every single day.

Posted in Ordinary Holiness

Creativity as Non-violent Protest

Today, I am in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina at a women’s retreat just filled with love and light and hope and sisterhood.

Today, I am reading accounts of demonstrations at the University of Virginia wherein members of the KKK, Neo-Nazis, and Alt-Right carried torches and shouted declarations of white supremacy.

So, I don’t know what to do.

Or feel.

God called me to the mountains months ago when I registered for this retreat. I read Rachel Held Evans’ book in preparation for her to lead us in some study and prayer while we are here. I paid a little extra, so I could have my own room, so I might experience a weekend of reflection more than conversation. I signed up for a workshop on using liturgical art in worship because our council discussed that as a goal at our retreat in March. So, this weekend is about me: as a woman, as a pastor, as a mom whose nest is emptying this week, as a sometimes weary child of God.

But people are carrying torches and quoting Hitler in Virginia.

I’ve been crying about it. And, honestly, I am angry at the timing. I’m angry that my retreat for centering myself before a busy fall and for slowing way down for 48 hours has been invaded by violence and hatred…and that exceedingly familiar feeling of helplessness in the face of enormous problems that have layers and colors and textures far beyond the reach and power of my life.

That voice in your head asking, “Why didn’t she just turn off her phone for the retreat?” It’s in my head, too. But, I didn’t, so here I am.

That other voice in your head whisper, “Uh, her anger right now is ridiculous…how about a little anger that the KKK is assembling AT ALL, not that they are assembling during her retreat.” It’s in my head, too. I promise. It happens that I am captive to sin and cannot free myself, so imbalance and preposterous priorities are commonplace. Writing about them helps run a highlighter across them, so I can notice them better: this time…and the next.

So, here is what God did with this mess today.

First, my God brought me to breakfast with two women who are pastors in the Presbyterian Church (PCUSA), and the conversation in our little cloister of three women who long to follow Jesus included confession of times we have not welcomed people well, times we have be terrified to speak and act for justice. Maybe it was because we don’t know each other that confession came easily; maybe it is because we are tired of not confessing things that embarrass us as pastors who are called to work for peace and justice in all the world. Cate and Becca were my pastors this morning; and I suppose I was theirs.

Next, my God brought me to a book study where we broke into groups of four to discuss the ways we have experienced death and resurrection in our lives. We talked about life in the military where every move is a death of some sort. We shared our pain that our children reject the faith we hold so dear. We told of acts of unexpected grace we had received in ways we still carry in our pockets, pulling them out when we need to be reminded of our call to do the same for others. And we were reminded that this grace thing has already gotten out of hand. “Grace got out of hand the moment the God of the universe hung on a Roman cross and with outstretched hands looked out upon those who had hung him there and declared, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” (Searching for Sunday, page 40)

Then, God and I went to a workshop about liturgical art, and the leader, Lisle Gwynn Garrity used Brene Brown’s 10 Guideposts to Wholehearted Living while offering us the opportunity to play with art and be sanctified in the process. Together, my eight new sisters and I relinquished the messages from others that we are

not artistic or not artistic enough or there must be a better way or she is doing it better than me. We picked up oil pastels and drew our love and light and hope onto that cambric. Our gentle teacher offered us Brene Brown’s words and silence and tender music to coax us along this path. And after a few minutes, she would invite us to move to the seat to our left and add to that which our sisters had drawn. In the end, our fingers and palms were smudged with oil pastels, the cambric was exquisite, and I felt braver to be the woman God designed me to be.

Then, my God and I walked past the ducks on the lake and under the trees which couldn’t be

greener to get lunch in a room full of a few hundred women who had just been to one workshop or another…and I told God I hoped they all felt a little braver at lunch than they did at breakfast.
Then, we checked my schedule again – because my memory is not as good as God’s – and went off to the afternoon workshop where the facilitator used Brene Brown’s work in Daring Greatly to help us identify our top three values. That was the easy part (though it was far from easy). The hard part was this question: What behaviors you do engage in when you have lost sight of each of your three values?


So, God and I talked with the three women at our table about snapping at our children and gossiping about friends and numbing ourselves with food or alcohol or shopping or busyness. We confessed that our fear is debilitating at times. And we remembered how it feels when we have been brave and dared to speak truth to power or cross the threshold of a WeightWatchers center or told our adult child it’s time for rehab.

And God smiled when we remembered our strength.

So, today, I am not in Virginia. I’d like to be there with my clerical collar on, linked arm-in-arm with my sisters and brothers who are there standing and singing against hate. Also, I am terrified to be there with my clerical collar on, linked arm-in-arm with my sisters and brothers who are there standing and singing against hate. So, there’s that.

Today, I’m not in Virginia with my collar.

Today, I’m in Montreat with my sisters. We are learning (remembering) to be creatively, prayerfully, sacredly alive. We are praying and singing for God’s kingdom to reign. We are remembering our strength. And we’ll need our strength to muster courage when we are afraid, to link arms and sing against hate in our various lives when we leave here.

At the book signing before her speaking session


After I wrote the paragraphs above, I went to our evening session where Rachel Held Evans opened our evening by declaring that white supremacy pervades the systems and institutions of our nation, and the church is no exception…and that hatred, oppression, and declaring oneself better than any other human in the world is in direct opposition to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

And 400 people applauded. And applauded. And applauded.

Some of us shouted, “Amen.” Some of us whispered it. For Rachel had spoken our collective confession.

And Christ heard it.

Posted in God's Love

remembering the gentle way Love shows up

I am a pastor in the ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America). Most pastors in my tradition don’t choose the biblical text from which we will preach each week; we use a lectionary, a calendar of texts.

Some use the Narrative Lectionary which has us reading through the story of God and God’s people…as a story. It has longer passages each week, and you pick up next week where you left off today, so you get a sense of the narrative of God’s action in the world. The Narrative Lectionary is a four-year cycle of readings. When you reach the end of it – start again! It’s been four years, and God has something new to say and new people who are listening.

Most use the Revised Common Lectionary which has us reading (mostly) through one of the gospels – and a few other texts from various parts of the Bible which work to help us better understand the gospel reading for that day. The Revised Common Lectionary is a three-year cycle of readings.

Year A, we read through the Gospel According to Matthew – and some coordinated readings.

Year B, we read through the Gospel According to Mark – and other readings.

Year C, we read through the Gospel According to Luke – and other readings.

And St. John’s gospel gets lots of focus sprinkled throughout in all three years.

And some pastors in our tradition create their own lectionaries. For example, I once attended a church where we used the Gospel According to Luke all year, we didn’t insert any of St. John’s gospel where the RCL does. Other pastors do sermon series preaching and various other patterns for proclaiming who God is and what God has done in Jesus.

That’s a very long way to get to this: I use the Revised Common Lectionary. I mean I really use it. I have only been a pastor for 4 years, so I am not tired of the three-year cycle of readings, and I have a gut feeling that I should not be the person choosing the text for the week. So, I really do like using the RCL. I nearly never stray from it.

We are smack dab in the middle of St. Matthew’s gospel. We are in chapter 13 right now, and Jesus has a lot to say to the Pharisees who are furious that he is healing on the Sabbath and such. He uses lots of language about punishment and the fiery furnace and people gnashing their teeth in agony and suffering. It’s hard to hear. I know that we are sinful, and God is righteous. I know the wages of sin really are death, but sometimes in the middle of this gospel, I feel a bit desperate.

This week, the focus for our Wednesday evening time of worship and study is Christmas. We have something called Chrismons, symbols of Christ which hang like ornaments on a tree. This week, we’ll study the meanings of them, where those meanings are found in scripture, and how to make one. We will surely sing some Christmas hymns and tell the Christmas story.

As I sat to do some preparation for Wednesday evening, remembering the meaning of all the symbols, looking up some of Jesus’ names in scripture, and thumbing through the hymnal to choose a few Christmas hymns, I felt relaxed. As I sang through a few verses, I noticed that gentle feeling of familiarity settling around me. One of the joys of Christmas is hearing the first few notes of a hymns and thinking, “Oh, I love this one!”

It felt so different from last Sunday morning when I read from the pulpit that all evildoers will be collected and thrown into the furnace of fire where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. The poetry of Christmas hymns works to wrap words around the mystery of the ways God loves the world. And while St. Matthew certainly reveals God’s love to us in the ministry, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus – it’s sometimes a hard road following Jesus around Galilee.

So, this lectionary preacher decided that we will tell the Christmas story this Sunday in worship (for not all our folks come out for the mid-week classes). And, maybe since I never change the lectionary texts, I came here to write about it and process it, making sure it’s a good idea.

I guess Spirit is telling me in many and varied ways that it is always good to tell the story of God’s choice to “move into the neighborhood” as Eugene Peterson puts it. Surely, we need always to keep in focus the miracle and mystery of the choices God makes to be in relationship with us. The story of God’s birth is one of those choices.

In the midst of the language of punishment and gnashing of teeth, can you imagine Love growing in Mary’s womb in order to be born into this world ~ in order to teach us about Love? I think we need to imagine it again – in the middle of our journey through St. Matthew’s gospel. We need to peer into the manger to see the gentle way Love shows up.

Now, please join me in turning to hymn #283, Oh Come, All Ye Faithful.

After we sing, please wash your hands and come to the table where sugar cookies and icing is ready for you to make creative and delicious symbols of God’s love. (Now, you bigger ones be sure to help the littler ones among us.)

Posted in Ordinary Holiness

Things that make you go hmmm…

I have a dear friend who makes “10 Things…” lists. I always enjoy reading them. Here’s one from the last few weeks of my life.

  1. Sometimes you get an invitation to a new adventure, which only serves to help you know you prefer this current adventure.
  2. Sometimes it takes a serious fall that could have been serious-er to help you know how much you really like being alive. And “there’s a million things I haven’t done. Just you wait. Just you wait.”
  3. Sometimes it takes a severe allergic reaction affecting your arms, legs, and neck to help you have a dose of real empathy for those who have uncomfortable and embarrassing skin conditions all the time. Seriously, Friends, some of your friends/family/clients/students/teachers with psoriasis and eczema and such are wearing long sleeves in the heart of the summer because they feel like lepers. I have found myself wanting to wear a shirt at the grocery store that reads: It’s an allergic reaction. It’s not contagious. It even affected my work, as I had planned to visit some homebound folk today, but didn’t want them to worry – since many of them have compromised health and cannot afford any type of exposure to illness. I will simply go in a few days when my rash has cleared up, but those with chronic skin conditions regularly have to offer explanations and wear those sleeves as best they can.
  4. Sometimes you agree to be the chaplain at Music Week at a summer camp of hundreds of musical children and adults, and it helps you remember how sacred are rhythm, melody, harmony, and silence – and that you worship a creative, endlessly interesting God.
  5. Sometimes you agree to be the chaplain at Music Week, and it bubbles to the surface one of the embarrassing and difficult conflicts within our congregations:
    1. we want the finest of musicians serving in our midst
    2. some of the finest musicians are gay

    This means in our holy community, we have people offering their exquisite gifts to and for us in the name of Jesus. It means that very often, when we sing our favorite hymn, and our spirits are lifted to and through the thin spaces between earth and heaven, the fingers, brain, feet, voice, and creativity that offer us that moment are possessed by a gay person. So, Christ’s Church has a choice: accept the giver and the gift in the same breath of gratitude, or tell Jesus we do not like the way he gives us his gifts. We do not get to have it both ways. We cannot say, “Thank you for the music. It has restored my soul. The musician, however, is broken.”

  6. Sometimes you rack up plenty enough emergency room, urgent care, and bloodwork bills to reach your out-of-pocket limit for the year, so you start thinking of all the things you have ignored or not got tested when advised to do so. And you feel every minute of your 48 years…and you are not sure you want to know what all those tests reveal. But, in the very next breath – maybe before the first breath is complete – you are just so grateful for health insurance and an HRA account and a job that tosses money in that account just for taking health assessments online. So, you dial the phone and make the first long-neglected appointment.
  7. Sometimes you watch your daughter just start adulting, and when you get really quiet and totally honest, you admit that you are not nervous about her moving out next month. She’s doing great. She’ll do great. She’s stronger than you will ever be, and you pray that her strength doesn’t have to be tested quite so brightly as yours has. When you imagine her as an elementary school teacher, you feel such relief that there will be a couple dozen kids every year who get her light, strength, creativity, artistry, and intellect. They are luckier.
  8. Sometimes you look at the calendar and you see it’s only 88 days until your son stands at the foot of a cross, holding his Love’s hands, promising to participate wholly in a holy relationship until death. He’s already got one year under his belt of teaching high school special ed math in the heart of Balitmore. (When you told someone about him and his job, the person said, “There are givers and takers: he’s a giver.”) He’s more than you expected in so many ways. His creativity and kindness match his spooky-smart-intellect, and his hunger for justice drives him.
  9. Sometimes you confess to your financial planner that you know loads of other adults manage all their bills and savings and such like champs. They make budgets and stick to them. They don’t always underestimate how much money or time things will take. Some of them even just keep lots of details in their heads, like which bills come quarterly, and what the password to that account you only access when it’s tax season in order to download/upload some documents for your tax preparer. You know people do that (and you are pretty sure he’s nodding because he is one of those people…which is a great trait for a financial planner, after all), but you confess that it is difficult for you, so you have lists and calendars. And when the computer with that information froze and crashed one day many months ago, it completely derailed the quazi-system you had going. Sometimes you share all that mess with your finance guy, and you are getting kind of teary with all that vulnerability…and he offers some really helpful help. And it feels like you are talking to God-in-Skin, helping the helpless.
  10. Sometimes your Mom watches your life with a tumble down the stairs, concussion, and scalp-staples, followed closely by a freak allergic reaction, all wound up in two weeks at camp: a week with your middle schoolers and a week with the musicians. She asks which day this week she can come and help you catch up on laundry and cleaning bathrooms and such. She asks this because she knows you. She knows how you get behind in things. And how it makes you feel ashamed – because, ya know, lots of adults just manage all those things. So, when she calls to ask when she can come, you don’t say, “Oh, no. You don’t have to do that. I’ll get it done.” You say, “Is Friday good?” And you look to heaven and whisper, “Thanks.”