"Graceland" is the name of my favorite song and album. It's by Paul Simon, but more importantly, it's what "home" sounds and feels like to me. We always listened to this album as we traveled from my home in Tennessee to my parents' childhood homes in Florida. But today, it's also a pretty good snapshot of my theology. Somewhere I really believe that the Christian journey is all about a wild trip to Grace-land. As I see it, Grace-land is the place where God is waiting to meet even us–with all the baggage and brokeness that we tote with us. Grace-land is the place where we will be received with open arms, even though our attempts at “getting it right” have been miserable failures at best. But, I think, every step we take is a step on the journey to Graceland.

Friday, December 3, 2010

A Holy Place

There’s a big difference between my life as a pastor and my dad’s life as a pastor.  Some days, I lament these differences, because I think it’s much harder to be a female minister than it is to be a male minister.  But today, as I took a beloved congregant who is dying of cancer a prayer shawl that I had knitted, I appreciated the differences.  She wept as I told her all the places in which she had been prayed for:  Minnesota, Tampa, Wilmington, in session meetings, at ball games, at the mall between trying on things... It was a Holy Moment.  For the first time, I appreciated what I as a female had to offer.  There’s a lot to be said for being able to hold the hand of a dying woman, and to weep with her.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The First Thanksgiving

Well, maybe last year was my First Thanksgiving... the first one as a married woman with her own house and domain...and kitchen...and ways of doing things. I drug out the china and crystal and did the turkey and whole shebang, and my husband proudly (and hopefully, truthfully) described it as a “Norman Rockwell” Thanksgiving.  Oh, yeah... I was proud.  And exhausted. And then later, rather sick.

And so when Thanksgiving rolled around this year, doing all that craziness just didn’t hit the top of my list. I always love to set a table in the beautiful way that I hear my grandmother always did things.  I’m even a “three fork” table setter.   But this year, I couldn’t talk myself into it.  I couldn’t convince myself that I wanted to spend all day Wednesday and Thursday cooking for only four people.

So the four of us made the trek to Cracker Barrel, where things are simpler.  It definitely wasn’t a “three-fork” meal, but we laughed and talked...and relaxed.  We enjoyed the fire, and the food could not possibly have been any better.

Watch out, Thanksgiving 2011.  There might just be a new tradition...

Thursday, October 14, 2010

You know you're old when... part II

Cracker Barrel is the place you most want to eat.

On one of our few nights that didn’t have any plans in place, that’s where we chose to go. Maybe it was that the weather is finally feeling “fall-ish”. Or maybe it was closer than almost anywhere else we could go.  Or maybe it was because we hoped they had a fire going, just because we love them.  Or maybe it was because, we, after all, are southern folks, and sometimes you just need to eat those things that remind you of your heritage.

I don’t know why Cracker Barrel is what has been appealing to DH lately, but for me, it’s something else.  When I go there, in a way that doesn’t happen anywhere else, I’m transported to another time and place.  We lived in Atlanta for a while--and ate at lots of the hot restaurants.  I’ve been to Dixie Stampede and Medieval Times.  But none of those places, despite their cost or their elaborate scenery, has been able to take me away like a meal at Cracker Barrel.  At all of those other places, DH and I have still managed to talk about bills and politics and who said what or who was wearing what. We’ve counted calories and pinched pennies. But when we’re at Cracker Barrel, we don’t do those things.  We talk about our dreams.  We sit and linger longer than is probably acceptable.  And sometimes, we even dine quietly (which if you know my husband, is unfathomable), completely at peace in the silence.  Somehow, a glass of rootbeer in a frosty mug is more soul soothing than anything we might find at a hip bar.  And admittedly, dining by lamplight makes everything more magical.

When I go to Cracker Barrel, I’m transported to a simpler time.  A time which I haven’t known, but which I'd desperately like to see.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

You know you're old when...

A new piece of furniture is the most exciting thing rocking your world...

But I do love my new sideboard.  I’ve been wanting one since last Thanksgiving when I realized I didn’t have enough space for both the people and the food.

DH has been indulging my quest, and we’ve happily snuck in little trips to antique stores as often as our schedules would allow (which hasn’t been terribly often lately.)  And maybe as much as I love my sideboard, maybe I’ve loved spending time with him just as much. It’s almost felt like it did when we were dating-- just heading off on the spur of the moment, making the very most of every minute we have.

We’ve seen a lot of great pieces, but not great for us.  They’ve either been wrongly shaped, or the wrong color of wood, or beat up, or too much money.  But this one is perfect-- and it very nearly matches the china cabinet that we bought a few weeks before we got married.

Somehow, slowly, we’re developing our own sense of style.  Our “just married” furniture is gradually being replaced by things of which we love.  And maybe we’re turning into grown ups-- who knew?

All that from a piece of furniture...

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Practicing Gratitude

I’m working on a sermon for Sunday on Luke’s story about the ten healed lepers, only one of whom said thank you.  And as it always does, this text wants something from me. It wants to know if I’m grateful.  It wants to know if I’ve bothered to look around, and follow the advice of the song, “Count your blessings, one by one.” The truth is, at best, sometimes.

But on a blue-sky day like this one, I want to remind myself of the things that fill me with life and dreams. I want to practice an attitude of “Give thanks in all things”, which of course, is not as easy to do as it is to talk about doing.

Today, in no particular order, I’m thankful for:

my husband, and the ones that love me even when I have little to offer them

my doggy, who seems to have no care in the world, besides having the most fun that she can at any given moment.

this delicious weather, and the bold colors and flavors and textures that come with it

a quick chat with a much-missed friend, and the promise of a longer conversation later

a quiet, drama-free week...so far

a little space to breathe and think and dream and pray

eyedrops that are helping a random, weirdo eyeball infection

a good meal on the horizon tonight, with some of the people I love

And so... “as we go on our way, we rejoice and give thanks; for in giving thanks in all things, we find that God, indeed, is in all things.” (Kimberly Long)


Monday, October 4, 2010

Brilliant Quote of the Day

In an interview with Pastor/Writer Eugene Peterson:

Q: As a pastor, then, you see grace in some pretty unlikely situations?

A: Yes, and my job is not to solve people’s problems or make them happy, but to help them see the grace operating in their lives.

(As read in The Contemplative Pastor)


Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Not So Glee-ful

Forgive me.  I don’t usually slip into commentary on random social phenomena, but I’m feeling compelled.

My husband and I have become fans of the fox show, Glee.  We loved the first season, and raved about it to everyone we knew.  The plots were funny, and the music was outstanding!  We expected more of the same from season two, but have thus far been tremendously disappointed.  I can’t exactly remember what the theme of the first episode of this season was, but this week’s episode was “Brittany Spears”.  First of all, just gag me with a rusty spoon.  The show was trashy, and the music seemed to require very little talent. (I’m not musical, but my husband is... and he was even more appalled than I am!)

I’m young, at least if the 25-30 group is still considered to be young.  And I would have guessed that I was in the show’s target audience, but I think the producers must be aggressively seeking followers from the younger crowd. Well, that’s fine and good--everyone wants to reach as broad an audience as possible--but at what cost?  Seriously, if next week’s show is as bad as this weeks, we’re out.  I wonder how many folks my age and older are suddenly feeling too old for the show?

Of course, you have to contextualize to some extent.  The idea is to make whatever product you’ve got marketable to as many people as possible.  But at what point do you jeopardize the integrity of what you had?

I guess this is how older church members feel when the church is changing things, working to bring in new/younger members.  Or maybe I’m just much more of an “old soul” than I realized.   Either way...what have they done with my Glee?


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A Delicious 30 minutes

I’ve been sick off and on for a year.  Nauseated more morning than not-- and no, I’m not pregnant. (Yeah, Yeah...I’m going to the doctor tomorrow...finally!) But what I’ve not realized is how much I’ve been missing out on by curling up in a ball morning after morning.  The last few days, I’ve been nausea free and have been blown away by how much I enjoy those early morning moments--the few minutes before anyone needs me.  I’ve started having a cup of coffee in my chair outside, just as the sun is rising.  My doggie often comes with me, and together we watch the morning come in.  Somehow this few minutes sets the pace for the rest of my day...and it’s delicious.


Monday, September 27, 2010

The Best Surprise

On October 2 of last year, my mother-in-law was diagnosed with breast cancer.  She had a lumpectomy later that month, and then did the whole chemo/radiation cycle that has become such a part of many people’s lives.  And despite still feeling a little more tired than she did, she’s doing really well.  But more than that, she’s a survivor.

So of course, when she mentioned doing the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, my mental wheels started spinning.  She planned on running it, and I decided I would run it with her.  But later, she casually mentioned that she hadn’t felt up to training for the run, so she thought she’d walk instead.  I made a new plan.

I learned that she was going to have a whole team of folks from her work that were going to walk with her, so my sister-in-law and I thought it would be fun to get a team of her family together to surprise her.  We’ve plotted and planned for weeks...and somehow managed to keep the fact that 12 people were sneaking into town a secret.

She was positively blown away when we all met her just before the race... and it was one of the most beautiful moments I’ve ever seen.


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

How Ipad changed my life

With everyone else, I sorta smile when I see Apple’s commercials that say, “There’s an app for that!”

But what I didn’t realize was just how true that seems to be...or how much those “apps” would change my life.

For some reason, ipad has helped me get both my professional and my personal life organized in ways that I’ve never been able to achieve before.  As a minister, I’m always going lots of different directions, and sometimes I didn’t know whether I was going or coming. But with apps like “Daily Notes” and “ToDo” I can make all sorts of lists.  I can keep record of what I need to do, and what I’ve accomplished, as well as pertinent information on a variety of subjects.  There’s even an app called ipastor that helps me keep up with my church’s ministry needs.

In my personal life, I’ve gotten my cluttered, disorganized, and perpetually messy house under control.  I use an app called “Home Routines” to help me figure out what I need to do each day so that the house never gets too bad.  I’ve even got all my recipes organized so there is no more digging through cookbooks, but instead everything is at my fingertips, and sortable by cooking time, occasion, or ingredient.

But perhaps my best accomplishment is that I am now virtually sticky-note free (which is phenomenal considering that I used to have them EVERYWHERE).

Organize your life? Take control of your “stuff”.  Yeah, there’s an app for that.


Thursday, August 5, 2010

A View from the Last Day

[Thoughts from the conference where I'll be this week: Writing and the Pastoral Life. I'm in rural Minnesota, at St. John's University and Abbey]

I feel like I should say something, anything for that matter. After all, I've been at a conference about writing-- about WORDS! for crying out loud. I've prayed with the monks, and feasted with my colleagues, both on so much food, and more satisfyingly on collegiality. I've been inspired, both by the setting and by the stories, told both formally and in little "pods" of conversation along the way. I've met the sunrise, and I've felt the wind blow through the open-air chapel by the lake.

But something has blown through me too. A need. A desire. A thirst. A fear. A hope. A word. I leave carrying more than I brought: books, and mugs, and folders... and ideas and hopes and dreams. Not everything will fit in my now-too-small suitcase, and it, like my brain, is now overstuffed. I'll make a clumsy traveler, but no one will be able to find fault with all the things I've grabbed ahold of to take home.

So here I am at the last day, and the view is spectacular. Not just of a last look at a lake, but of a last look...for now, anyway, at my colleagues who will certainly do great things. The view is also a look forward, to the plane that will return me to my beloved, to a life that I might now dare to find.


The Greatest Fear

[Thoughts from the conference where I'll be this week: Writing and the Pastoral Life. I'm in rural Minnesota, at St. John's University and Abbey]

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us." (Marianne Williamson)

I've not been willing to admit this to myself, but in a lot of ways, I'm afraid to write. That sounds dumb, but for me it's risky. For me, I think, it's the thing I've always wanted to do. It's not that I'm afraid I'll start writing and won't like it, but rather that I'm afraid I'll like it too much. I fear not that I'll be rejected but that I'll be accepted-- which will in turn necessitate more and more writing. I'm afraid that I might just get lost in a world of words, and have a hard time coming back to reality.

I've been telling myself that "they" won't let me write. They who? The church who wants all my attention. The sermon who must be preached, week after week. The triathlon who isn't getting trained for. The quilt, who cries out to be finished. My puppy who doesn't understand "I'm busy." My husband who doesn't want to hear "I'm busy."

But, it turns out that maybe "I" am the "they."


Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Lost and Found

[Thoughts from the conference where I'll be this week: Writing and the Pastoral Life. I'm in rural Minnesota, at St. John's University and Abbey]

As I've been here, we've stayed really busy. When I looked at the schedule, I imagined that we would have much time to think and write and pray. But in reality this hasn't been the case. So the other night, when the schedule made it look like we had a free night, I was thrilled. But then after dinner, we were told to sit so we could all "talk". (As if we hadn't been doing enough talking... my inner introvert is running around screaming.) And worse than that, before we could start talking, we were going to sing a few hymns as a group. I'm not sure I'd been thrilled about that even if I could sing, but I can't, so mostly I just mouthed the words so that nobody would know.

But then, of course, someone suggested our last song be Amazing Grace. This song makes me weep anyway, but on this particular night, when we got to the line "I once was lost but now I'm found", something in me broke open. Not that I've never had the sense of being found, but more often than not, I feel lost. But at that moment, I knew that right then anyway, I was found. Something in me was found


Tuesday, August 3, 2010

What is Home?

[Thoughts from the conference where I'll be this week: Writing and the Pastoral Life. I'm in rural Minnesota, at St. John's University and Abbey]

Every afternoon, we are asked to do a free-write using a particular prompt. Here's what came out of yesterday's question: What is Home?

My home looks like the love of my life-- like waking up next to my snoring, farting soul mate-- the one I've chosen to be with for life. It looks like a place that is really lived in, with dirty socks littering the floor of most rooms, and the remains of whatever we scrounged (because it's likely that I didn't cook) for dinner last night still on the coffee table.

My home smells like dog. It smells like a boxer mutt who played in the mud puddle that she shouldn't have. It smells like the beagle that's more exactly built like a pig-- who just wants to lie down, be loved, and grow old.

My home feels like a cat who's so soft that his fur might make a delightful pair of knitted pair of socks. It feels like a hungry cat who is convinced that if she pretends to adore you just enough, you will immediately jump up to attend her every need.

Today, my home feels far away. Today I miss my snoring soulmate, and wish I could bring him into this world I've stumbled into. But this world is not home.

WHen I return home, things will be different. I'll be different. I'll have more "things" to put in my home: a heart more attuned to its desires, a dream unstuck.


Monday, August 2, 2010


[Thoughts from the conference where I'll be this week: Writing and the Pastoral Life. I'm in rural Minnesota, at St. John's University and Abbey]

"We assume that you're all great writers or you wouldn't be here. You have been carefully chosen because we at the Institute believe you have something to say, and we want to give you the space to say it."

Those were some of the opening remarks made to us at our orientation last night. We were told that the twelve of us were selected from a large number of applications. Well, that's enough to give a girl a big head.

But more than that, it's enough to give a girl (or guy) a sense of purpose. I'm a Presbyterian-- one of our big things is that God calls us to things. Certainly I've been called by God to be a minister (because...ummm...well... that wasn't my plan!) But the idea that someone else senses a purpose for you gives, at least me, a kick in the pants.

The idea that someone believes that I have something worth saying, something that I should be putting out in to the world is more than I have yet been able to believe. It might be the answer to the prayer I've never had the courage to pray-- and it terrifies me. It humbles me. And it makes me dream.


Your name precedes you...

[Thoughts from the conference where I'll be this week: Writing and the Pastoral Life. I'm in rural Minnesota, at St. John's University and Abbey]

One of the very odd things that I've experienced at the conference so far is that my name (or at least my work) has preceded me. Long before I ever met any of these colleagues, they had my work in their hands, just as I had theirs in my hands. They made judgements about me, about my situation, about my talent as I writer just as I made those same judgements about them. And then, suddenly, we're all face to face, and there is no more hiding behind a cloak of anonymity.

The work that we've submitted has to stand on its own (as it should). You can't attach caviats to it or make excuses for it. You can't change the words, or pretend that they just accidentally lept on your page. You've got to stand behind it, and let people come to know you through it. You've got to own it, and put up a brave front that you are ok with the fact that those words are on the page because you put them there. Willingly. Consciously. Unapologetically.

"Will they laugh at me?" you wonder. "Will they see the truth-- that I'm a child, a novice, someone just running words together on a page? Will they think my story is worth telling, or might they secretly think they could have more fun digging for 'gold' in their nose than reading my work."

It's a vulnerable, naked feeling.


The Best Compliment

[Thoughts from the conference where I'll be this week: Writing and the Pastoral Life. I'm in rural Minnesota, at St. John's University and Abbey]


As I was sitting by one of the nuns who came to share her memoir with us, she looks at me, "You speak like a writer, like a natural storyteller. You're simply delightful."

I didn't tell her that I can't find a writing project to settle down with, or that I'm sure that many other folks rightfully should have been chosen for my place at this conference, but I definitely left smiling.


On Hospitality

[Thoughts from the conference where I'll be this week: Writing and the Pastoral Life. I'm in rural Minnesota, at St. John's University and Abbey]

What a welcome we received as we came in last night! The Institute has really gone out of its way to make us feel welcome!

Not only did they have everything we could possibly imagine that we'd need (from water bottles and coffee mugs with our names on them to whole bottles of shampoo) but they also had everything that we might've forgotten. "If you need something, just take it" they said. "That's how we do community around here." And if by chance there was something that we needed that didn't fall in one of those categories, well, they'd go get it for us. "Please, please, please tell us if you need something. We'd be heartbroken if we'd learned that there was something we could've done to make your stay nicer than it was".

They even made us root-beer floats for dessert.

They took the time to think of everything that might make us feel like valued guests.

As I think about Hospitality, I think this must be it. How badly we often "do" hospitality in the church and in our lives as Christians. We talk about welcoming others, but we do it out of our own comfort, not out of a desire to make someone else feel comfortable. We sacrifice little, we place no value in being truly hospitable-- and we wonder why people don't come back. What an extraordinary thing it is to be made welcome in such a way.


Prayer for the day

[Thoughts from the conference where I'll be this week: Writing and the Pastoral Life. I'm in rural Minnesota, at St. John's University and Abbey]

A prayer as I'm trying to figure out what it is to be both a writer and a pastor-- as I realize that I'm tired and burned out, but that there is still a longing in me for something more.

God, make me a vessel. Set me on fire.

Remind me of my calling, reignite my flame.

Give me a voice, and something worth saying.

Wake me up--today.

And again tomorrow,

and tomorrow's tomorrow.



Word Eruption

[Thoughts from the conference where I'll be this week: Writing and the Pastoral Life. I'm in rural Minnesota, at St. John's University and Abbey]

I woke up this morning with words, with a prayer of thanksgiving on my lips. I woke up with this almost violent need to write. Write what? Who knows? Write how? Does it matter? I might just have scribbled on napkins if I had to.

I'm afraid that what I've been afraid of all along is coming true: that once I start, once I allow myself to write-- I might never stop. That the yearning in my own soul to give rise to words might just overtake me, and might change my life forever. I'm afraid that the words might ask something of me, call me to a challenge that I might not yet be ready to rise to.

I went on a five mile hike this morning-- and the blessed peacefulness and silence almost overcame me. But the silence was overcome by words: lots and lots of them about all sorts of things. Perhaps these words have been here all along, but there are so many other words that are always bombarding me that I can't hear my own.

And if there is too much noise for me to hear my own words, imagine how hard it is to hear The Word. The Word which shocks, and surprises, and interrupts, and changes, and is. The life giving Word that sometimes I'm too busy to hear.


Friday, July 30, 2010

Pedicures, Triathlons, and Monks in Minnesota

No wonder I'm restless at night... thoughts swimming through my brain!

I just paid my husband $40 to give me a manicure and pedicure, and I'm thrilled. He's been giving me pedicures for a while now, because we don't usually have the money for me to indulge in that luxury. It's been one of his many sacrifices for me. But this week, I'm going on a trip, and I'd gathered some money that we agreed I could use for a "just-this-once" splurge. But when it came time to do this thing I'd been looking forward too--I just didn't want to. Truth be told, I've kinda come to enjoy that time with my husband-- we talk and giggle, and he's meticulous enough that he does a great job. I know he would've done it if I couldn't pay him, but everyone needs some money they can call their own from time to time. $40 at the salon would've bought me an hour of relaxation and pretty toes-- but the places I can afford, I usually feel uncomfortable in. $40 at DH'S "At-Home Nail Spa"-- well that bought me a whole evening of time with my husband and pretty toes (and fingers!)

I had a dream last night that I was finally doing this triathlon (and save for there not actually being any water for us to swim in...which led to a rather funny scene where folks where making the motions of the breaststoke on dry land), the dream was great. In the dream, I felt like how I imagine serious runners to feel...blissful, like they're flying. But only once have I even had a glimpse of that feeling while I was running. For me, running is forcing myself to take just one more step...over and over and over. The triathlon is Sept 25, and my motivation has completely flagged. I don't know whether it's the heat or maybe I've lost sight of that adrenaline rush that comes from doing a tri--but whatever it is, I'm having a hard time making myself work for it. This will be my second tri, (you can read about my experience with how I re-discovered God here: ...it's called "Finding God in Spandex" but this time, I'm down about 40 lbs from my heaviest weight ever. As the weight has been coming off, I've been working toward doing this triathlon, and I've felt like a rockstar: strong, athletic, healthy-- and finally able to push my body in great ways. Maybe my dream was a nudge in the ribs (or a kick in the pants) to get moving with it again....

In two days, I fly out to Minnesota for a trip months in the making. I was selected to attend a week-long conference called "Writing and the Pastoral Life", and I'm so excited I can't stand it. The workshop (maybe that's a better word for it than conference) is for 12 of us, and it will be an intense place for us to meet and discuss the writing projects we're working on. I'm looking forward to those things, but oddly, that's not what I'm looking forward to the most. I got the schedule yesterday, and I was thrilled to see that there were scheduled places for prayer, solitude, and reflection. Not only that, but because the event is so close to an abbey, we get to pray with the monks. I've realized that I'm a person for whom ritual is quite helpful and meaningful, especially with regard to my spirituality. I'm excited to be able to pray in what I hope will be a new/helpful way for me. But I'm also just really excited about the idea of some time to be quiet and reflect. As an introvert pushing herself to dwell within the extroverted role of pastor, sometimes all the noise and chaos seems to drown out God's voice. Leading worship every Sunday makes it harder for me to worship on my own, and the truth is that I'm starting to dry up a little. I hope this is a time of renewal and replenishment!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

A New Space

Sometimes, you just need a change. Sometimes, you just need to run away, and try something new.

I guess that's where I am. I need a place where I'm not always a pastor, but am simply a child of God, looking for my path. I was blogging at underthesteeple.wordpress.com and that was nice, but it's not giving me space to ponder all the things I want to ponder. Lately, there have been a lot of things on my mind, but they haven't fit neatly in that space, so I've left them unsaid. And in the words of the great philosopher Shrek, "Better out than in, I always say!" If you've been following me over there, I'm still keeping it...but mostly for posting sermons.


So here I am--not just the neatly cleaned up and well-theologically groomed pastor that folks see on Sundays, but the other parts too.