#amwriting, coaching, Ministry

Own Goals

The US Women’s Soccer team finished group play in the Women’s World Cup with a perfect record, and they are scheduled to meet France in the quarterfinals later this week. They are amazing athletes performing at the top of their game, and no one who knows soccer is surprised that they are dominating. Yet there were complaints in the early rounds that the team scored more goals than needed to win and celebrated goals and wins with too much enthusiasm. 

Play smaller, said the critics. Don’t make so much of yourselves. 

The pushback came on as strong as the soccer team. Would we ask this of men? No. In sports, you work hard and play hard, lead with your gifts, and celebrate your victories. 

For me, it’s easier to celebrate others, and that sometimes gets in the way of achieving my own goals. I hesitate to put myself forward at the same time I have no problem applauding and promoting others who do the same kind of work I do, whether it’s writing or coaching. I rely on peer coaching to be sure my goals don’t become an “own goal.” 

One of my goals, after Denial is My Spiritual Practice was published last year, was to work on another book. I’m delighted to tell you that I recently signed a contract with The Pilgrim Press to write for and edit The Words of Her Mouth, a collection of original psalms written, in conversation with scripture, by ten clergywomen and faith leaders who represent a diversity of age, race, orientation, and denominational affiliation. The book is scheduled to be published in 2020. I place a high value on amplifying the voices of other women, and I’m excited to bring this idea I have been nurturing to reality. 

What are your goals in this season?

Who will help you reach them?

When will you stop playing small?

Work hard and play hard.
Lead with your gifts.
Celebrate your victories.

Are you a pastor considering coaching? Beginning in September, I will offer two new coaching groups, running until May, 2020. All group sessions will meet on Zoom. 

Sustaining Clergywomen – group coaching for up to six women serving in local church settings – first Wednesday of the month at 2 p.m. (Eastern time).

LGBTQIA+ Clergy – group coaching for up to six people serving in any ministry setting – first Thursday of the month at 1 p.m. (Eastern time).

Group Coaching Rates: $225 per person for nine monthly group sessions. A payment of $100 is due at registration; the balance of $225 will be due 1/15/20. Follow this link to register

#amwriting, Reflectionary

Better When Writing – interview at A Sanctified Art

Recently, I was the WholeheARTed Guest at A Sanctified Art, where I answered questions from Lisle Gwinn Garrity that inspired contemplation of my creative process. Thanks, Lisle, for thinking of me! Check out the resources being created by A Sanctified Art here.

SA: When did you first consider yourself a creative person?

MS: From the time I was a little girl, I loved thinking up stories. I would draw (very bad) pictures of the children I hoped to have and invent names and identities for them. I retold myths and adapted adventures of favorite characters from literature. I especially loved Bible stories and would “tell” them on the flannel board I stored under the high old-fashioned bed in my childhood home. A wonderful Sunday School teacher at the Old Presbyterian Meeting House in Alexandria, Virginia, gave me permission to expand my storytelling when she developed curriculum for 5th and 6th-graders that taught the Old Testament through drama and the New Testament using puppets. We learned stories, wrote scripts, and acted or performed the stories.

SA: Tell us about how you express yourself creatively?

MS: I experimented with many forms of writing both in school and personally, but I never found a form that suited all my interests until I started writing for church—plays, sermons, and liturgies all felt like lively and faithful ways to use my gifts. Even when I write about my life, as I began doing in blog form in 2004, the most meaningful storytelling happens in dialogue with scripture. I now write prayers especially for pastors. My newest favorite thing is combining words and images using Canva, Prisma, and Instagram.

SA: What is your creative process like?

Follow A Sanctified Art on Instagram

My creative process almost always starts with a text I will be talking to, and I wish I could say that inevitably means I study and pray, but often it means I read the text and go for a walk, or have to run an errand, or find myself waiting at a child’s choir practice or watching a Little League game, and something flashes through my mind. Ten years ago I would rifle through my purse for a tiny notebook, but today I open the Notes app on my iPhone and one-finger type or dictate the thought before I lose it. It happens that way because I cultivate openness and privilege originality.

(Read the rest at A Sanctified Art.)


Reading and Rabbit Holes (#amwriting)

Letters from the Farm
Letters from the Farm

I’m having a rabbit hole week as I read “Letters from the Farm: A Simple Path for a Deeper Spiritual Life.” In the short chapters, Becca Stevens, founder of Magdalene and Thistle Farms (a priest, a preacher, a speaker and an entrepreneur with a profound emphasis on healing) tells deceptively simple stories, then follows them with questions that go to the heart of things.

I’m particularly grappling with a chapter asking the reader to consider being cooperative rather than competitive. I like to think of myself as being pretty high-minded, raising up others, and I think I’ve done that in my work with RevGalBlogPals, but that doesn’t mean I’m immune to feeling like I’m not much of a preacher or pastor or writer or spouse or mother or queer compared to ________ (whoever is the flavor of the month at those things, or has done them longer, or with wide success, or …).

Alice falling ...
Alice falling …

Since reading that chapter, I’ve been falling down a rabbit hole, passing these thoughts over and over, faster and faster:

“I should get back into spiritual direction to talk about these things, but where is the money for *that* going to come from since I am doing all these part-time jobs, and I haven’t been pursuing new writing assignments, and wow, I am really a terrible person for not working harder on that, but I’ve been very busy doing the *other* jobs, but I am not a full financial contributor what with the free-lancing, the part-time pastoring and the start-up ministry” and so forth.

Stevens asks, “Is it difficult for you to be generous to colleagues or neighbors?” That part is not so hard. The trouble is when I cannot see generosity in return – although I realize that is not the point of generosity, is it? Generosity is giving it away without worrying about how we rank on the world’s scorecard.

Then she asks, “Who could you view as your ally and colleague rather than your competitor?”

The launch down the rabbit hole is intense, as I grab at things I can’t hold in my hand, try to recall them in mental pictures and quick phrases as I fall farther. Can I hang on to that jar or pick out those titles on the shelves?

How much farther will I fall?

Answering the reflection questions in Stevens’ book feels like spiritual direction, although I miss having someone to talk to about the questions and feelings raised. This morning, instead of telling myself I’ll never be the one with the best-seller and the publicist (the one sending me advance copies of other people’s books), I’m remembering the ways I know my writing and my work with RevGals have touched others – and imagining the ways I don’t actually know about for sure. I’m considering that maybe all those jobs are too many jobs and picturing a different way of organizing my vocational life.

Alice eventually hits solid ground, then moves on through other adventures, attending tea parties and meeting Queens and finding her way home again. I will get up from the table at Starbucks and go home to real life, take the dog out, fix a sandwich, and then keep writing.