#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

Church Life, Ministry, Reflectionary

Asked and Answered

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My favorite preacher

The question has been asked and answered so many times. At least on this occasion I knew the asker was friendly, offering an opportunity to make the case to an audience containing listeners of mixed attitudes. We had discussed a recent complaint on the matter before the recording began. Even so, I was a little surprised when I heard the question.

“What would you say to people who don’t think women should be clergy?”

He asked, so I answered, bearing in mind our earlier conversation.

“I would point them,” I said, “to the gospel stories of the Resurrection, and to the first evangelists, who were women. I would suggest they read Paul’s epistles carefully and take note of how many leaders in the early church were women.”

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Some other preachers I appreciate

My interviewer moved on to the next question, but I know that out in the ether, people will repeat the one already asked and answered. A vocal portion of humankind – which I like to think are in the minority despite the volume of their voices and the attention paid to them – continue to value women only in relation and submission to men.

They make these claims on religious grounds, forgetting or ignoring passages of scripture inconvenient to their thesis. At the church my wife serves, the staff and Session have undertaken a read-along, Four Gospels in Four Months, and invited the congregation to join them. Today’s chapter was Matthew 15, in which Jesus meets a woman who teaches him when she says, “…even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ tables.” She asks, and he answers, and the mission of Christ expands to become a mission to the world.

Holy God, give us patience to answer questions asked again and again, and keep us open to answers that will change us. Amen.


This post was written for the RevGalBlogPals Weekly e-Reader. You can hear the interview mentioned above on Day1 in June.

Christmas, Ministry

Cassoulet for Christmas: a word for cooks and preachers

My father-in-law from the first go-around was a wonderful cook. Creating delicious meals was his avocation. I came poorly prepared into that family-by-marriage, having grown up with a dad who literally did not know how to boil water and a mom who fed us dinner from terrible 1960s recipe cards. (Isn’t that tomato aspic … Christmas-y?) Julia Child was that lady Dan Ackroyd made fun of on Saturday Night Live; and who was James Beard?

My father-in-law had taken cooking classes at Beard’s brownstone in New York City.

My kids grew up eating impressive holiday food, and I learned what I could along the way, until I became a pretty good cook. But this is the first Christmas I will take on a dish that is more of a multi-day project: Cassoulet. I’ve made a detailed grocery list, and I’ve marked out which parts of the preparation need to happen on which days, making allowances for the somewhat inadequate gas power of our stove here at the Manse. (Let’s just say you can’t use the burners at the same time you’re cooking something in the oven, unless you don’t care what happens to the latter.)

I’ve been thinking about it for months, and I have wavered more than once, only to be reinforced in my intention. My former sister-in-law photographed the Cassoulet pages in her dad’s Michael Field cookbook and sent them in a Facebook message. A friend who used to be a caterer offered up her gigantic Le Creuset Dutch Oven, the kind of pot you don’t buy for something you may never make again. A Twitter buddy assuaged my anxiety with a better-explained timeline for the recipe courtesy of Bon Appétit.

And I read the Cassoulet recipe in my circa 1982 copy of Joy of Cooking, which told me that this peasant dish – what? – from France was pretty much a combination of every kind of meat a farm family could have pulled together for a special meal, plus beans. Surely, with proper forethought, I can make this happen. My Cassoulet will not have all “the meats,” but it will have enough, and my sons will stand in the kitchen with me cooking for days, and if all goes well, it will look something like this.

Pastors and preachers bring so many things to the feast at Christmas: our personal histories, and our faith traditions, and our study of scripture, and long-held local practices. We do our best to find a recipe for worship and proclamation that combines revolution with respect, commentary with candlelight, and carefully-planned mood moments with space for mystery to break forth. I know you have done your work, planning the way services will unfold, balancing the words and the music, always considering timing, and taking seriously your responsibility to say enough but not too much about what it means for God to come into the world, in the flesh, to be one of us. In some ways it feels as impossible as the countdown to Cassoulet, doesn’t it?

While I am cooking, I am also praying for pastors and the congregations they serve. I have confidence in you, and in your recipes.


Adapted from a message I wrote for the RevGalBlogPals Weekly e-Reader.

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