From this thin place (a prayer for pastors)

Holy One,
From this thin place I pray:

For the women who

Gathered here

Long ago

Living together,

Away from their worlds,

Yet in yours, devoting

Their lives to prayer and service;
For the women who

Gather here

On retreat

In temporary community,

Away from our worlds,

Yet in yours, sharing

A time of prayer and respite;
For the women who

Need a break
Right now, 

But do not have it,

In the midst of their worlds,

Which are also yours, serving:

Their work continues.
Grant us all

Times of renewal,

And the will to take them,

To center ourselves

And return refreshed

To serve you wholeheartedly

In the work that never ends.

In Christ’s name. Amen.

What the world needs to hear (a prayer for pastors)

Dear God,

We have studied,Jesus
poring over our Bibles,
parsing ancient languages,
picking through commentaries,
penciling notes in the margins,
pondering your meaning.
picking out the words
the world needs to hear:
grace, mercy, justice.


Bless the work we have done,
and the words we will say,
and all those who will hear them,
we ask in His name. Amen.

At the infusion center 

We’re at the infusion center, where the people with cancer meet the people with Crohn’s and people like me who have Rheumatoid Arthritis. (I’m blogging from my phone, so no fancy links today.)

Luke 16 is a lot about money, and the way people use it, and the way many people don’t. It includes the parable of the shrewd/dishonest manager, and the tale of the Rich Man and poor Lazarus, as well as aphorisms warning us about being so attached to money that we cannot be in relationship with God.

These warnings go out to the rich and those with power over others. Forgive debts. Pay attention to those in need. Serve God, not wealth. 

I’m getting a treatment today that costs more money than I made last year, more money than I have ever made in a year. I get this treatment every six weeks. Because our primary household income is a good one, in the scheme of Presbyterian pastor livelihoods, we pay a pretty big deductible, and that is a challenge. There is a pharmaceutical co-pay program, but we’ve been unable to make use of it thus far due to various glitches with my (now former) doctor’s office and billing that did not specify the medication on the EOB. (!!!! Still appealing that.) 

I have no idea how less savvy people ever navigate this.

We are privileged by our insurance, our education, our income, our marriage. 

I can’t work full time in a church anymore, even with these expensive, effective treatments. 

Today I wonder who is sitting at the gate, wishing to change places with me and my Explanations of Benefits, trying to flex cramped fingers, pushing through the day with no help in sight.

Lord, help me to see her. 

Reorient (a prayer for pastors)

File Mar 19, 8 33 20 AMO Holy One
We thank you

For trips that dislocate us
For maps that reorient us
For views we could not have imagined
For voices we never quite heard before

For all travel that leads to you

For armchair journeying in a good book
For podcasters with unfamiliar perspectives
For conversation partners who push us
For prayer that redirects us

For all travel that leads to you

For taking off with all we think matters
For coming home with nothing to show for it
For thirsty work and unexpected meetings
For hurrying back to share the good news

For all travel that leads to you
We thank you

Reliable with the Ladies

Jesus had a way with women. I’m not suggesting he was some kind of tomcat or lothario, rather that the gospels show him facing off with men everywhere, while women sought him out, anointed him, traveled with him, and quietly financed his ministry.

Soon afterward, Jesus traveled through the cities and villages, preaching and proclaiming the good news of God’s kingdom. The Twelve were with him, along with some women who had been healed of evil spirits and sicknesses. Among them were Mary Magdalene (from whom seven demons had been thrown out), Joanna (the wife of Herod’s servant Chuza), Susanna, and many others who provided for them out of their resources. (Luke 8:1-3, CEB)

This picture of the traveling company of disciples, male and female, follows two stories in which male figures question not only his authority but his sense of how the world works (Luke 7:18-8:3). First John the Baptist’s disciples come to question whether he really is the one, and he responds that no one is ever happy, either with John’s ascetic approach to life or with Jesus’ more relaxed embrace of eating and drinking with both friends and foes. Names have been called, clearly: Glutton! Winebibber! (Thanks, Greek interlinear!) Next, he dines with a Pharisee who thinks he must be stupid for not recognizing a sinful woman when she came right up and anointed his feet with fragrant ointment.

JESUS MAFA. Jesus speaks about forgiveness, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN.

How slow not to see that women loved him *because* he knew exactly who they were!

When I hear contemporary complaints about the feminization of the church, or hear that all a church really needs to come back from decline is a good, strong, male pastor, I wonder if people have ever read their Bibles. These women will be ready to go to the cross with him. He must have given them some sense that their faith mattered to him, in a world where what they thought may not have mattered much at all. Somehow, they knew they could rely on him.

Thank you, God, for caring that we believe in you. Thank you for encouragement to take the risks required to follow you. Thank you for being reliable. Amen.

I’m reading and blogging about Luke for Lent. Want to read along? The full schedule can be found here.

(And yes, today’s title is another Hamilton nod.)

The ax at the root

To say that I had a complicated relationship with my mother would be an understatement. She had a way of saying things – to me only, as far as I know – that left me feeling I could never be adequate to please her. I used to think that as her adopted child I was somehow alien, did not exhibit traits she saw as typical for her family, but as I have aged I conclude that people often feel this way about their biological children, too.

In a rather striking use of metaphor, she told me in my 20s that I still needed pruning. She was a gardener, and she knew the good it might do to cut off a branch.

“The ax is already at the root of the trees. Therefore, every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit will be chopped down and tossed into the fire.” (John the Baptist in Luke 3:9, CEB – full passage here)


A tree that wouldn’t die

Although the pruning comment hurt – she said nothing to soften it – having learned about gardening from my mother, I know that some plants come back even when you chop them down. I know from visiting the Gulf Coast for several years after Hurricane Katrina how some trees that look dead can grow again. I know from having lost parts of my identity that God can bring new life even when we think everything that matters has been tossed into the fire.

I tend to look at this dire prediction as a misused metaphor on John’s part. We believe in a God who is making all things new. There may be things, attitudes, behaviors that need to go in order that we might bear good fruit, but like my mother, God is more likely to prune, I think, than get rid of us for good.

John knew only in part. (More to come later in the gospel.)

Great gardener, thank you for the patience you have shown with me, the grace you have given my sometimes inadequate crop of fruit, the love in abundance available in every season. Amen.

I’m reading and blogging about Luke for Lent. Want to read along? Full schedule can be found here.

Derailed (a prayer for pastors)

Holy One,

I like to have a plan
for every season
of the church year,
for every season
of my life.

I love making the plan,
with variations,
assembling the materials
practical and vocational,
doing the research
geographic, theological.

I want the plan
to serve You,
to express my
faithfulness to You.

derailedI want my plan
to stay on track.

Sometimes, though,
I am derailed,
perhaps by grief,
or economic chaos,
by unexpected
human frailty,
even by

I don’t know
what Jesus planned,
or if,
whether he lay awake
in the wilderness night
looking at stars,
imagining the day to come.

Be with me in my work,
and in my planning,
and in the moments
plans derail.

Especially then.

Help me
to get up again,
and to follow
the lead of the Spirit
even into the wilderness
without plans,
without rails.