#31 Lent Pilgrimage, Shortcut to Glory

Wednesday after Fifth Sunday in Lent

Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them. ~Mark 9:2

Mount Tabor, which is believed to be the site of Jesus’ transfiguration, rises from a flat plain. The road to the top is a series of hairpin curves too intense for a bus. We climb into taxis. Previous generations of pilgrims would have spent days making this trek, which we accomplish in twenty minutes, slamming from side to side across the bench seat.

Have you ever made an arduous hike up a mountain to find God? Or do you sometimes seek a shortcut?

Prayer: O Creator, forgive my rush to moments of glory.

Click here for Day #32.

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#30 Lent Pilgrimage, Holy Water

Tuesday after Fifth Sunday in Lent

Jordan baptism siteAnd people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to John, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan. ~Mark 1:5

So many pilgrims come to be baptized at this spot on the Jordan that there are helpful metal railings leading into the water, along with a vantage point for picture-taking. Nearby is a huge gift shop. You can buy vials of holy water in various sizes and containers. The woman selling the holy water seems tired. What exactly is it that we pilgrims seek to carry away from this place? What do we hope is contained in those vials?

Do you share the pilgrim impulse to stow away a vial of Spirit? Why?

Prayer: Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.

Click here for Day #31.

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#29 Lent Pilgrimage, Expectations

Monday after Fifth Sunday in Lent

This took place in Bethany across the Jordan where John was baptizing. ~John 1:28

On our way to the Jordan River, we hear about the plethora of baptismal sites in the Holy Land—three in Israel and one in Jordan—and that each one claims authenticity. I am certain I will recognize the place: an expanse of desert on each side of a wide, sparkling river. That’s how the Sunday School pictures show it. When the bus pulls in to today’s “authentic baptismal site” I immediately notice the dense foliage on each side of a narrow river. The water is murky and green. My expectations are dashed. I have a sinking feeling.

When have you had to move past disappointment to hear God speaking?

Prayer: O Spirit, I cannot contain you in my expectations.

Click here for Day #30.

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Lent Pilgrimage, Picturing Jesus

Fifth Sunday in Lent

Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee.  ~John 2:11

The church in Riene is just down the road from Cana. The worship service on a Sunday morning feels familiar: a small but fervent congregation with a good mix of ages inside a brick building. It feels a lot like my Presbyterian church back in Maryland. Up front is a stained-glass window of the Holy Family. I notice that the child Jesus is blond-haired and blue-eyed. Rather puzzling to find this, here in Palestine where hair and eyes are dark-colored.

How do you picture Jesus?

Prayer: Lord, may I see your face and not a reflection of my own.

Click here for Day #29.

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#28 Lent Pilgrimage, Homeland

Saturday after Fourth Sunday in Lent

They confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth, for people who speak in this way make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. ~Hebrews 11:13–14

In the stairway to the Chapel of St. Helen, a multitude of crosses carved into the wall by medieval pilgrimsIn many ancient sites we find crosses etched deep into stone. These were carved a thousand years ago by the Crusaders. I want to distance myself from the Crusader presence in our pilgrim past. Yet it is a fact. I trace the crosses with my fingers, imagining the mix of piety and violence that made someone lean against a knife blade to carve on sacred stone. Was that same blade used in violent ways? It is a distressing reality to ponder.

What did the Crusaders think they could claim here? How is that different from what you seek today?

Prayer: Holy Spirit, I acknowledge that I, too, seek after you in foolish ways. Forgive me.

Click here for the Fifth Sunday in Lent.

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Pilgrimage to Israel/Palestine 2018

Tel Megiddo

Dear Friends — I am once again on pilgrimage to Israel & Palestine, what a privilege!

Our group of 29 pilgrims flew into TelAviv (from all over the country) on Monday, arriving Tuesday. Late in the evening we took our bus to Ibillin, a small town in the Galilee region. On Day One we saw: Tel Megiddo, Caesarea Maritima, Mt. Carmel, Haifa, Bahai Gardens, Acre/Akko.

I’m in the lobby of the Golden Crown Hotel in Nazareth, using the WiFi (which doesn’t work in my room) and wanted to post a few pictures. I intend to do more of a write up, but I don’t have my notes. I would get them from my room but it’s Shabbat and the elevators automatically stop at every floor, so I’ve been taking the emergency stairs which is a little creepy, as I’ve discovered where the hotel puts the unused mattresses and stuffed chairs — but that is maybe a different sort of pilgrimage story than the one you expected to read!

Tel Megiddo is an archeological site at the top of a mountain overlooking the Valley of Armageddon.

Tel Megiddo

Tel Megiddo

Tel Megiddo, descending into the water system

Tel Megiddo, a tunnel through the water system

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When #MeToo Becomes #ChurchToo

Wenn aus #MeToo #ChurchToo Wird

I wrote an article for The Arc (Tyndale’s blog): When #MeToo Becomes #ChurchToo.

A publisher in Germany requested permission to translate and publish the article online at Die Eule (The Owl). I’m happy to hear that faith communities across Europe are following #MeToo so closely! Wenn aus #MeToo #ChurchToo Wird.

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Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

my story featured at Everyday Health

After A Pastor’s MeToo Story ran at Christian Century, I was contacted by an author named Diane Herbst, who was writing a feature for Everyday Health, about the health impact of sexual harassment. You can read the article here.

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The Museum of the Bible

a wonderful teaching tool or bellwether of catastrophe?

The Museum of the Bible opened in Washington, DC last November. The owner is Steve Green, who also owns Hobby Lobby. Green is a conservative Evangelical who is anti-gay and anti-choice. He appears to seek political influence and to court the press. Some of the recent press was negative because he acquired artifacts from Iraq illegally, for which he was fined.

Because of all these reasons, I wasn’t in a hurry to visit the museum. But a couple of my congregants went and were enthusiastic about their experience. As their pastor, I knew it was important for me to go. Also, I am preparing to return to Israel and Palestine in March (my first visit since I wrote Chasing the Divine in the Holy Land) and I was curious to see how the exhibits treated the land and political situation.

When cold weather closed school for a day, my husband (who’s a teacher) and I decided to draw on our steely Minnesota backbone and venture downtown. We used the website to print free timed tickets (there’s a suggested donation of $15). I would not have gone if I had to pay because I will not support Steve Green and his agenda.

The museum is big on drama, in terms of scale, lighting, and sound effects, with heavy use of films featuring Dave Stotts.  (more…)

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Why I Quit Drinking

thoughts on abstention & deprivation

Drinking has changed. In the late 1970s when I was in college, my friends and I drank cheap beer which we bought by the pitcher and shared. We rarely drank wine, other than an occasional bottle of sangria, which we repurposed as a candleholder when it was empty. Wine was for rich, old people who knew French. We ourselves would never be rich, or old, or pretentious.

These dynamics have reversed. Cheap, shared beer has given way to a world of microbrews which require a specialized vocabulary. Wine has gone the other direction, descending from the world of mystique into the clang and jostle of shopping carts.

Not only has drinking changed, but my drinking has changed. Wine was once a treat to accompany a special meal, maybe monthly. But as the price went down and availability went up, it became easier to pick up a bottle. And isn’t every weekend special?

Weekend drinking bled into weekday drinking, innocuously enough. Pastors live by an odd rhythm. Saturday night is a work night and the “weekend” — to the extent we have such a thing — begins on Sunday night. I resolved the mismatch by having a glass of wine both nights, Saturday evening to be social and Sunday evening to reward myself. Don’t look at me askance. Ministry is hard work, my friends, and there are plenty of scriptures about enjoying wine!

As my husband and I became older — and if not rich, at least no longer impoverished — we added mixed drinks to our repertoire. Martinis, to be exact. Let’s blame it on Mad Men. Martinis look so elegant in their shapely glasses. Plus I adore olives. The sound of the shaker became the cue that the day’s cares would soon be dissolving. (more…)

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“God Set the North Star in the Heavens”

Blackwater NWR & Harriet Tubman Underground Railway

Last weekend we took an overnight trip to Maryland’s Eastern Shore to view the wintering waterfowl at Blackwater NWR and take in the new Harriet Tubman Underground Railway site. I’ll admit that the “Eastern Shore” terminology confuses me.

The region gets its name from the stretch of Maryland’s Atlantic shoreline that’s sandwiched between Delaware and Virginia — but the part of Maryland’s “Eastern Shore” we explore (closer to the metro area) wraps around the Chesapeake Bay, which has both eastern and western shores. As someone who has trouble with time zones, this confusion of west and east seems unnecessarily complicated! I suppose a person always needs to know which direction they’re pointed, no matter which body of water is in front of her. Basic orientation — now that’s an appropriate thought for the New Year! No wonder I appreciated Harriet Tubman’s words about the North Star (we’ll get to her below).

The Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge is a marsh that’s actively managed to have freshwater, brackish, and saltwater areas, to provide for a variety of species. The Blackwater “River” spreads rather than flows. Nearby is the Choptank River which flows into the Chesapeake Bay. The closest town is Cambridge. The new Harriet Tubman site is entirely surrounded by Blackwater NWR, which is appropriate because these marshes and inlets provided cover as Harriet escaped slavery, and then returned to lead other enslaved persons to freedom.

My husband and I arrived around sunset and saw thousands of geese in the marsh and the air, continually rising and resettling — huge flocks of Canada Geese and Snow Geese. We also saw a lone pair of Tundra Swans enjoying a moment on the tidal flats, their white bodies forming the two halves of a heart shape. Later we saw (more…)

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How Will Your Church Fight Sexual Assault in 2018?

18 Ways for 2018

The January issue of Christian Century includes two articles I wrote. The cover story is my #MeToo #ChurchToo story about abuse at the hands of my senior pastor. Of course I want you to read that one!

But don’t miss the other article, which is a list:

18 ways that churches can fight sexual assault in 2018.

What would you add?


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“A Pastor’s #MeToo Story” at Christian Century


I’m happy — and rather nervous — to say that my article is on the cover of the Christian Century (January 2018). It’s a deeply personal story that I have not told before:         A Pastor’s #MeToo Story

I also wrote an accompanying list:  18 Ways Churches Can Fight Sexual Assault in 2018.

As always, I look forward to your feedback. #ChurchToo

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