Women Pastors Unite!

what to do when people make snide & hurtful comments

One of the joys in my life is being a “Matriarch” AKA “Mentor of Clergywomen Everywhere.”

Over at RevGalBlogPals, I and a number of other matriarchs respond to a classic question — what to do when parishioners make snide comments in the presence of others?

Unfortunately, it is a very common scenario for women in ministry. And what a shame! I know for a fact that clergywomen are just doing their best at a very hard job which is uniquely undervalued.

Click to read what I and the other matriarchs suggest. What would YOU suggest?

If you’ve ever been the person making the snide comment, I would love to hear about that experience too! What were you thinking?

Please pass along this resource to any women pastors you know. She probably would benefit from belonging to RevGals!

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Endorsement from Eugene Peterson!

I am so THRILLED to announce that Eugene Peterson (along with his wife Jan) read my memoir and found it valuable! Here is what he says:

Many levels of excellent writing are skillfully woven into this memoir. It is far more than just a moving narrative by a remarkable person (although it is that). It is a story of lived theology: everything that has to do with God and the Gospel written in the language of everyday suffering, pain and blessing and love. Rape and shame, friendship and family find their place on these pages providing witness to a mature lived faith. ~ Eugene Peterson

Let’s all whoop and holler and place some pre-orders!

“Owning our stories means reckoning with our feelings and rumbling with our dark emotions — our fear, anger, aggression, shame, and blame. This isn’t easy, but the alternative — denying our stories and disengaging from emotion — means choosing to live our entire lives in the dark.”

Brene Brown
Rising Strong (New York: Spiegel & Grau, 2015), p. 75

“The Damage is Done, No One Can Undo It.”

thoughts on the letter written by the victim of rapist Brock Turner

By now you have no doubt read the details of Brock Allen Turner’s rape conviction at Stanford, including the letter his victim wrote. It’s a powerful letter, and I hope you’ll read it. I took special note of a couple of sentences:

“You took away my worth, my privacy, my energy, my time, my intimacy, my confidence, my own voice, until today.” (near bottom, page 8) 

“The damage is done, no one can undo it.” (near top, age 10)

I believe I understand what she’s saying. Similar sentiments caused me to title my own story “Ruined.” The damage of rape goes to the very question of a victim’s worth, and it is damage that cannot be undone.

At least, that’s how it seemed to me. At age 20 I was raped at gunpoint by someone who broke into the home I shared with friends. When that night was finally over, I felt like my life was over. And in many ways, it was. That particular life was over. I had to rebuild an entirely different life.

Which made me furious. Why should another person’s act — which was inflicted on me against my will — completely change my life? Why should one act have such ruining power?

It shouldn’t, of course. And yet sexual assault has a uniquely destructive power. Our bodies are more than containers for our selves. And our sexual parts, with all their generative power, are at the very center of our selves.

The new life I eventually built for myself included seminary and a career in the ministry. In hindsight I realize that I was pursuing answers to the questions no one seemed able to answer — questions of identity and meaning — questions which are always religious in nature. Some thirty years later it felt like time to pry those questions open again. So I wrote a memoir.

What do you think? What kind of damage does rape cause? How can that damage be undone? Or can’t it?

I would love to hear your thoughts.

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Enter to Win a Free Copy of RUINED

Goodreads Giveaway

Would you like to read an advance copy of my memoir? No strings! Goodreads is giving away 20 copies!

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Targeted at Target

a conversation with a stranger

Yesterday I was at Target comparing brands of facial cleanser. I am super-cheap about this kind of stuff.

A woman said “Excuse me.” She was in her thirties, I would guess, a woman of olive complexion and dark hair, with an infant strapped onto her chest. She said, “I ask you in the name of Jesus.”

I must have looked confused, because she repeated it twice more. Finally I got it, and said, “Ask me what?”

She gestured to her shopping cart, which had 4 cans of Enfamil in it.

“Do you need money?” I asked.

“No! No! I need help buying these.” Her English was broken.

“Do you need help with your food stamps or something? With WIC?”

“I no have papers. I no ask for money,” she said. “I ask for my child.”

“Do you want me to take these to the register and buy them for you?” I asked. “How much do they cost?”

“Forty,” she said.

“Jiminy crickets this stuff is expensive!”

The baby started to squirm. She pulled a small bottle out of her bag. She proceeded to feed the baby, looking apologetic.

“Is that your baby?” I asked. “Can you nurse it?”

“No, I have Crohn’s disease,” she said. She gestured toward her breast, inviting me to notice that it was not full. She and I had full eye contact with each other. She looked tired and worried. The baby had a full head of dark hair, but was probably only two months old.

I thought: Maybe she is scamming me.

I thought: OK, maybe she is. I can live with that.

I told her: “Let’s go,” and put 2 of the cans in my cart. I wheeled to the register and paid for them. The clerk gave me a good coupon with the receipt — $7 off the next purchase of Enfamil — so I gave it to her, along with the receipt. We were both all teary-eyed. I said, “God bless you,” and she said, “Thank you Jesus.”

Then I was afraid she would ask more of me and I ducked back into the store. But I couldn’t stand it — I had to come back out and see what she did next. She put the coupon away very carefully into a wallet. Then she pulled out a scarf to cover the baby’s head, and went out into the sunny day. She walked with just a bit of a waddle to the very far corner of the parking lot, to where a minivan was parked under a tree. She put the baby into its seat, then drove away.

I have no idea what I expected to happen.

With tears rolling down my face, I texted my husband: “At Target. Spent $80 on baby formula for a stranger.” The phone immediately binged with his response. “Sounds good.” (Which is why I’m tagging this, “Why I still love my husband”)

I couldn’t think why she approached me. Then my hand went to my neck, to the small Jerusalem cross I wear on a chain.

I don’t think that wearing a cross ever cost me anything before.

What would you have done?

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Stranger Than Fiction

Memoir Sampler


Here’s a great opportunity to read the first three chapters of my memoir for free!

The folks at Tyndale House are giving away a sampler of three chapters of six memoirs. Do you see my cover peeking out at bottom right?

I’m thrilled, but also a bit nervous. If you download and start reading my memoir, I think you’ll see why!

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Ruined: a memoir (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale, 2016)

My memoir RUINED will be published August 2. You can preorder it now at the places listed below.

Kirkus gave my memoir a very positive starred review, check it out!

You can also click over to Memoir Addict and download the first 3 chapters for free, along with a sampler of some other memoirs. Some great summer reading!

Pre-orders are hugely important in the book industry — thank you so much for considering it! Writers are nothing without readers.


Chasing the Divine in the Holy Land (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2012)

When I was writing this book, someone smart told me that I would never find a publisher. He said: “Christians don’t like to read about the Holy Land — they only like to argue about it.” He was onto something. If you want to see Christians debate, just take a strong position at either end of the Israel/Palestine conflict.

Yet, as the Christian church has long known, the Holy Land itself is a “fifth gospel.” This gospel is not only to be studied, but also experienced. A pilgrim doesn’t live above the neck, in the realm of facts, ideas and doctrines. A pilgrim travels dusty roads, swims in holy water, drinks wine, eats olives, lights candles, touches sacred stones, prays, cries, listens, laughs, and sings.

In this book I invite you to come alongside me on a pilgrimage to the Land of the Holy One.

You can order it at Amazon by clicking on the book cover. Thanks so much for your interest!


Fighting with Evil: Road Edition

I picked a fight with my husband on Sunday. We were in the car, driving somewhere we’d never been before, a situation that makes easy pickings for a fight. Wrong turns. Missed exits. A married fight is hardly news, but for us it’s not typical. My own angry words exhausted me. For days I was out of sorts. I cried for no apparent reason. In the evenings I reached for a glass of wine, then didn’t sleep well. One restless night I realized that the road upsetting me wasn’t the one we fought about last Sunday. It was the unknown road that lay ahead.

After spending years writing a book, I’m preparing to launch it. My readers know that the book is about a dark time in my life. To put it simply: my book is a rape memoir. “Memoir” means it’s a personal story about something that actually happened to me. That’s redundant, I know, but people often ask. In fact, they ask twice. Really? Maybe we’re all used to watching traumatic stories from a greater distance — stories unfolding on a screen, written by strangers, about fictional persons, witnessed through the impersonal lens of a camera. Maybe it’s inherently shocking to realize that a traumatic story is first written on the body of an actual person. Written on their skin.

So yes, the book was difficult to write. It took me a long time. Five years, off and on. I had to re-enter certain dark places over and over again. The manuscript was baptized by my tears. And eventually I was done! For the past few months it’s been a source of joy and pride to admire the pretty cover. I have revelled in feeling finished.

But now the book promotion has begun and I no longer feel finished. Instead I must surface from the seclusion of my “lonely writer’s garrett” (as Harry Chapin called it in “30,000 Pounds of Bananas”) and set out on an unknown road, a road of reviews and speaking engagements. There are missed exits and wrong turns waiting for me. What’s more, I will have to revisit the dark places.

For all the tears I’ve shed in the past, I’m realizing that I’m not finished. Maybe I never will be. My painful story will elicit other people’s painful stories. Which is a good thing, of course. Telling their truth is the only way forward. And I want to be present to hear those stories. But even truth-telling is not a magic bullet against evil, if you’ll forgive the metaphor. Trauma is not conquered once and for all. Terror has a long memory. Shame is never completely eradicated. There is power in this opponent of ours. Evil has a force that arises over and over again.

We progressive Christians don’t like to talk about evil. In this Easter season we talk about resurrection power. We might say we’re Easter people in a Good Friday world. We’d rather talk about broken systems or hammer at the hallmarks of brokenness — injustice and inequity — as if these states were merely the absence of some pure, whole thing — justice and equity — things we would surely recognize if we saw them.

But evil is not so present in our lexicon. Do we trust ourselves to recognize it and name it? Perhaps evil is stronger than we want to admit. Evil pulls at a person, both in memory and in actuality. Even after it’s been beaten down, it can rise up again. Who wants to admit that evil has a recurrent power?

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, I’m happy for you. That means you aren’t personally acquainted with evil.

Which is why I come back to Jesus. There are many things I don’t know anymore, but I know this. Jesus was personally acquainted with evil. He wrestled with evil in all of its forms. From the internal drama of desert temptations to the external systems that were bent on his destruction. Evil eventually killed him. Because that’s what evil does. It snuffs out the light. And Jesus had so much light. Thank God that’s not the end of the story. But let’s not pretend it’s not also a part of the story.

I’m trying to not be afraid of the tears. I’m trying to be ready for the twists and turns of the road ahead. I will get things wrong. Maybe I will get lost. I will try to lift all that to the One who finds the lost, who dries the tears, who heals the broken. That One is trustworthy.

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