The disciples saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat. ~John 6:19
The brochure says that the boat we have boarded is authentic to Jesus’ day, though it is very large—with a roof—and speakers pump contemporary praise music. I don’t prefer the music. I wonder: would Jesus have liked it? Does he like it now? Yet the sun sparkles on the water. This Sea of Galilee is the same body of water that the disciples fished from. This is the same body of water that Jesus walked on. I feel heady and surprise myself by singing along to the music.
When have you felt the presence of God through an experience that surprised you?
Prayer: O Spirit, thank you for appearing in unexpected ways.
Click here for Day #27.
Thomas said to Jesus, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” ~John 14:5
One of the unsettling parts of being on a pilgrimage is relying on guides and never knowing exactly where we are. The roads are unknown. They lead to strange new sights we can barely process before we set off yet again. We cannot read and interpret the signage, at least not easily. Something in me yearns for home, even in Jerusalem, which Scripture calls our heavenly home. Must home feel so unfamiliar? What is the connection between familiarity and home?
Recall a time when you had to find an uncharted way. What did that teach you about faith?
Prayer: O Lord, show me the way.
Click here for Day #26.
“How many loaves have you? Go and see.” ~Mark 6:38
Tabgha is traditionally regarded as the place where Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes. An altar has been built over the rock where he blessed that miraculous food. I kneel to pray at the rock, which is blackened from people’s touch. So many people need so many things multiplied. I sit on a plain wooden bench and watch pilgrims come and go. I think about the things that have multiplied, or that need multiplying, in my life. To capture this inchoate sense of both fullness and lack, I buy a Tabgha souvenir. Have you been as foolish, and as needy, as I?
What do you need multiplied today?
Prayer: O Spirit, I am grateful, yet always lacking. Fill me.
Click here for Day #25.
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain. ~Matthew 5:1
From the Mount of Beatitudes on the north side of Lake Galilee, a pilgrim can see a long distance. Blooming flowers are in profusion, pink and purple against the green grass. I imagine Jesus saying, “Blessed are the pure in heart” in this place. Our guide, Ghada, sings an ethereal solo in Arabic. I can’t understand a word, but I still understand her meaning. We divide into groups to study the Beatitudes. Meanwhile, some Nigerian pilgrims assemble in choir formation and sing and sway to drum accompaniment. I can’t understand a word they’re singing, but I know what they’re saying.
When was the last time your worship didn’t need language?
Prayer: O Creator, thank you for grace beyond words.
Click here for Day #24.
You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. ~Matthew 16:18–19
Statue of Peter at Capernaum
At Capernaum, a pilgrim can visit the neighborhood where Peter once lived. The Franciscans recently built a spaceship of a sanctuary over the ruins of Peter’s house, complete with a transparent floor. There’s a statue of Peter holding a key. Someone in our group asks me about the key and I answer with many facts. Then I catch myself being a preacher rather than a pilgrim, having answers instead of questions. What I want most of all is to have the passion of a disciple. I want to be a rock like Peter.
What could you do today that would be Peter-like?
Prayer: O Lord, make me a rock for you.
Click here for Day #23.
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, descending into the water system
Tel Megiddo, a tunnel through the water system
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.
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.
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…)
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…)
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…)
When #MeToo Becomes #ChurchToo
I have an article at the Tyndale Read the Arc website. I hope you’ll click over to read it, and let me know what you think!
My #MeToo Article the second most-read article in Christian Century for 2017
2017 has been a year full of groundbreaking news stories — and still the #MeToo movement rises to the top. I believe this movement will continue to change our culture in the years ahead, and am glad my article contributed to the national dialogue, particularly within the church.
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?
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