Lent Pilgrimage, Taking Sides

Second Sunday in Lent

If it had not been the Lord who was on our side.  ~Psalm 124:1

The three Abrahamic faiths perpetually collide in Jerusalem. For instance, to visit a Muslim holy site, the Dome of the Rock, a Christian pilgrim must pass through a checkpoint staffed by the Israeli military, which is just a stone’s throw from where devout Jews pray at the Western Wall. A huge volume of history hangs in the air, filling the spaces between people. Warfare, both ancient and modern, reverberates. I sense how easily we humans choose sides and assume that God is on ours. Even scripture can undergird this notion.

How might you put yourself on an opposite side this Lent, perhaps by exposing yourself to other faith traditions?

Prayer: O Lord, may I be on your side, instead of assuming you are on mine.

Click here for Day #11.


Dome of the Rock


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#10 Lent Pilgrimage, Seeking

Saturday after First Sunday in Lent

From one ancestor God made all nations to inhabit the whole earth … so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him—though indeed he is not far from each one of us. ~Acts 17:26–27

The typical pilgrim itinerary includes an ambitious day in Jerusalem: “three holy sites in one unforgettable day” — Dome of the Rock (Muslim), the Western Wall (Jewish) and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (Christian). There are commonalities between the sites. Armed guards patrol at each. People pray earnestly at each. The Spirit hovers at each. The day overwhelms my pilgrim self. So much religious seeking! Paul was right. We all do search for God and perhaps grope and find . . .

How might you seek God more passionately this Lent?

Prayer: O Spirit, I search ceaselessly for you.

Click here for the Second Sunday in Lent.

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#9 Lent Pilgrimage, Pierced

Friday after First Sunday in Lent

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! … .” ~Matthew 23:37

We pilgrims have been sent into the Old City of Jerusalem without a map. We wander through stone streets between crumbling walls, eventually stumbling across the Monastery of the Flagellation, built to honor the place where Jesus was beaten. A young man approaches us and offers to be our guide. A member of our group asks him: “Are you a Christian?” The young man spits a reply: “I was born in Bethlehem to Muslim parents. Now I believe nothing. How can I, here? Religion is good for nothing but hatred.” His words pierce me.

How would you respond to the young man?

Prayer: O Spirit, help me wrestle with painful questions.

Click here for Day #10.

Monastery of the Flagellation

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#8 Lent Pilgrimage, Our Feet Are Standing

Thursday after First Sunday in Lent

Our feet are standing within your gates, O Jerusalem. ~Psalm 122:2

The Psalms of Ascent have accompanied us to Jerusalem; they are the songs of all pilgrims. As we pass through the ancient stone gates, Psalm 122 drifts through my consciousness. The light is low because the streets are as narrow as alleyways, with high walls. Robed women move along smoothly, carrying burdens. Men squat beside open bins, selling fruits and vegetables. The air is scented with saffron and hot oil. Cats dart past our feet. Cacophony surrounds us. There is so much life.

Can you stop, right now, wherever you are, to feel the pulse of life around you?

Prayer: O Creator, you are here, where my pilgrim feet are standing.

Click here for Day #9.


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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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“Cutting Ties” A Letter to the Editor

from Sojourners Magazine, December issue

I saw this letter in the December issue of Sojourners — written in reaction to my “omitted chapter” which I titled: Skin in the Game. I share the letter here because it is evidence that sharing our stories can be helpful to others. Perhaps this letter will support someone else making a difficult decision.

Ruth Everhart’s article “Even In Cases of Rape” in the August 2017 issue helped me with a difficult decision. For years, I hung in with the church of my roots where three generations of my family were christened, married, and died. As a child, I witnessed behaviors by some clergy that I now know were grievous sins. As an adult, I listened to a pastor who told us 9/11 was God’s punishment for homosexuals and women who had abortions. When I questioned at a meeting why our church would not permit women to attend seminaries or become deacons, I was snubbed by the congregation. Feeling that I was in a spiritual crisis, I sent a heartfelt letter to our bishop, our spiritual leader, but received no reply. Still, I remained tied to my church, albeit by a thin thread. Thank you, Pastor Everhart, for helping me to finally cut that thread and pursue a church that is more godly.

Lois Halley
Westminster, Maryland

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