Save the Date!

On Sunday June 10th, 2018, I’ll celebrate the 20th Anniversary of my ordination, during the noon worship service at Chelsea Community Church.

Subscribe to my spring newsletter for details and the invitation!

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Interpretation

I start a brand new course on BeADisciple.com next week!

Called Leading Bible Study: Biblical Interpretation, it’s based on the three-fold premise of the course book: Biblical  Interpretation: A Roadmap. First, that all scripture developed out of a social context. Second, that all of us read and interpret scripture in our own social context. And, third, that none of that happens in a vacuum. If we read on our own, without considering all those other contexts involved, we can’t begin to know the depth of life those scriptures hold.

That isn’t a new idea (the book was published in 1996), but I think that it is a very powerful idea. Not only for reading and interpreting scripture but also for understanding our own context.

I’m reading Isabel Wilkerson’s The Warmth of Other Sons – part of the list I created after reading Michael Dyson’s Sermon to White America (see my previous post titled Adult Reading) – and today I was thinking that there are so many events that we fail to see in the light of their context, and so misunderstand.

For example, if you’re as old as I am, you probably remember the myth from the 60’s that as soon as a person of color moved into the neighborhood, the housing prices dropped? Well, Wilkerson does an amazing job of succinctly describing what was actually happening.

Please read the book to get the whole picture but let it suffice to say that the prices of houses in those neighborhoods went down long before anyone moved in. They went down because of white fragility (my term, not Wilkerson’s): white anxiety about the possibility of a changing neighborhood brought the prices down!

A similar myth came up in discussion recently: the myth that there were wards full of brain-damaged “crack babies” back in the 80’s and 90’s. Neither the numbers nor the severity were accurate. You can do an Internet search and find reports of the inaccuracies from a wide variety of sources over two decades, but some people still believe the myth.

We humans fail to look at the context of events, fail to look at motivations and circumstances, fail to look for evidence. And when we do that, we fail to understand!

Ask people who value scripture why they do so and many will tell  you that it is a good source for interpreting and responding to the world. I think this course might help us to interpret the scripture and interpret our social context, both at the same time! I hope you can join me!

Blessings,

Beth

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Teaching, logic, offering…

I don’t remember lining my dolls up like students in a classroom the way some teachers remember childhood play. I don’t remember particularly enjoying any portion of elementary school – except perhaps the 6th grade half-crush that a friend and I had on a teacher… And high school was worse except, again, for a few exceptional friends.

I really didn’t like Sunday School, either. I remember a particularly disastrous conversation about Nietzsche’s declaration that “God is dead”… As I try to write it, I realize that I no longer have any idea what the teacher was trying to teach – or even what I might have been thinking when I responded, other than confusion. All I remember is that I responded with what seemed to me perfect logic and got met by a sharp rebuke.

So based on evidence like that, it’s very surprising that I love to teach as much as I do!

And I really do love to teach – or facilitate, train, instruct, empower, whatever word you want to use if you have some hang-ups about the word “teach”. I love ideas, information, interpretation, application, evaluation – all the parts of teaching that work together to provide a give and take discussion that increases the understanding and ability of everyone involved!

It’s also surprising that I love to do that in a church setting – in worship or education, with adults mostly but also with youth and children. I guess I found a place where I could put my logical mind to use, just with gentler hands and heart than I had at 14.

I certainly celebrate my parents for all the ways they encouraged me – in spite of my lack of enthusiasm for school – first, through reading and, later, through higher education.

But I’m also wondering if I don’t find my calling to teach in all those missed opportunities where I could have loved learning but was instead bored, confused, unhappy, or lonely.

And, I am more and more struck by how important it is to learn and teach new things all the time. To find new and factual information about the world – particularly those people/places/events/ideas who/that I think are so different from me/mine! And to share that with others to find out what they know – so that all of us are deepened together.

As we move into this new year, are there new topics for you to learn about? New information you need to have? New places or people or ideas you need to gain some insight on? And what do you have to offer them in return?

Blessings on the teaching in your life!

Beth

 

 

 

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The Joy of Goal Setting: 2018

I have been writing annual goals for more than two decades. It’s become a habit: I open up last year’s file (they’ve gone from journal entries to PPT’s that live on my desktop), evaluate what I’ve accomplished or not accomplished, save the accomplishments to a new PPT, and save both files in an on-going folder. Then I create a new PPT for the coming year.

About five years ago, I realized that I was coming toward the end of the most productive portion of my life and that if I wanted to accomplish anything worthwhile (by my own standards), I would need to look at the decade ahead.

2018_Goals_1Unwisely, I created my PPT for these remaining years as a sort of countdown, and, now, the decade that seemed to stretch out forever is cut in half.

 

But this year an interesting thing happened: I adjusted my expectation of my own productivity. When I was young and my parents retired at 62, I saw that as old age, when productivity would end and relaxation begin! Then, later, when I started looking at my own potential retirement, I expected that after 70 I could just stop working. Now, I find that I’m thinking about the kind of work I can continue doing till 80 – if not beyond!

While there’s plenty of hobbies I’d like to spend more time with, I just can’t imagine NOT having the joy of work! I can’t imagine not having opportunities to interact with the lives of folks in pastoral ways. I can’t imagine not having opportunities to teach – or preach – or write – or learn – or study!

I’m blessed with opportunities to do all of those these days – and hoping to use my experience, my skills, my gifts, and my energy to make the most of my productive time!

What are the parts of your life that you can’t imagine living without doing? What energizes you to change your perspectives on long-held beliefs that could be holding you back from enjoying those to their fullest? What do you need to rethink in order to be the person you want to be for as long as you want to be that?

Might 2018 be a time for you of finding your deepest joys and living them out in the world around you for as long as you possibly can!

Blessings,

Beth

 

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It’s in the mail!

One year, back in seminary, I got caught up in the seasonal rush: end of semester papers and final, Christmas events & services at the church I served, and then the family celebrations. My stack of about a hundred Christmas cards laid on my desk… and laid there… and laid there…

In March, the following spring, I finally took the time to sign the cards, put them in their envelopes, apply the long-waiting Christmas stamps, and put them in the mail!

As the years passed, I got better at getting cards in the mail at least closer to Christmas, if not actually before it! And the list of names grew with every congregation I served. Eventually, I added an email list and the total then went to something like 400! And then maybe a decade ago, I switched to all emails except for a small handful of people.

You’d think it would be easier to get them in the mail, wouldn’t you? But here we are 5 days before Christmas and I just, 45 minutes ago, put 7 cards in the mail – and still haven’t sent anything to the email list!

It must be a character flaw… that the things I’d love to do for Christmas get put on the back burner day after day until the time is gone when I could accomplish them. I’m hoping its not a metaphor for other important things in my life, but I’m afraid it might be. And I’m holding on to this year’s 5-day success as a sign that I can accomplish even this one thing for the sake of joy and love and beauty and pleasure!

Tomorrow my winter newsletter goes out – you can subscribe to it on Mail Chimp if you aren’t already on that mailing list – and I’ve promised myself I’ll work on that Christmas list at the same time! Let’s see what happens – and let me know if you don’t receive anything – I promise: It’s in the mail!

Blessings,

Beth

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Me, too

Yes, I have to weigh in on the “me, too” campaign. I’ve posted it on Facebook along with most of my female friends and some of my male friends. It’s happened in business, in dating, and in the church.

I think that before the daily barrage of accusations, I would have pushed the sexual harassment and assaults I’ve received into three categories. The first would be the old boy idea that they were funny – the parishioner who locked me in the church bathroom, for example. The second would be the clumsy sexual advance – a man who groped me on a business trip. And the third would be the forceable assault –  and, while he’s mild compared to other forceable assault I’ve experienced, I include here the high church official who insisted on hugging me every time we met, forcibly pushing my hand, outstretched for a professional shake, away as he grabbed me into an uncomfortable hug.

Now, however, I’m acknowledging that they are all in one category – they are all sexual assault. Those men, and others, had some power over me and wanted to show they were in charge, to make me afraid, aware of my lesser position by virtue of my sex. And to some extent they succeeded. I probably made less money, rose to less seniority, and stayed in positions shorter amounts of time because of those professional assaults. And I had less confidence and security from the personal assaults that also happened in some of my early adult relationships. I probably have been less of a person than I could have been if none of them had happened: less of a mother, wife, friend, co-worker, pastor, teacher, neighbor.

I remember in my second year in seminary being reduced to tears at the most inexplicable moments. In the middle of class, tears would just start running down my face! Slowly, I began to realize that I was finally shedding the remnants of abuse. I used the metaphor that abuse had covered my heart with scars and the deep spiritual work of seminary was like a knife scraping the scar tissue away. The knife had finally gotten down to the living flesh and, while it was painful, it was also so very good. And I remember hoping that I could become more of that person I was supposed to be when the process was complete.

My prayers are with all those others who are writing “me, too” – or not feeling safe to write it for whatever reason. I pray that we could all find our way down through our scars to the people we might have been without the sexual harassment and assault. And I pray that we could learn something from this process that could translate to how we deal with all the other assaults people face in our nation and world today.

Blessings,

Beth

 

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Happy Thanksgiving!

I ended my last post – much too long ago! – asking for your prayers. So let me start my gratitude list with a thank you for those! It’s been a challenging couple of months but on this crisp November morning, the sun is shining – literally and metaphorically. And I am grateful for the many prayers that have come my way!

I am also grateful for a quiet but good day yesterday – just my grandson visiting. And equally grateful for my early memories of Thanksgiving dinners around my *grandmother’s table. It is a little amusing that I don’t remember what any of the vegetables might have been (except for the small bowls of cucumbers that my own family has always rejected…) but I remember dessert quite well!

You see, my grandmother wasn’t the best cook but she was an excellent baker! She made the most marvelous bread and pies that I have ever eaten – all without benefit of recipes, of course. I asked her for the bread recipe once… well, that’s another post….

It’s the memories of the pies that come back vividly at holiday time: pumpkin, of course, and shoofly (which I hated) and egg custard or lemon sponge, and then piles of browned meringue on coconut cream and lemon custard….

It sounds like a lot for what was probably only about 15 people, but the excessive number was necessary because my grandmother only made two cuts in a pie! Each slice was a quarter of a pie!

I’ve always known that the quantity and quality of desserts in my family were responsible for my weight problems over the years (that and my lack of will power!). But this morning I’m realizing that I also have the answer to a question my grandson asked yesterday.

“Why do we have so much food at the holidays?” “Well,” I should have said, “because I grew up celebrating holidays in the home of a woman who enjoyed showing off her skills and loved sharing food abundantly. And I may be just like her.”

My prayer for the next few weeks is that we all find some ways of being quarter-pie generous with others this holiday season – within our immediate family and far beyond those limits. And that we might all know what we are good at and do it in abundance!

Blessings,

Beth

*Yes, my grandmother was still this thin by the time I knew her…

1916 - Pearl, Harry, Carl

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