Posts tagged ‘vocation’

December 30, 2013

Year in Review

January 2013 began with a bang. A quiet bang that is. I left my position of pastor at Washington Plaza Baptist Church in Reston in pursue more writing projects and support the work of Feed The Children. I blogged and sought to practice Sabbath keeping as I transitioned. Some days it went better than others.

imageIn February as I settled into my new life of nomad in chief (spending half my time in Arlington, VA and half in Oklahoma City, OK), I continued the tradition of cookie on a stick baking for my new Feed The Children family throwing one amazing Valentine’s party (If I do say so myself🙂, I visited new churches like this one in Tennessee and was humbled along the way, and I fell in love with the ministry of writing.

In March, I participated in my first US Feed The Children food distribution in my hometown of Washington DC realizing how hungry some of my neighbors actually were.  I continued to pack and re-pack my bags learning more about simplicity every day. And I wrote a post for the Associated Baptist Press called, “I Left the Church, Don’t Hate Me” that explained how I was trying to figuring out my pastoral calling in my new life.

As April rolled around, I continued to breathe deeply even though I wanted to hyperventilate some days out of feelings of “What am I doing with all this new free time I have?” I thought a lot Imageabout the young men with disabilities in Kenya that I’d met the previous August and how work makes us feel useful. One day in Oklahoma I went without shoes along with the rest of the staff of Feed The Children to raise awareness about childhood poverty. As I got deeper into the journey of writer-pastor I faced fears of the big questions of life like “Am I good enough?”

In May, Kevin and I traveled to Central America for the first time together. Guatemala won a special place in my heart for its beauty and the kind souls of its children. Oklahoma City was never the same after the F-5 tornado hit Moore. I wrote this prayer in response that went viral the week of the tragedy.

Women of WatongaAs the summer began, I continued to preach once a month at Watonga Indian Baptist Mission in Oklahoma, took a short vacation to Costa Rica for the wedding of a dear friend and got in a ride on a zip line through the jungle, and reflected on the fact that Kevin had been at Feed The Children for over one year. Oh what a difference a year can make in your life!

In July, I spent some time back at youth camp with my friends from Son Servants. And, it became clearer and clearer that my vocational calling as I looked forward was all about creating something that didn’t exist.

August was not a great month in the Hagan household as if out of nowhere, I got sick with an infection that caused much havoc on all of my lower abdominal organs. I had emergency surgery and was in the hospital in Oklahoma for several days. I learned much about being cared for by others and resting deeper than I ever had in my entire life. Though it took me till September to feel like writing about it.

HBApreachingIn October as I started feel stronger every day, the travel picked up again. I worked in Nashville, TN alongside Feed The Children assisting with social media at several key events. I preached at Hawaii Baptist academy as their pastor for Christian Emphasis week. I hit my stride in truly feeling at home in my skin as a pastor outside of the church— even writing a three-part series about it.

The highlight of November was absolutely our trip to Africa. My heart overflowed with JOY with every minute I was in Kenya. I couldn’t but write about joy with every post describing this trip. I became official at Feed The Children (it was a long time coming!) taking on the position of Ambassador of Social Advocacy though my pay did not change (I am learning to work for free).

1425738_10152117196929809_1922494367_nThough I didn’t blog about it here, in December Kevin and I continued our Christmas tour in Central America– visiting with orphans and other children in our programs in Honduras and Nicaragua. We played the part of “father” and “mother” Christmas bringing gifts to thousands of children. It was an amazing privilege of presence. On the blog, I joined with colleagues and friends to bring you the Baby Jesus Blog.

This sermon I preached at my church, Martin Luther King Christian in Reston, VA in early August theologically sums up how I feel about 2013. This was a year of suffering. This was also a year of resurrection.

I am glad, though, that through it all grace has been ever present and I’ve survived. Thanks for reading and cheering me on along the way.

Happy New Year!

August 8, 2013

Be Someone

We can’t help it, but in our society we are what we do.

When you meet a new person (especially in the circles I run in it seems) the first question that gets asked when you meet someone new is, “What do you do?”

And in response free-flowing answers are something like, “I am a lawyer. . . . I teach school. . . . I work for the government. . . . I direct an organization.”

When we hear these responses and other similar to them, we nod our heads in approval and say with our body language and sometimes our words: “Oh, good. That sounds interesting. How long have you been doing that?”

But then there are those responses we can give like: “I consult.”

“I’m a stay at home mom.”

Or, “I’m a writer” that usually seem to evoke less than energetic responses.

Some of us don’t understand how a person could just consult or just stay at home with their kids (aren’t they wasting their talents by not pursuing traditional full-time work?), or we think, “Isn’t saying you are a writer code for you don’t know how to get a real job and that you sit in your bathrobe and eat chocolate all day?” (Yeah, you know you think it even if you don’t say it).

But what if you are called to be a generalist consultant or a stay at home mom or dad or heaven forbid even a real writer?

I sat at a coffee meeting with a new colleague on Monday. Catherine is a consultant for social media (something I’m doing more and more of these days) and self-employed too.

We talked about the frustrations of being in an office of one, doing helping work through writing and social media for non-profits (and folks not wanting to pay for our services, ugh!), and how easily our value in the society in which we live is tied to what we do.

In response, Catherine offered this nugget of wisdom that she’s known to share with groups during one of her training sessions: “Don’t worry about being something. This will get you nowhere. The someone who you think you are because of a job could change at any moment. The title you have on your business card will not be with you forever. Instead, put your energy into being someone. This is who you are that will never change.”

I was struck by the simplicity but depth of her words. I may not be the something that I once was, but I am a somebody.

My friend, Ken and I were talking about this very thing a couple of night before. I was bemoaning the fact that I often feel like a “nobody” since I left the church and don’t have an official title of “I pastor ____ church” to add to my name. And Ken pushed back. “You are a somebody. And you are doing important work. You just don’t see it like the rest of us do. . . . ”

And then came Catherine’s words about “being someone instead of something.”

Clearly I needed to hear such a message.

It’s a hard road and most certainly the path less traveled, I believe to find yourself outside of the confines of a role or a particular job. Ask someone has recently started a new business or who has retired early how they’re feeling about the transition, and you’ll know I’m speaking truth here.

You don’t win the “most impressive” award when you meet new people at a happy hour or a professional gathering with a non-traditional “what I do” response.

Instead, you have to brace yourself for the stares, the strange tones of folks reactions, and comments hurried your way like I recently got, “Do you like being a housewife?” (Ok, I almost died. No, I am NOT a housewife).

But, I am a someone. And so are you– in whatever you do.

Last night I was talking to my friends Tim and Debbie. In the course of the conversation about vocation and what it means to enjoy life at the fullness that life can really be, Tim chimed in to say, “I’ve always thought about life like this: who you really are is what you do when you aren’t at work.”

And while there are all different sorts of implications for vocation and paid work interlacing and certain people’s 9-5 “It pays the bills” sort of jobs having all different levels of meaning for us– I think Tim is right.

We have clues to the “someones” that we truly are if we notice what we are naturally drawn to in our free time.

And it is not that we become these things, such as, “I am a cook.” “I like to garden.” Or, “I am so happy when I get to keep my grandchildren” but that the character qualities that motivate us to do these things shine through. And we see more clearly our souls.

We are challengers (or not).

We are contemplative (or not).

We are relational (or not).

And these things do not change. We simply are.

We were created with value and purpose and uniqueness. We can be a someone no matter if our work is validated, paid for or even appreciated. We can find fulfillment in simply BE-ing.

I’m not there yet. I really like being a something better than someone. But, I’m on my way and I wonder if others of you out there are too?

July 19, 2013

Creating What Doesn’t Exist

People ask me all the time what I miss about church life? Do I miss preaching all the time? Do I miss the committee meetings? Do I miss the hospital visits? Do I miss the cranky people calling me after church on Sunday afternoon?

I’m not really sure how to answer these questions.

Because yes, I do miss church life.

I miss putting on a robe on Sunday morning with the wind of courage behind me, filled with something to say to eager listeners.

I miss people calling me to say “I just needed to talk to my pastor.”

I miss the privilege of walking an adult through a baptismal process and seeing the light come to their eyes just before the water touches them.

I miss Sunday potlucks– you know the meal that is best served at a church where you really never know what exactly you are eating . . .

(But, no I don’t miss anything with the description “cranky” in it. And no, I most certainly don’t miss long committee meetings).

However, all this to say, as much as I miss these things, I know I’m in the right place. I know this season of life as a non-traditional work-er, minister type in the world is where I am to learn.

Sometimes, in life, I believe, we are asked to give up what is most comfortable, what we most know, or even what makes the most sense to us and our educated friends around us. We are asked by God to seek out the new.

I was having a conversation with a colleague a couple of weeks ago. It was a colleague I’d worked with in denominational life connected to my most recent pastorate, a colleague I hadn’t seen in six months. It was fun to see her happy face again.

Yet, personally, it was a sad day for me when we ran into each other. A day when I was thinking a lot about what I had lost and how much I missed about my former life. But this colleague surprised me with the first words coming out of her mouth were, “Girl, you are looking so good!”

How could she say that I wondered? I had just been crying in fact.

She went on to explain was that my posture seemed more relaxed, more at ease, that their was light in my eyes she hadn’t seen in me when I was going about the business of keeping a particular church in good order. I thought, well, now that’s interesting . . .

This colleague then asked me more about my future plans and what came out of my mouth was, “I feel called to create something that is yet to exist.”

Well, then. That was news to even my own ears. Called to create something that doesn’t exist . . .

Upon further reflection of this moment, I realized maybe this was why she said I was looking well. As much as I do miss the familiar or even the simple joy of putting on a robe and saying, “Thanks be to God” every Sunday– there’s something about this season of re-evaluating, of re-grouping, of renaming that suits my soul quite well.

I am more myself. I am more at ease. There’s light pointing me in new directions I might have been scared to death of years ago, but now I’m here. There’s no turning back now.

It doesn’t mean the path to get to this unknown place is easy though. It might suit my soul. But, my body doesn’t like it very much at all.

My days are often filled with self-doubt, loneliness and lots of prayers of “Why can’t I be like everyone else?”

I want to work normal hours. I want my work to be respected and acknowledged– even paid for from time to time. I want to not feel so alone as I usually do between the hours of 8-6 pm every day.

But in the meantime, I try to see the progress I’m making along this path of what I know not of, and what does not exist yet.

I eagerly look forward to any opportunities to connect with other like-minded thinkers and doers– even if I have to travel to another state to find them.

I eagerly look forward to moments when my ministerial identity gets to be expressed in an life-giving and affirming way (such is hard to come by in Oklahoma, but that’s another story for another day).

I eagerly look forward to the day– whenever that may be– when my eyes get to see the dreams come to pass that my heart has had a long-standing commitment to.

And on that day, I’m sure I’ll probably say that the journey, no matter how long or hard it has been was worth it.

But until then, all I can say is this kind of creative work is harder than I could have ever imagined.

June 4, 2013

Has it really been a year? Kevin Hagan + Feed The Children

photoToday marks the one year anniversary of our family’s involvement with the non-profit giant, Feed The Children. More than just a job for Kevin, it has been a calling to a way of life.

I’ve thought a lot about the fact that I would write this blog today. That today I would mark this passing of time as significant in our lives. That today I would say something nice about my husband. That today I would highlight some of the great work that this organization does on the ground to feed hungry children every day.

But, somehow none of these lead ins seems appropriate.

How to do you talk about the meteor hitting the foundation of everything we know kind of year?

How do you talk about being transported to a world you’d never thought you’d be in?

How do you talk about living a life suddenly that few of your friends understand?

How do you talk about the fact that faces of children from all over the world filled your Christmas Card photos?

Or the fact that when your mother calls her first question is, “What state (or country) are you in today?”

It has been a year!

It’s been a year that has landed us with necessary dwellings two different cities.

It’s been a year that has taken us to five different countries in the developing world for field visits.

It’s been a year that led me to leave the traditional career I had for something on the edge of undefined.

It’s been a year that has led us to some of the most exciting possibilities for our future than we could have ever imagined, truly.

It’s been a year of much hurt, unsettling findings but then hope in the rubble too.

It’s been a year that has re-made my husband’s mission for his life with clearer vision than he’s ever known.

It’s been a year for me to seek out new mentors, as the role of being “Kevin’s wife” in an organization like this has felt often times like entering a foreign land for my independent sentimentality self.

It’s been a year that has called both of us to hold tight to the foundations of our own sense of vocational callings and marriage covenant– “Yes, wherever you go, I will go.”

It’s been a year that has united our faces, cheek to cheek with some of the most precious children of this world– who long most of all for someone just to see them. And we have.

It has been a year.

It’s hard not to speak of how proud I am of my husband. Or of how proud I am of us– Elizabeth and Kevin together– two who keep fighting for the best for “us” in the midst of the best for “them.” Or, how proud I am of myself for not taking cues from what certain folks want me to be, instead, listening to the voice I already have.

Oh, if the walls could talk you’d know that it has been quite a year, a really big year in the life of team Hagan on the Feed The Children train. But, it’s a train we don’t sit stopping in the direction of progress anytime soon. Together.

March 5, 2013

Figuring Out Calling

Yesterday, the Associated Baptist Press published a commentary I wrote called, “I Left the Church. But Don’t Hate Me.” You can read it here.

In this piece, I described that one of the reasons I left my pastorate stemmed from a new professional opportunity given to my husband at Feed The Children. It’s something I’ve blogged about a lot in the past. You can read one such post here.

So, you might wonder how? How do you merge your vocational identity with that of your business oriented husband? How do you support him and this ministry when you aren’t employed by this organization? How do you make it work?

Well, the answers to these questions are an ongoing conversation in our household. We aren’t quite sure.

Never do I want to be unhelpful or in the way of Kevin’s work. But never do I want to shrink down from the opportunity this position has given our family to be a voice of the voiceless, to be a hospitable presence to those in whom have been given to us to care for. Kevin and I have different leadership styles, but styles in which I think push us both to think about situations in ways we’d never would. And, at the end of the day, I know we’re each other’s biggest fans. I want to love Feed The Children because Kevin loves it and want to do whatever I can to further it mission under his leadership tenure.

So in the meantime of trial and error of what works and what doesn’t– this is what the calling looks like for now.

In the summer and the fall, I traveled both to Africa and the Philippines to learn about and encourage the field work overseas. I wanted to see the field for myself, bringing stories back so that I could better tell the Feed The Children story to all of you who might just be moved to lend a helping hand as well. I want to go on other such trips in the future.

Several weeks ago, I planned and led a Valentine’s Party for the entire staff which including a letter writing activity for the staff– sending love notes to all of the orphans in Feed The Children’s care around the world. I made heart-shaped cookies on a stick for the 260+ Oklahoma based employees. I created this event (which now folks I think are expecting every year) to encourage this hard-working staff, letting them know how much they are appreciated especially by us.

And just last week, I made a point to spend as much time as I could with the country directors in to the Oklahoma City office who traveled to Middle America for a week of training. I wanted to honor them as they’ve honored us during our visits to their countries.

I wish there were some roadmap or even guidebook for this calling. Because I’m often walking in territory new and uncharted (doing and being place I’d never thought I’d be), but in the meantime I’m thankful for the grace to learn a little more about myself in the process every day. And to know that Kevin and I are in this journey together.






December 20, 2012

One Last Love Letter

Dear Washington Plaza Church family-

I needed to write you one more letter. I love you. I don’t just say that lightly. I really do love you.

It has become abundantly clear to me again this week that goodbyes are always hard. But they’re especially hard when you’re parting as we are, having loved each other well for several years now. I’ve believed in you (and still do) from the first moment I met your pastoral search committee in that office in Reston Interfaith. I knew that if the rest of the church was as awesome as the search comittee then we were going to have a lot of fun. And, fun we’ve had! Over these years, I have always wanted to brag about you to my friends– telling them that in Washington Plaza I found the church I dreamed to be a part of as pastor in seminary.

I love how you blessed me over four years ago now when you saw a 28 year old female with no solo pastoring experience and called me with an unanimous vote to be your preacher on the plaza. I love that you saw in me what I most felt true about myself– that I was a pastor and that God had made me for a time to be your pastor. I love how you’ve followed my lead, taken chances with me to try new things and asked really good questions when we’ve faced crucial decisions together. I love how you’ve never told me “no” to my growing passion for writing and ministering to folks outside the church. It is you, dear Washington Plaza, who has given me a chance to hear my own voice clearly– the voice I believe will be what I need most in the chapter that lies ahead of me. I have you to thank for gracing me with this great gift!

I love how kindly you have welcomed me in your community, just as I was (church baggage and all) and most especially I love how you’ve welcomed Kevin. It’s a hard road being married to a pastor, but just as you help me to grow up over the past several years, you’ve done the same for Kevin. You’ve given him opportunities to serve in the kitchen and cook for a crowd (his favorite!). You’ve ordained him as a deacon– a milestone in his own journey. You’ve given him the spiritual community he needed to be at the point in his life to say “Yes!” to God’s ministry for him at Feed The Children this year. You’ve loved him and cheered him on as much as you have me– and I know you’ll continue to do this in all that lies ahead for us.

I love how you welcome those in whom other churches simply would not. You welcome so lovingly folks who may not come to church dressed just so. You welcome folks who call themselves gay and Christian– who just need to know that God loves them too. You welcome those who have been hurt by the church and just need to have a place to come and take deep breaths for awhile. You welcome those who have deep burdens on their hearts who just need a place in corporate worship to unload them in prayer. You welcome those who aren’t sure they believe in Jesus– but really want to– and a safe place to ask their questions as they figure it all out. You welcome those who often take more than they give without grumbling or complaining about doing more of your share of the work.

I love how I’ve seen Jesus in you:

Times when you’ve showed up with hymnbooks at bedsides singing to those who are dying.

Times when you’ve gone with me to take communion to shut-ins who could no longer come to church.

Times when you’ve built community with each other outside of the confines of the building– over glasses of wine, during breakfast meetings, at walks for the homeless in Reston, or in one another’s homes.

Times when you’ve given your money or time to help the homeless or nearly homeless who show up at our doorsteps and are in need of a meal or a conversation.

Times when you’ve believed in second chances for those who have hurt you or those who have hurt our church.

Times when you’ve said to me, “My faith is growing to be more important to me all the time.”

Times when you’ve shown up at a week night Bible study with eagerness to learn and listen to each other.

Times when you never said anything mean about my wet hair on Sunday mornings or continual search for my lost keys around the church or even why there were spelling errors in the bulletin.

I will forever cherish this time in my life as the time when I was YOUR pastor. Know that I’m cheering you on in all that lies ahead and will forever think of you with gratitude for how you’ve altered the direction of my life and Kevin’s life too in so many lovely ways. I know you’ll be just as good to the next person who leads you too. And, they’ll be a lucky pastor just as I have been for these four years.

I love you!

November 27, 2012

Don’t Leave Without Saying Goodbye

Have you ever been in a situation where a houseguest has left early in the morning before you woke up?

Or you’ve parted ways with a friend in a mad dash to the airport without final words?

Or you haven’t been able to find that favorite teacher or buddy in the midst of the large crowds at a graduation ceremony to say “thanks?”

I think we all have.

And, I hate situations like this.

I like saying goodbye. Closure is a great comfort.  Words like, “Thank you” or “I love you” Or, “I look forward to our paths crossing again” are a part of what good endings are all about.

In the church, as many pastoral leaders can tell you, we suffer from a lot of cliff hanger types of relationships with our parishioners. Lots of folks leave without telling us that they are leaving and most certainly not saying goodbye.

Someone has a spiritual or family crisis and goes from present every Sunday serving in multiple ministries to the status of “Where in the world did they go? Anybody heard from them?” in a flash second.

And in response, when contacts of concerns are made by the pastor or other caring church family folks such as: “We miss you. . . .  We hope you are alright.  . . . We hope you’re still alive . . . ” and there’s no response.  It is a great grief is suffered when it feels like the cold shoulder is given. Leaving without saying goodbye can feel like a slap in a face to what the relationship has meant in the months and years prior.

I understand that relationships and the dramas of life are messy, though. I understand that the best possible scenario of closure just is not always possible. But, it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t do a better job of holding ourselves accountable to end as well as we began.

So, as you all know, I will be leaving my post as pastor of Washington Plaza Baptist Church on December 24th.   It’s a little less than a month away. And, in these next several weeks, I want to make good use of the time. I want to continue to engage in the life of the church as much as a possibly can so to make this time of transition a healthy and smooth one for everyone. And, I don’t want to leave without saying goodbye.

My pastorate at WPBC has been about more than just the members or regular worship attenders. Many of you online have been a part of our church and many of you have popped in and out of our ministry as your life situations have allowed. I want to include you too. Let me not leave without getting to see you too. Consider coming back to one of our Advent worship services that begin THIS Sunday at 11 am and continue throughout the month.

I have shared with the congregation this week that I am available to meet with folks for lunch or dinner or coffee over the next several weeks. Don’t hesitate to contact me to find a time to get together.

I want to say goodbye, celebrate the good work we’ve done together and anticipate the great future that is ahead for both of us!

I haven’t left yet.

November 18, 2012

Grief and Transition

November 18, 2012

Dear Washington Plaza Church family:

I come before you this morning with a heavy heart. It’s heavy because I have news to share with you that has caused me a great deal of sadness as I have thought and prayed and discerned.  I need to tell you that I am sharing this resignation letter today, ending this chapter as your pastor effective on December 24, 2012.

This is sad news for all of us because we have loved each other well over these four years of life together as pastor and congregation. And, when you love someone, you don’t ever want to part ways.  When you love someone, you don’t want to do anything to hurt them, to discourage them, or to cause them pain. The deep love I have for you has made this decision a particularly hard one.

But in spiritual community, which is what we’ve formed together as a church, there is something in addition to love for one another that binds us together, and that is calling. We believe that God ordains and guides all of our steps, even when what we are being asked to do is difficult.  My change in status with you is a response to my changing sense of call.

It is not that I have been called to be a pastor of another church.

It is not that I haven’t enjoyed being your pastor or that there is some conflict going on in the church that you don’t know about.

It is not that I have lost my faith in anyway or am leaving the ministry. Rather, it is that I feel called into a different season of ministry beginning in 2013.

As you all know, Kevin’s new position as President of Feed The Children has caused a huge shift in our life rhythms in 2012. This new assignment came about as a result of God’s calling on Kevin’s life to lead and as he has settled into his responsibilities a shift has happened within me as well. I, too, now feel a call to use the voice God has given me to be a global advocate for children and families, for those most often ignored or in distress. I will begin to volunteer more of my time to FTC. And I look forward to spending more time with my husband in the coming months.

In addition, I believe God is leading me to grow into my writing vocation—completing a book for publication by the end of next year and pursuing new writing projects.

So, while my time as your pastor will come to an end this year know of my ongoing love and support for you as a church. I believe as strongly in the vision of who you are as a congregation as I did when I began in January 2009. You are unique in the best of ways. You are a needed witness in this community of God’s acceptance for all people. You are a collection of some of the kindest and most loving people that any pastor could hope to lead.

You have certainly moved mountains in my own life—you have made me into the woman, the pastor that I am today and will be in the future. You took a chance on hiring a 28 year old, who could have been your granddaughter, making her YOUR pastor.

By doing this for me four years ago, you gave me the biggest gifts and honors of my life—to be called your pastor. And our relationship, you have given me room to grow and explore and find my voice and for that I am and will forever be grateful.

It’s a time in our history with one another to be sad. It’s a time to walk through grief. But it is also a time to trust. You are so much bigger than who your pastor is. You are so much more than your leader. You are strong and capable of being all that God calls you to in the future.

I know this time of transition will have its own unique challenges, but believe you will face them with same grace and perseverance you have shown in facing challenges before. I will be cheering you on, treasuring the memories made in our four years together, and wishing you all of God’s most abundant blessings in your future.

With love,


September 1, 2012

Dance Your Dance

When is the last time you felt alive? When is the last time you felt free with passion bringing light to your eyes that you thought was long past? When is the last time you danced?

For me, being connected to new ideas and meaningful conversations always enlivens.

In this matter, if you’ve followed my blog for long you know that reading and being introduced to quality books is one of my favorite things. So, how grateful I was to be given some new texts to check out via conversations with the regional director of Feed the Children East Africa, Seintje who I met over the course of our recent travels. Seintje, being a native of Holland and seminary trained in the UK, shared with me several of her favorites that were new finds for my collection.

And I didn’t have to wait long to find them. After a stop at a Catholic bookstore in downtown Nairobi a couple of days ago, I was able to pick up a copy of one of her recommendations called Awareness: the Perils and Opportunities of Reality by Anthony De Mello.

I was immediately drawn in to this book of insightful spiritual wisdom from the very first pages. Especially as I read these words of exhortation by Mello: “My business is to do my thing, to dance my dance. If you profit from it, fine; if you don’t too bad! As the Arabs say, ‘The nature of rain is the same, but it makes thorns grow in the marshes and flowers in the gardens.'”

What I love about this particular quote is the clarity of the idea shared. It’s direct and to the point: how often are we all guilty of moving in the direction of someone else’s life path and not our own. We so easily make the moves of our lives based on a cultural blueprint rather than what might be our new course to blaze. When we do this, we aren’t awake to our own lives, as Mello writes. We are sleep walking instead.

I met several large groups of women this week who greeted our Feed the Children delegation with dancing and singing. No sleep walking for them, literally. As we got out of the car on several occasions, the welcome started cheering loudly and dancing with hands raised! These women could have had easily shied away from being themselves, we were strangers after all. But no matter what excuses they could have given– they danced. They danced in their own way at their own pace with joy on their faces to be able to share their lives with us.

So too, this must be our way, says Mello. We all have our dance and we must get to it. Our dancing will be like rain on the parched ground for some who have forgotten what joy looks like. Seeing us dance might remind them how to dance again too right where they are.

Yet, others, who are walking in the dark (and very much liking the way things are) will look at our dancing and point their fingers in exclamation of our insanity. Stop living this way! Stop being so happy! You can’t live like this. You’re exposing our anxiety and loneliness. You’re exposing our fear.

They’ll say these things because they are jealous of our freedom. They’ll wish they could cut loose too. They haven’t yet learned to dance.

But no matter what, our invitation to dance by our God remains. We all get this invitation. Our dance card is ready. Time will tell where we will go. We just have to get to it: dancing our dance. It’s ours to dance alone.


March 19, 2012

Book Review Week: Bless Her Heart

I don’t know if it is my new addiction to the Kindle app on my IPad or just the season of spring, but I’ve been on a reading kick lately of some really wonderful titles that I think many of you, blog readers, might like too. So, I’ve decided to devote the next five days to informal book reviews and reflections.

And first up today is a newer release especially for those of you who are young clergy women or want to know a young clergy woman in your life a little bit better. Bless Your Heart: Life as a Young Clergy Woman by Ashley-Anne Masters and Stacy Smith is a e-book I downloaded and completed over the weekend.

I’d remembered fellow female clergy, especially friends from the Young Women’s Clergy Project, excitedly promoting this title when it came out more than a year ago. A colleague’s Facebook status read of her enthusiastic praise of the text saying something like, “Finally there is a book about someone who understands me!” So, I sat down to see what all the hype was about.

I was a little disappointed in the style of the book– all stories came in the first person but we never knew who “I” was. (And so, I had trouble following if the stories shared were of the authors or of other clergy they interviewed said). And, really felt like the scripture sections of the chapters were a big too simplistic for the topics. But, overall, I am glad this book was written and I’m so thankful to the authors for taking up this task.

I couldn’t help but recall as I read, several of my own stories about clothing, dating and what it means to have a social life as young clergy woman. And with each recollection, this book helped me grow in gratitude for my own journey. Though there have been hard times of misunderstandings, lack of respect and “How in the world could YOU be the pastor?” I know I’m in exactly the right vocation.

No matter how times have changed, almost all of us female clergy, like Smith and Masters write, have stories about comments on “inappropriate shoes,” “not being in the office long enough to the tastes of the secretaries” or “honey, you are as cute as my granddaughter.” This book read to me like a testimony that while we as young clergy women might have different tastes in footwear, Sabbath keeping or hair color than our male or even older female colleagues, we still are clergy, gifted and eager to learn as we serve. So many of the stories told within speak to a growing edge in young women must climb in their efforts to claim their authority, exude confidence and individual style in a religious world that wants us to conform, and balance family and work roles. We all are a work in progress, no matter our age or gender!

I also became grateful because of how much less “green” I feel now in my soon to be 6th year of ordained ministry.  I have grown much over these past six years, especially during my tenure at Washington Plaza, a place where I have been lovingly supported by church leadership, given opportunities to experiment, and always taken seriously as a spiritual leader (no matter my age). 

If there is anything I would want to share with my young clergy women sisters after reading Bless Your Heart, it would be, keep going. This is what I know: it will get better. Not necessarily better because societal attitudes about young clergy change, or all senior pastors suddenly become instantly supportive of maternity or family leave or that because all young clergywomen who want jobs find them. But as we stick around the ministerial life, we change. Our voice becomes stronger. Our focus becomes clearer. And our ability to let go “all of those stupid things” people say to us quickens. No matter what kind of ministry space we find ourselves in, we know who we are and we know who we serve and who we don’t! So the next time an elder says to us “Bless your heart” we smile with our hands held high and say back “bless yours too!”

Next up: Traveling with Pomograntes by Sue Monk Kidd

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