Hallowe’en Friday Five

halloween

Today is the last of October, 2014. It’s Halloween. It’s All Hallow’s Eve, the night before All Hallows Day. And that makes it two days before All Souls Day. And, oh, there’s a Reformation Day anniversary, too, right?

In my (Episcopal) tradition, All Saints’ Day is when we remember the saints who have gone before (the “big kahunas”) and All Souls’ is the remembrance of all the faithful departed. All. Every last one. I’m not crazy about that demarcation, but that’s my opinion. What I do appreciate is that this time of year, no matter what the observance, we are looking to the thin places. The places where we are jolted out of old ways of seeing. Where we can touch the edge of heaven.

In this hemisphere, we have autumn, whatever that means for our particular locality (I saw snow on my Facebook feed this morning!) In the Southern hemisphere, it’s springtime. Either way, it’s a time of moving, changing, growing, the wheel turning.

For the Friday Five today, I ask you to name five favorite traditions or occurrences of this particular time of year. They can be common to your locality, denomination, or culture, or particular to you, your family, etc.

Have fun!

And I leave you with this poem…

At this time of the Thinning Veil,
may we remember All Saints
and All Souls
who have ventured before us
into the Otherworld,
which at all times
lies just a breath beyond us.

At this time of the Thinning Veil
may the gift of memory
serve us well
in keeping those loved ones
who have moved on in their Journeys
gently present in our minds and hearts.

At this time of the Thinning Veil
may the veil of our own hearts
be likewise thin and permeable,
that the Love and Wisdom of the Ages
might encourage and enlighten us,
as the One Who Is Love Itself
beckons us ever forward
toward our own wholeness and completion,
Through Yeshua, the Christed One,
the Lamp unto our feet,
the Light unto our path,
the Very Light of the World.
Amen.
~Cheryl Anne

Categories: All Saints, Friday Five | Leave a comment

Ask the Matriarch: Is he hitting on me?

Dear Matriarchs,
What’s a gal chaplain to do? I work in hospice and I try hard to be professional and do my job well. What does one do when a bereaved male claims he has “felt a connection” and asks where you “do services” or looks at you very intently in the eye and says he gets “lonely”. So far I’m just taking the professional route and ignoring the hint. Should I call him out and name it in regards to me, risking breaking the “connection” or trust? Or just continue the professional, empathic way? Does “compassionate, pastoral, good listener” equate with “possible hookup” to these guys? I am solidly married with kids and love my work.

Dear Chaplain,
This is common for both married and single clergywomen, especially when someone is lonely and you have been the person who has walked with the bereaved. Continue to be professional and – if necessary, because the lonely person has become more direct in his interest in you – remind him that healthy boundaries prevent a chaplain from socially interacting with clients or their family members away from the hospice or hospital.

It sounds like you are good at what you do. Thank you for being there for your people.
Jan at A Church for Starving Artists

Dear Chaplain,

Without question, I’d remain professional, and listen well, and be compassionate, and state clearly that you are solidly married with kids and love your work. You’re available for spiritual support, but you’re unavailable for anything else. End of story. That’s called upholding professional ethics and boundaries. If the bereaved person feels the connection or trust is broken with you, you should refer him to another person on your staff.

Best to you,

Jennifer at An Orientation of Heart

Dear Chaplain-

One of the rules I try to follow is “If something feels icky, it probably is.” You are the best judge of whether you feel that someone is harassing you, hitting on you or awkwardly seeking pastoral care. I must confess I’ve never been very good at confronting this sort of thing but I do know that when “it feels icky” I need to be extra vigilant about my boundaries. You can still be a good pastoral listener while maintaining your professional space.

It’s possible that this is just an awkward lonely man. You have been trustworthy and expressing loneliness is not always an easy thing to do. If he’s grieving a spouse he may be feeling really isolated. But you know all of this. Trust your instincts and don’t compromise your professional standards.

Best wishes,
Heidi aka RevHRod

Dear Solidly Married –

I think the question here revolves around what’s “professional.” Being professional doesn’t mean you should tolerate being uncomfortable. It is impossible for you to have a healthy, healing connection to a grieving person who has no sexual boundaries. It is professional to enforce those boundaries. The next time your gut tells you to call someone out on their inappropriate behavior, I hope you feel empowered to do so. “I am here as your chaplain, not as a potential date.” If the behavior continues, tell him you will discontinue all contact and follow through.

Really, life is too short for this particular flavor of clergy crap! By which I mean to say — your call is too significant and your marriage is too precious to fritter away your time and energy on people who would gladly abuse all of those things — your call, your marriage, your time, and your energy. To my mind, it is professional for you to protect those most valuable resources.

Ruth Everhart

Dear Concerned Chaplain,

My prayers are with you for discernment in this situation. I would speak gently but firmly with words such “I am honored to be here as a chaplain in this difficult time.” Clearly define your role and then keep your distance. Possibly find a male chaplain to support this grieving person instead of you.

Blessings,

Rev. Kelley

Dear Gal Chaplain,

It does seem to me that this sometimes happens when we meet a need for someone. Sometimes the connection feels personal, but not intrusive or threatening. Other times it is out of bounds. I must confess that I have only dealt with this on occasion, and the circumstances differed each time. I think we always continue to act in a professional, empathetic way, but that sometimes we must be more direct. I must admit, my first thought was to say (when he says he gets lonely), “You should come/go to church at XYZ. You’d meet some new people and make connections, and perhaps you wouldn’t feel so lonely!” It may be necessary to be more direct. “Mr. Jones, I know that it must be difficult for you right now, and that you must feel very isolated. I am happy to continue to be a pastoral/professional resource for you for a while. I can help you find a (grief support group, church, etc.) I can provide you information about local churches. I can refer you to a therapist if that would be helpful. However, any relationship beyond a professional one is not appropriate.”

It’s not an easy conversation to have. Let the Spirit guide you, and give you the words that will be both direct and pastoral. You need to set the boundaries. If the connection and trust is broken, that is his choice, not your responsibility. Blessings.

Tracy at Daily Grace

Readers, what is your experience? We hope you will share your thoughts in the comments.

Categories: Ask The Matriarch | Tags: , | 3 Comments

Looking Back….

Perhaps it’s the fall leaves, or maybe it’s the upcoming All Saints’ Day and the memories it raises, but whatever the cause, a number of we gals seem to be looking back and writing about things in our past and the reflections they invoke in us.

Deb tells us about her mom’s “Godmother shoes” as she heads out to walk the labyrinth…

Derek is thinking about the soundtrack of his life

In “fruitfulwords”, we are reminded of the value of researching our ancestry.

Mindy looks back and considers a few regrets.

Julia takes us back to lessons learned in pilgrimage in Assisi, Italy just last summer.

Milton takes us back 50 years to the first time he sang the national anthem of Zambia, at the birthdate of that new nation - and gives us an audio version so we can sing along!

Janet shares childhood memories and reflects on family connections, both recent and long ago.

Terri reconnects with a friend from years ago, and brings her daughter along…

and Jan recalls those child care providers that made it possible for her to serve her call when her family was young.
Continue reading

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A Tuesday afternoon prayer

Dear God,
OH!
Sometimes relationships,
near and far,
virtual and real,
broken and mended,
communal and single…
they just take my breath away
with their beauty and vulnerability.
Thank you,
for making us
the kind of creatures
that are in relationship,
in your Image.
Amen.

Categories: RevGalBlogPals | 5 Comments

Revised Common Lectionary Leanings: Humble Saints

Readings for this Sunday’s Lectionary passages are available here.

Some of us may be celebrating All Saints this weekend as well. Here are those readings. If you have great All Saints traditions in your congregations that you’d like to share here, please do so. Here’s a pic from our All Saints service last weekend. As people came forward for communion, they were invited to light candles in memory of the saints who from their labors rest.

scottterri

Communion of Saints

To which passages are you drawn to this week?

We will be dedicating stewardship pledges for 2015 this Sunday, so I might be leaning toward Joshua’s account of finally entering the Promised Land.

Matthew’s reminder that the greatest among us will be our servants and those who exalt themselves will be humbled is always a good text too.

Great ideas that have worked for stewardship season are always welcome too.

Where are you leaning? Please share your thoughts here.

Blessings on your week of ministry,

Marci

Categories: All Saints, Tuesday Lectionary Leanings | Tags: | 3 Comments

Narrative Lectionary: Take a Bath (2 Kings 5:1-14)

This is a story full of unlikely messengers.  (Read the text: Here and listen to the Working Preacher commentary: Here)

Naaman hears about Elisha from a servant girl, a foreigner carried off in one of his raids.  It’s hard to imagine a man of his stature, “a man of valor,” apparently busy with the work of war, listening to one of the least important servants in his household, but he does.  Namaan himself commands the army of Syria, but the story reminds us that his victories come from God.  He has purposes to fulfill for the God of Israel.

Namaan is a warrior, a man of accomplishments on the battlefield, but his particular skills are useless in this battle against illness.  The abilities that serve him well in war – quick decisions, energy, moving decisively forward – are useless in this fight.  We can imagine the level of his frustration at being so powerless.

When Naaman comes to Elisha, via the king of Israel, Elisha sends out his own messenger.  He leaves Namaan standing in his doorway, and asks someone to tell him to wash in the Jordan River. The story doesn’t say why Namaan stomps off in a rage, although we can imagine several possibilities.  Perhaps this remote instruction doesn’t seem special enough, or personal enough, or show enough deference.  Again, his servants provide the wisdom, and encourage him to comply.  To Namaan’s credit, he listens to his servants, and goes to bathe in the river.  And to his credit, he returns to Elisha to thank him, and offer a gift.

Elisha won’t take anything, so Namaan asks for some earth from Israel, so he can worship the God of Israel from now on.  He even hedges his bets, asking for forgiveness for future times when he has to go to the temple with his boss, the king, and worship there.  Namaan is healed of his leprosy, but his identity also changes.  Michael Coffey observes that “Naaman needed to reach out for help.  He needed healing…The prophet Elisha was a wise man.  He knew that Naaman’s healing and transformation were not simply about a cure for his leprosy.  Naaman needed to submit, know his weakness and dependence on others, expand his view of who was connected to his life, get naked and humble, and let go and die to his old self…In his acceptance of his weakness and dependency on someone else, in his realization that he cannot live his whole life only trusting in himself, in his encounter with the God who is well beyond his control and manipulation, Naaman discovers his true healing, his transformation into a whole man who can let go and trust others and God.”  [Read more of the blog here.]

Elisha’s own servant, who is important enough to merit a name in the Hebrew scriptures, doesn’t fare so well. Greed overtakes him, and he runs after Namaan to ask for the gift Elisha won’t take.  Elisha, who was tolerant of Namaan’s pride and arrogance, doesn’t have much sympathy for his own servant’s temptation.  Elisha sends the servant out with Namaan’s leprosy.  In an ironic twist, the stranger goes away cured, and the faithful servant is now ill.

Sermon possibilities:

Some churches will observe All Saints Sunday this week.  The sermon might look at the saints who have been messengers in our lives, people who brought truth, or healing or wisdom to us.

Or, it might look at unusual messengers in our lives.  When I was a hospital chaplain on the cancer floor, the person who knew best which patients were having a hard time was the woman who cleaned the rooms.  She would tell me who had gotten bad news, who needed a visit and who was lonely, and I deeply appreciated her guidance.  We all have similarly unusual guides in our lives, just as Namaan has his servants.  The sermon could look at people we might overlook, who bring wisdom to us.

The sermon might look at the difference between healing and curing. Being cured of a disease may or may not reshape our belief; we may be healed in spirit and soul, but never cured of the physical ailment.  Longtime community organizer Marcy Westerling wrote recently about being diagnosed with late-stage four cancer four years ago, and how she has transformed her life and beliefs since her diagnosis.  She observes, “I have noticed many of us with terminal cancer are of good cheer and even invigorated by having no presumption of longevity. We have little choice but to live in the moment; something many talk about, but few can manage. When you live treatment to treatment and test result to test result, there is less room for distraction by petty stresses. We can’t expect to live another year, but if we do survive one year, or five, or ten, we consider ourselves very lucky. My mandate is to live with the shadow of death seated comfortably on one shoulder…”  [You can read her entire blog post, reprinted by Yes magazine here.]

Illness is isolating, another point made by Westerling in her blog post.  Perhaps Namaan was willing to listen to his servants because he was isolated from other people of his station and status by his illness.  Perhaps his circle of friends had dwindled down to his household, if everyone else around him feared his disease.  Have you experienced a chronic or acute illness?  The sermon might talk about the loneliness of illness, and where we find strength.

What are your thoughts?  What do you see in the story?  Share with us in the comments section.

Categories: Narrative Lectionary | 1 Comment

Monday Prayer

October, where did you go?
The end is in sight, and November beckons
The clocks changed, and extra hour in bed, means darkness falls earlier
And the season is racing forward.

O God, is it bad that I hate the darkness?
Help me when the lack of light drags my mood…
Down, down, down….

Bless us with shafts of sunlight
Lighting the golden tree tops
Remind us that seasons come and go
And this autumn darkness will
Slide into crisp frosty days
When weak sunlight bounces off the crystal frosted land

And God of all
Reminds us too
That we are not alone
That blessings come in many guises
That hope wears many faces
That peace and joy are found
In unexpected corners

We are yours
Wherever we are
However we feel
Whatever we do
Season to season
Day to day
Corner to corner
Ever and ever
Amen

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Categories: Monday Prayer, prayers, RevGalBlogPals, RevGalPrayerPals | 2 Comments

RevGalBookPals: Women in the Bible

What do Miriam, Michal, Jael, and Hagar have in common? They are part of the Bible study I’m currently putting together about women in Hebrew scripture and what we learn from them. (Okay, all of those women have other things in common besides that, but stick with me.)

I tend to put together my own studies, so I like to have plenty of resources at hand. In seeking out commentaries on women in the scriptures, I look for a breadth of authors, broad information about time and habits, specific information about the women in question. Today I’d like to share with you 3 resources that I’ve found very helpful. I hope you’ll check these out and share what you’ve used to learn about our mothers and sisters in the faith as well.

Women of the Bible: A Visual Guide to Their Lives, Loves, and Legacy (Carol Smith, Ellyn Sanna, Rachael Phillips) [Barbour Publishing, Inc, 2011]

This book has magazine slick pages filled with pictures, paintings, and little standout nuggets of information. From the Illustrated Bible Handbook Series, this is the kind information that you might have learned in history or in other reading, but put together in a way that relates to women’s lives and livelihoods. This is the book that will explain Levirate marriage, women as property, women pre-and-post childbirth, and as cultures changed.

 This book does have a section on individual women of the Bible, but it is as not as detailed as other books for that purpose. This is a great book to have for sermon or study fodder or quick information or as a resource for a retreat/class on lives in various Biblical periods. You probably also know women and men in the church who are always curious about more details or history than you or other teachers are able to provide. This little volume would make a good “thank you” gift in certain circumstances to that type of person.

 

 

 Bible Women: All Their Words and Why They Matter (Lindsay Hardin Freeman) (Forward Movement, 2014) (Kindle version)

This book came to me unexpectedly for review at just the right time. Freeman’s work catalogues all the women who speak (and a couple who don’t) in the Bible. They are listed by name or by identifying characteristic. Each woman has a few pages to herself. For some of these women, (see: Samson’s first wife), this may be one of their few glimpses of the sunshine of study and appreciation.

Each entry lists the woman, her prominent traits, where to find her story, a “classic moment”, and her Biblical profile (high, low, or otherwise). There is a summary of her words, a quick recap of her story, and then some reflections on her life and how she might relate to various areas of modern life. The questions at the end of each short section allow a reader or group to journal, discuss, or think about the woman in question.

Frankly, I loved this book. After my study is over, I hope to use the book for some personal devotional time. It’s easy to read, with the information in clear, digestable chunks. The scholarship is well done and accessible.

By looking at the record of the words of Biblical women, we can get a sense of how they are involved in the larger stories. They are not absent. The back of the book has suggested studies using the book, a list of speaking women in order of chattiness, and lists of the books in which the voices of women are not recorded. I highly recommend adding this book to yourself and considering how it could be incorporated into the educational devotional life of the community you serve.

 

Women’s Bible Commentary: Revised and Updated, Third Edition (Newsom, Ringe, Lapsley) (Westminster John Knox, 2012)

Maybe I am behind in this recommendation and you all have this essential volume on your shelves. Maybe you’re like me with the Second edition (or the First) and wondering if you really need the newest. Here’s the answer to that question: yes. Yes, you do.

 This commentary has the reflections on each Biblical book that you might expect from any commentary, but it strongly weighs in on the point of view of women and of different marginalized groups. In reading through this time, I saw more space given to the difference between hetero-normative and more expansive readings in places I didn’t expect. The articles on specific women and their interpreters are also very helpful, not only for pointing the reader to more information, but in aggregating and reflecting on years of interpretation.

No library is complete without this commentary as it goes to unexpected places with voices that do not always get equal (or even any) airtime. I would consider this a basic reference volume for anyone who preaches or teaches regularly or who likes more information in their own scriptural reading.

 

What books have you found to be helpful (or essential) regarding the lives of Biblical women?

 

Categories: Book recommendations, Monday Book Discussion and review, RevGalBookPals | 3 Comments

Sunday Prayer RCL 25A

Based on Matthew 22:34-56

O God our Love,
You have taught us the ways in which to live,
As our Creator,
you have offered us commandments to follow
so that we might be fully your people.
All you ask
is for our love.
Loving You who are Love…
Loving Love,
and then to love what You love–
your world, our neighbors,
great and small,
the least, the last
the most, the first,
and everything and everyone in between.

Show us, our beloved Teacher,
the places and peoples
that are starving for your Love…
which include
compassion,
acts of justice and mercy and humility.

Forgive us when we we forget to love.
When we get caught up in everything but
the acts of love.

We pray this prayer,
for Love’s sake,
Amen.

Categories: RevGalBlogPals | Leave a comment

11th Hour Preacher Party: Pumpkin, Pumpkin Edition

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Of the many rich autumn colors, my favorite is orange. And what’s more orange and fall-ish than pumpkins?  It’s that time of year to get all pumpkin-saturated:  jack-o-lanterns, hayrides to pick pumpkins, and making pumpkin treats. That said, I’ve never been a big fan of the pumpkin pie. If you are into Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte, get yours now before it’s too late!  What’s your favorite pumpkin thing?  Or will you pass on the pumpkin altogether?

Pumpkin distractions aside and putting down any other procrastination aides — for the moment –

Let’s talk about preaching!  Are you preaching from the Narrative Lectionary, the Revised Common Lectionary, or something else? Or are you sidelined this week?

Is your sermon finished, almost there, or still in the incubation stage?

Wherever you are in the sermon-writing process, let’s have some fun together!  Add a snack or treat to the table over there. Help yourself to some Fair Trade organic French roast coffee or your favorite tea or beverage of choice.

We’ve got some time and we have each other.  If you don’t have what you need, please ask in the comments. We are here for you!

If you have extra inspiration to share, or a sermon linked on your blog ready to read, please let us know in the comments.

We love meeting new friends and look forward to seeing you familiar ones. Let us know you are here!

(Totally optional but helpful for you to know: If you are posting under a nickname, and you would like to be recognized here by your real name, please sign your post with it. Otherwise, we don’t know. Or, if we do know, we won’t reveal.)

Welcome, friends!

Categories: 11th Hour Preacher Party | 95 Comments

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