11th Hour Preacher’s Party: Advent Hope Edition


Do you know where the Advent candles are? Do you have a wreath-lighting liturgy ready? Have you changed the colours in the sanctuary?Are you ready for Advent?

Lord knows how badly we need the Advent themes of hope, light, love and joy in all our communities.

Whether you’re preaching a message of hope from the RCL readings or re-discovering the law in the NL readings, or whether you’re struggling to say anything at all that speaks into the darkness and pain of our world, we invite you to struggle in community here.

Do take a look at the blog posts from earlier in the week on the NL and RCL, ask questions, share resources, as, in company, we find the words God speaks into our mess today. Wnether your sermon is done or whether it’s being elusive, we’ll help each other to make plain the glimmer of hope and light that is God in our midst.

May you find time and space in your life to wait on God this Advent.

Categories: 11th Hour Preacher Party, Advent, RevGalBlogPals | Tags: , , , , , , | 33 Comments

Friday Five: Leftovers


Before Thanksgiving Dinner: A feast of desserts!

Strange events this year meant that I did not have a BITE of all of the dishes prepared for Thanksgiving. A crazy GI bug flattened me for the day. It was NOT the Thanksgiving I had planned. (And maybe your Thanksgiving was not the ideal, either.)

But being thankful is a spiritual discipline. So I invite you to list five things, people, events or pets that you are truly thankful for this year.

BONUS: As spiritual careGIVERS we often forget to plan time to care for ourselves and we end up getting the dregs of our energies and self-care. What are you doing to make sure you aren’t getting the LEFTOVERS of your schedule for self care?


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Friday Prayer: Intellectual Dissonance

Lord, Lord…

I can understand, beyond empathy, with your children who want to believe in something they can





I hear their stories. I read their books. I listen, quietly. And I get it. The mystery can be too much and, in some cases, not comforting. The rational explanation does not necessarily console, but it is not irrational.

What I need your help with more… now and now and now… is your children who say they believe, who profess a deep understanding of your wonders and greatness… and yet their actions are




Where is the space in this? What is the word I am trying to balance from you in this?

How in the midst of the deaths of so many and the murderous words and actions of others,

How am I supposed to utter thanksgivings with any sense of real gratitude?

How am I supposed to ring out with integrity in Advent hope and Christmas joy?

How should I welcome Christ when he is limping toward me, shot… bruised… commodified… vilified… marginalized…? How do I welcome him and still proclaim your reign?


There’s no close to this prayer, Lord, because we are living it.





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Ask the Matriarch: Books for A Pastor’s Christmas List


Are you looking to add some books to your Christmas list? The Matriarchs are here to help! This week they offer you their “best of the best” in the following categories:

  • Essential books: If she had to get rid of all but a few books, these would stay. 
  • Reference books: For studies, sermons, retreats, leadership — she regularly goes to these to undergird her teaching and preaching
  • Group studies: The best things she has shared with her congregations
  • Spiritual life: Where she goes to nurture her own soul
  • New books: The best things she has read lately

Bonus: Something else on her Christmas list, not necessarily for “Pastor Me.”


  • “Books” can include other media.
  • Our best books might not necessarily be found in the Religion section of a bookstore or library.

Our Matriarchs are all over this question. Enjoy!

Martha’s Suggestions

Oh, books! I love books the most, with yarn a close second, but you didn’t ask about that. 

  • Essential books: This sounds like a desert island question! If I had to choose ten books other than the Bible and Shakespeare, books I would willingly read over and over again, they would be: Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel, “Fun Home,” a study of identity and what we risk when we hide it (it has been adapted into an amazing Broadway musical); Ta-Nehisi Coates’ “Between the World and Me,” a life-changing book about racism and identity, worthy of all the accolades it is receiving; Mary Oliver’s “Thirst,” hands down my favorite collection of her poetry; J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Fellowship of the Ring;” Willa Cather’s “The Song of the Lark,” which explores the development of an artistic identity; Jane Austen – hmm, probably Pride & Prejudice, a great study of class and manners. I would include a few childhood favorites: C.S. Lewis’ “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe,” Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “The Long Winter” (such a study of perseverance!), Madeleine L’Engle’s “A Wrinkle in Time,” and D’Aulaire’s Book of Greek Myths. 
  • New books: I read a lot of books by RevGals! I hesitate to play favorites. We have a lot of wonderful writers in our group, and they have blessed me with their work. You can find them all in our Amazon store

Bonus: My family’s favorite recent additions to the holiday menu have all come from Ree Drummond and her Pioneer Woman Cooks blog. She’s on TV now and also has a book, and it is *definitely* on my wish list. You won’t want to miss her Whiskey Glazed Carrots. 

The Pioneer Woman Cooks: A Year of Holidays: 140 Step-by-Step Recipes for Simple, Scrumptious Celebrations 

Feel free to tell my family. ;-) 

Martha Spong

RevGals Executive Director

Jennifer’s Suggestions

Essential books:   The Wee Worship Book- Iona Community

Reference Books: Bible Women by Lindsay Hardin Freeman

Group Studies:       Life is a Verb- Patti Digh

                            We Make the Road By Walking- Brian McLaren

Spiritual life:      Your Daily Rock- Patti Digh

The Rule of Benedict-A Spirituality for th 21st Century- Joan Chittister

New Books:    Sacred Pause- Rachel Hackenberg

Jennifer Burns Lewis   www.anorientationofheart.blogspot.com

Sharon’s Suggestions

I am 20+ years beyond seminary. Some of these books, though older, have stood the test of time. They also made it through the great book giveaway preceding my recent geographic move. Many of my newer favorites are authored by RevGal. I second Martha’s suggestion to check out our Amazon store!

Essential Books:

Generation to Generation (Edwin Friedman)

The Once and Future Church (Loren Mead)

Fashion Me a People (Maria Harris)

Reference Books:

The Parables of Jesus (Joachim Jeremias)

The Scandalous Gospel of Jesus (Peter Gomes)

A People’s History of Christianity (Diana Butler Bass)

Group Studies:

What It Means to Be Human (Molly T. Marshall);

Life Keys: Discover Who You Are (Jane A.G. Kiss & David Stark)

I Refuse to Lead a Dying Church (Paul Nixon)

Spiritual Life:

Daring Greatly and Rising Strong (Brene Brown)

Between the Dark and the Daylight: Embracing the Contradictions of Life (Joan Chittister)

Women Who Run With the Wolves (Clarissa Pinkola Estes)

New Books:

Big Magic (Elizabeth Gilbert)

The New Jim Crow (Michelle Alexander)

Between the World and Me (Ta-Nehisi Coates)

Bonus: At the top of my wish list is something that motivates me to put down the books and get moving. Because I wore out my last one, I’m dreaming of a new FitBit One.

Sharon Temple at revmama.com

* * * * *

We have shared some of our favorite books. How about you?

What essential books have a permanent place on your shelf?

What’s on your Christmas wish list?

Please join the conversation in the comments below.

Are you looking for some advice about a difficult ministry situation? The Matriarchs are ready to help!

Send your questions to AskTheMatriarch (at) gmail (dot) com


RevGalBlogPals encourages you to share our blog posts via email or social media. We do not grant permission to cut-and-paste prayers and articles without a link back. For permission to use material in paper publications, please email revgalblogpals at gmail dot com.


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Thursday Prayer

Oh God,
I made a list.

I made a “how dare we be thankful” list. I made a list of all the things wrong with the world and why we shouldn’t dare to gather round big, fancy tables piled high with yams and marshmallows and OhMyYams… I made a list of all the hurts in the world. I made a list of people struggling, rejected, or oppressed. I made a list of names of precious souls lost too soon. I made a list of violent videos I can’t un-see. I made a list of unjust policies. I made a list of outrage, frustration, and objections. I made a list of things I hate. I made a list and it totally overwhelmed me. How dare we be thankful? Oh, I made that list.

And then I held that list and I looked around. I saw it. I saw the work happening. The speaking, the suing, the marching, the writing. I saw the organizing, the gathering, the praying, and the hand-shaking. I saw the work. Everywhere. I saw people standing up for justice and working tirelessly for peace. Bit by bit. Here, and yeah, even over there. I saw people changing. I saw me changing. I made note of some wins, some new ways, progress, some hope. A lot of hope, actually. I read their reports, their articles, their findings, their studies. I saw relationships and connections. I saw questions digging to deeper questions. And seeing all this, I saw you. In that. In me. In us.

I still have that list. It’s burning through my yam-loving heart this morning. But I also see you. At work in this. At work in me. At work in us. Changing us. Ripping us to bits and making us better. And I am so thankful for this terrible, beautiful, holy change happening in, among, through, and in spite of us.

How dare we be thankful?
How dare we not?
For you are at work.
And for that, I give unending thanks and praise.
(And yams.)

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Wednesday Prayer


I tiptoe in prayer to You today, because I don’t want to say anything stupid. I want my prayer to encompass all of the grief and injustice in this world….from the shooting of protesters in the #BlackLivesMatter rally by white supremacists to the video released of the shooting (17 times, my God have mercy) of the teenager by Chicago PD to the conversation about the moral and Christian imperative to welcome Syrian refugees….

I tiptoe in prayer to You today, because I can’t even fathom how to pray to make a difference, I tiptoe in prayer to You today because I am scared and sad and dismayed and I don’t get it.  What is the problem with “Love Your Neighbor?”–I see all over social media posts of gratitude and love and thankfulness mixed in with posts of inhospitality and xenophobia and systemic racism and it’s just all such a mess.

I tiptoe in prayer to you today, but as I enter into your presence, I rail and rage and cry out, “How LONG, O God, how long???”

I tiptoe in prayer to You today with my jumble of thoughts, my racing heartbeat, my embarrassment of privilege (I don’t even know what that is, but it’s the only phrase I can muster to capture that feeling), my sinfulness and shortcomings and shallowness; with my longing for your Kin-dom, my wish for it all to be better, my desire for all people and creation to honor the Divine, the Light, the Christ in all people and creation.

I tiptoe in prayer to You today, because it’s the only way I know how to approach You, today.


RevGalBlogPals encourages you to share our blog posts via email or social media. We do not grant permission to cut-and-paste prayers and articles without a link back. For permission to use material in paper publications, please email revgalblogpals at gmail dot com.
Categories: clergywomen, prayer, RevGalBlogPals, Wednesday Prayer, Wednesday Prayer | 4 Comments

Wednesday Festival: For Love of Words

“Never call a stomach a tummy without good reason.”
E. B. White, as quoted in Microstyle

I love language. Love. It.

I’m fascinated by what language can accomplish, intrigued by what we can do with words and by what words can do to/with us. There’s music in the spoken word, art in the written word, dance in the signed word. In words I test and examine my faith, turn it around and reshape it, build a ladder out of consonants and vowels to try to get to God, listen for the vibration of syllables that resonate in my soul. I just … yeah, I seriously geek out over language.

Marketing consultant & linguist Christopher Johnson wrote in his book Microstyle: The Art of Writing Little, “When people relax and get playful with language, they dip their toes into poetry without even knowing it” (134). I feel the same way about faith and the Church: when we relax, when we shake loose our shoulders that have been drawn high to our ears in tension over orthodoxy and salvation and institutional survival, when we smile and play and wonder, then we begin to make poetry in our spirits and in our faith communities.

Scrolling through the recent posts around our blogging community — in these days when pastors are fatigued but digging deep to craft a meaningful Advent/Christmas season; in these days when the world’s fears are incited continually by politicians; in these days when the open wound of racism continues to take its toll on Black and brown bodies — I found in my scrolling that the poetry & playfulness of blogpost titles were a boon to the spirit. The lilt of alliteration. The juxtaposition of words. The suggestion of a story. Titles that tease and titles that think. Words that invite and words that dream.

Maybe the word thing is just me. Yet I pray this feast of words will shake loose your stressed & weary spirit:

Soup Season

Recipes and Cookie Cutters

On Standing and Flying

Of Faith and Faeries

How to Talk Back to Jesus and Win

False Kindness

Life Lessons from a Scout Labradoodle

It’s Not Really about the Waffles After All…

Back to the Garden

Freckles and Short-Shorts

Have a blogpost title of your own that particularly pleases you? Have some dancing words to share? Join the festival and share your blogpost link in the comments!

RevGalBlogPals encourages you to share our blog posts via email or social media. We do not grant permission to cut-and-paste prayers and articles without a link back. For permission to use material in paper publications, please email revgalblogpals at gmail dot com.
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Revised Common Lectionary: Where’s the Hope?

1488075_10152036574039375_1798853213_nI begin with a confession:  I am not a one who waits patiently. Under the best of circumstances, my waiting hours are filled with excited anticipation and under the worst, anxious reflection. This Advent season feels more like the second kind of waiting. You know the kind – waiting for test results or that phone call. I know it isn’t supposed to, but that’s where I am this year. And the texts this week aren’t particularly helping bring in the hope and joy of the season.

You see, I serve a church in South Minneapolis, on the other side of the city where historic Black Lives Matter protests are happening. I hear Jeremiah’s words, “The days are surely coming…” and I want that justice and righteousness right now! Last night protesters were shot at the police station and the police told them to call 911 and later maced the distraught crowd. Where is the justice? Where is the righteousness?

More globally, of course, terrorism has once again polarized the world. People are indeed fainting in foreboding and fear of what has come upon the world. Where is the strength and courage to stand strong?

Traditionally, the first Sunday in Advent is the Sunday of Hope. It’s a tough sell with these texts. Ultimate hope is a bit easier to find than immediate hope. As discouraged, exhausted, and overwhelmed as I feel, I can’t shake the notion that hope is present underneath it all. In this season we anticipate the coming of the Light of Christ while standing in that same Light. In the northern hemisphere, we see and feel the darkness descending in a very literal way. It may be easy to forget the Light that cannot be extinguished by any darkness – real or spiritual.

It’s a hard sell, though. Folks want God to break into the world and put an end to our foolishness, our sin, our destruction and raise us up in a glorious, undeniable fashion. I’m not sure that anyone really wants to hear that hope is in our hands because that same God has already revealed to us the way of life and love. So all this nervous, anxious, anticipatory energy I have, I am going to put into action. I can pray along with Jeremiah that the days of righteousness and justice will arrive and I can heed Jesus’ call to be prepared for Christ to enter into the world again. I can also, to paraphrase Ghandi, be the hope I wish to see in the world. So I’m heading off to stand with Black Lives Matter. Today is really one of those days when I think God is the one waiting for us, waiting for us to respond to the Good News and truly embody the Love gifted to us in Christ.

So where are you this week? Have you chosen Hope as your theme or are you focusing on something else? What challenges does your community face that make it hard to hear promises of justice and righteousness that seem to have gone unfulfilled? Let us know where the Spirit is leading as you grapple with these texts that begin Advent with promises that have echoed down through the centuries.

RevGalBlogPals encourages you to share our blog posts via email or social media. We do not grant permission to cut-and-paste prayers and articles without a link back. For permission to use material in paper publications, please email revgalblogpals at gmail dot com.

Photo by Erika Sanborne. Used by permission.

Categories: RevGalBlogPals, Revised Common Lectionary | Tags: , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Narrative Lectionary:Re-discovering the text (2 Kings 22:1-10;23:1-3)


In these days of information overload and Wikipedia, it seems incredible that, in the past, so much control was exerted by withholding information.
Sacred texts were carefully controlled by religious authorities, considered too dangerous to be delivered into the hands of the masses.
And so, all through history, we find revolts and reformations based around release of the word.
Withholding scripture became a means of retaining power. When that power was breached reformation occurred.
The sacred text that Josiah discovered, probably carefully concealed by his predecessors, certainly gave him impetus to reclaim tradition and recover truths once shared and practiced.
It might be useful to consider something of the context and chronology behind today’s text.
Around 715 BCE, King Hezekiah became king of Judah. Hezekiah was a very pious king and began a series of religious reforms.
He was succeeded around 687 BCE by his son Manasseh, who reigned for 45 years and was described as one of the worst kings- some reputation, given the awful acts of many kings of that era. Manasseh was succeeded, briefly, by his son Amon who was murdered just two years into his reign before Josiah took over in BCE 640.
Josiah, by all accounts, sought to continue his great grandfather, Hezekiah’s reforms and organised repairing the temple. It was during this work that the scroll, probably hidden for safe keeping during Manasseh’s reign, was found. This led to Josiah’s reforms.

At the start of Advent,a time of new beginnings, we might want to ask ourselves:

  • As a community of faith, what is it that allows us to keep losing sight of the Word?
  • How might we continue to”shake off the dust”and rediscover that word for today, gradually uncovering the treasure and embarking on a journey of discovery?
  • Why do we allow that reforming word so often to slip into obscurity instead of being constantly reformed and renewed by its message?
  • Having rediscovered the word, how do we contextualize it for our community?
  • How do we encourage different generations, building on their experience and tradition, to see the words in a new light for these times?
  • How do we make way for the power of the word to affect everyday life?

There is no danger, today, of the word being hidden. But it’s accessibility does not seem to enhance our observance. The power is still there, waiting to be released, to emerge from the walls we build around it and bring about change.
There is no doubt that the kind of reformation that could be accomplished if we heeded the Word of God is needed now more than ever.
As we make every day choices that affect economy, politics and issues of equality and justice, how might the power of the Word direct our choices and effect change that makes a difference for all God’s children?
As we look forward to celebrating the Incarnation, how might we give flesh to the reform that God seeks to accomplish?
This Advent calls for us to be bold, to blow the dust off the Word, to release the power and to see in its wake, the creativity of God born for every time and place, disrupting and uprooting the whole people of God.

(These musings were also shared in Spill the Beans)



Categories: Advent, Narrative Lectionary, RevGalBlogPals | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

Tuesday Prayer

Dear Friend,

Some days there is just nothing to say.

Stretching it, I’ll say,



Thank you.




RevGalBlogPals encourages you to share our blog posts via email or social media. We do not grant permission to cut-and-paste prayers and articles without a link back. For permission to use material in paper publications, please email revgalblogpals at gmail dot com.
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