We’re up and running!
It was more than a year ago when I started to contemplate the idea of launching a podcast. I had a vague idea of the premise. But mostly I knew I had things I wanted to say and perhaps this was a way to do it.
We all have things we like and dislike about ourselves. And, like most people, the dislike list is longer than the like list. But at the top of the dislike list is my voice. God, of course, decided to play a cruel joke on me and call me to be a preacher. And if I’m going to be a preacher, then I might as well also start a podcast. Apparently, I’m also a masochist, but I digress.
As a child, I was always thinking. I had big ideas and strong opinions and most of them I kept to myself. It was difficult enough to get my thoughts on to paper. Speaking them out loud? Ugh. Let me stay behind the scenes. And that’s what I did. I grew up to be a photographer. Photography let me say a thousand words without opening my mouth. Then one day it changed. It was too painful to keep quiet about the things that mattered most.
That’s sort of what happened with the podcast. There were so many things I wanted to share, but too many to know where to begin. And then I heard a story. The story was of a teenage girl with a call to preach. She was wrestling and questioning. But, what bothered me most, was that she was questioning her right as a female to answer the call to preach. *Sigh*
My first thought? We need to change the internal monologue of women in the church. In order to do that, we need to change the dialogue in the church. And in order to do that, we need to start telling better stories. And, together, we could learn to tell better stories and, perhaps, even change the world.
This is Her Story is a podcast that wants to tell better stories…about women…in ministry. I’m not sure that another theology class will do it. But women clergy being used by God to change their communities? That will preach louder and stronger than any theological textbook! We could drown out the naysayers with our stories of faith. We could lay a foundation for a new generation that begins to see women and men proclaiming Good News while they are standing side by side. And we might even see a resurgence of the Kingdom of God when the fullness of the Gospel is being fully represented by men and women.
I hope you will take a listen. I hope you will be encouraged and challenged. And I hope you will share it with others. Let’s tell better stories…together. And let’s change the world with our voices!
At the end of third grade, we moved to Alpena, Michigan. It was four hours away from everyone and everything I knew. At eight years old, it may as well have been four states away. But fourth-graders tend to be very dramatic. No one tells parents this though. So consider this your heads up if your child is entering fourth grade.
I made friends quickly in my new town and new school in spite of being a quiet and awkward redhead. I was small for my age. I had gangly, skinny legs and my pants were always falling down. I was also stuck in that phase where children want to wear their jackets everywhere, even inside the house. (You thought it was only your child)
Even though I made friends quickly, I was still the new kid. My classmates had been friends since kindergarten which is like forever when you’re in fourth grade. The bell would ring for recess and we all would run for the monkey bars. I loved the monkey bars. I had zero skills or chance of being a gymnast, but a girl can dream.
One day, the boys were harassing the girls. So basically another day on the playground. It continued even until we lined up before returning to class. One of the boys was bullying my friend. So I stood between them, my hands on my hips, telling him to knock it off and to leave her alone. I was the smallest in the class, but I wasn’t afraid to call out bullies.
And then, without a warning, he sucker punched me. There was no escalation. No pushing or shoving. It went from verbal to physical in a split second. At that moment, the world seemed to close in around me. I was on my knees, gasping for breath with my hair hanging in my face.
Some things never change. I have always been a voice for the voiceless. I feel compelled to call out the bullies. I have this internal compulsion to defend the defenseless. I am the one who wants justice and the one who will fight for it should the need arise.
It’s also true that if you speak up for the voiceless, if you defend the defenseless, then you will be punched in the gut sooner or later. Usually sooner. I think this is why those in advocacy work need to take more breaks. They need a week or two off more often than others. Those of us who find ourselves speaking up for others need time to recover from the repeated punches we take in our line of work. Sometimes we even need to change directions for a while in order to take care of ourselves.
It is not a sign of weakness to change directions. It doesn’t mean you have given up on your call or your vocation. It is a sign of wisdom, not of failure. A decision to change directions means you need to spend time healing so that you can return to advocacy work. For some, it might be a small change like blogging or taking up a hobby that has nothing to do with your work. For others, it might mean a new job in a slightly different field using your current skills.
Jeff Goins, the author of The Art of Work, discusses the idea of vocation as a portfolio rather than a job. We have a calling on our lives; a vocation. And this vocation is lived out in a way that develops as a portfolio. Our collective work shapes the overall vocation.
The idea of a portfolio has taken root in all fields. My daughter had to create a portfolio for her senior year in high school. This concept is even more important if you find yourself in advocacy or creative work. It is not our job title or position that shapes us. Instead, it is the overall arch of our work that shapes our vocation.
I am understanding this even more as a pastor. We have defined the call of the clergyperson so narrowly for decades. We envision a man standing in a pulpit preaching a sermon to rows and rows of people. And, yet, there are men and women answering the call to ordination who shape the Kingdom of God in a myriad of ways. We are chaplains, pastors, professors, and compassionate care ministers. We reach out to the poor, rich, young, old, blue collar worker, executive, and prostitute. Together we do our part to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to earth.
I have a clergy friend who planted a church and sits on the city council. I have another friend who stands in the pulpit on Sundays preaching to rows of people and does something with cars during the week. I have several clergy friends who teach elementary students Monday through Friday and shepherd a congregation at the same time. But I also have clergy friends who run homeless shelters for battered women. And clergy friends who meet indiscriminately in coffee shops as they share the Good News with anyone who will listen.
Listen, your call, your vocation is going to look different from mine. And it will look different tomorrow than the first year you began. I have always had a compulsion to be a voice for the voiceless. But that may take its shape in different ways over the course of my life. The same is true for you. If you are being true to the call, then don’t worry about the title. Just keep doing the work.
It’s day twenty-one of my sabbatical. Twenty-one days of Sabbath rest. Three sets of seven. On day twenty, I was wondering how I would continue doing what I do because, after twenty days, I still had no desire to preach. I had eleven more days to lean into this place of rest, but would it be enough.
Three Sundays before my sabbatical began, I woke up and the feeling of weight came upon me. The weight of carrying a message from God to the people was upon me. And it was heavy. It was difficult to physically stand up under its spiritual weight. At the end of the message, every ounce of oxygen seemed to leave my body and I was limp with exhaustion. I experienced this each Sunday for the last three weeks before I said my last Amen and gave my last benediction on July 29th. I slept for the first three days of sabbatical.
For the last twenty-one days, I have created a new rhythm. Each day I walk and then I journal and meditate. I have no agenda except to lean into this rest. I am not asking God to speak and I am not looking for answers. Instead, I am resting in order for my soul to reveal who it’s supposed to be.
In Genesis 1, God created. He created space and time. He created matter large and small. He created all we can see and not see. He created humankind in His image. And then He rested.
Jesus said, “My father is always at work.”
Jesus said, “My father is always at work.” So which is it? Did God rest or not?
Yes. He rested. On the seventh day, God rested by taking His hands off of creation. He let go of control and allowed creation to be what it was going to be. God knew that in the resting place creation could become even more.
It’s construction season here in Michigan. There are orange traffic cones aplenty in every direction. In some places, they have poured cement and moved on to the next project even though the road is still sectioned off. The reason? It takes twenty-eight days for the cement to reach 75% of its potential strength. It’s in the resting that cement becomes stronger and reaches its full potential.
In our own lives, we often fail at resting. And we fail at taking our hands off that which we’ve been creating for the last six days. We never allow it to reach its full potential because we keep messing with it. We have to touch it and poke it and manipulate it “just a little more”. And we wonder why it is stagnant, stale, and slowly eroding.
In the words of Bob Newhart, “Stop it!”
Stop talking. Stop writing. Stop the business. Stop the planning. Stop the hype. Every day is not Easter Sunday. You must lean into the negative space and let it all rise up. Let the tension go. Feel the feelings. Observe the thoughts that skip across your mind without judgment. And just be. Let what you have been creating be what it is going to be.
On this sabbatical, I have done some “stuff”. I did research and worked on a few projects I’ve been wanting to begin. I’ve done some writing and reading. But most of the things I have done have been personal and private. They are no ones’ business but mine.
So why did the Church give me a sabbatical? What’s in it for them? Nothing. It’s not about them. The Church gave me a sabbatical because it’s the right thing to do. As I lean into this rest, I will become more authentic and healthy. And, eventually, it will make me a more authentic and healthier leader.
Today is day twenty-one of my sabbatical. It was raining so I didn’t walk in the morning. Instead, I took my mom to breakfast for her birthday. Then I ran some errands, walked, and journaled. In the middle of the day, I started writing a sermon in my head and planning a communion service. Then I stopped and realized that I was writing a sermon and planning communion. In the resting, it rose to the surface without any coaxing. A compulsion to share good news and space with a faith community rose up within me…because I rested.
Dear reader, you are cheating yourself every time you fail to keep the Sabbath rest. You are cheating your family and your creativity. Your unceasing work ethic is not admirable. It’s idolatry and you are worshipping yourself. Take a page of wisdom from the ancient mystics and learn the art of resting.