Consider it, Take Counsel, and SPEAK OUT!

Thus says the LORD to Abraham  Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering (Genesis 22:2).


Thus says Jephthah to the LORD Whoever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return victorious from the Ammonites shall be the LORD’s to be offered up as a burnt offering.  Jephthah conquered.  His daughter was the first to greet him.  He honored his vow. (Judges 11:30-31)


Now the men who were holding Jesus began to mock him and beat him; they also blindfolded him and kept asking him, ‘Prophesy!  Who is it that struck you?’ They kept heaping many other insults on him.  (Luke 22:63-65)


He took a knife, and grasping his concubine cut her into twelve pieces, limb by limb and sent her throughout all the territory of Israel…And all who saw it said, ‘such a thing has not happened or been seen since the day the Israelites came up from the land of Egypt until this day. ‘ Consider it, take counsel, and speak out.  (Judges 20:30)

Consider it, take counsel, and speak out.

It’s easier to speak out on these stories…these stories that are ancient.  These stories that are ours…yet aren’t.  These stories that are history.  And yet reading them today they could be ours.  They could be part of an NPR program or a New York Times article.  It’s been a week of librarians marching on Wall Street, Domestic Violence Laws being repealed, and our churches mourning the loss of entrepreneurial genius Steve Jobs.


Now, don’t get me wrong, I love the i-devices just like everyone.  I do think Jobs was brilliant and helped revolutionize not only the tech industry but how we as a society think and process information.  And certainly he is an example of how to dream, risk, and create.  BUT the fact that his loss is making headlines on the UCC web page over the loss of Derrick Bell says a little something about we the people.The fact that folks are probably going Derrick WHO?  Says a little something about we the people.

The fact that three women from Liberia and Yemen just won the nobel peace prize while we are repealing Domestic Violence Laws to save money says a little something about we the people.

The reality that we have cut art, music, and libraries from schools to save money speaks volumes.  The truth that migrant children in Arkansas are no longer required to be pupils at public schools testifies to the belief in public education of we the people.

The  reality that a family I know is debating sending their child to Honduras for surgery because they make too much here for CHIP coverage but too little to afford medical procedures in the USA proclaims something about we the people.

I am one of these we the people.  So are you.  Friends, I don’t think it’s up to Washington.  And I certainly don’t think it’s up to Wall Street.  I think it’s you and me.  It’s up to WE.  WE the people.  Time to make hard choices and make hard changes.  Time to not only to speak out but to stand up.  Time to put into practice what we proclaim.

I for one will not balance a budget over the care of people’s bodies, minds, and souls.  If this means I need to be better at buying locally and buying less.  OK.  If this means I need to drive the same car for many years.  Ok.  If this means I need to carpool, cook-in, and collaborate.  OK.  I am one of the we.  That means some of this change is up to me.

What are you going to do?

Weighing and Wrestling

It’s official.  I’m a lifetime member at Weight Watchers…again.  Again because I decided to join this winter from a fresh place.  Last time, 8 years ago last time, I had a different name.  A different life.  A different approach.  This time the processes has been much slower.  Much less dramatic.  Much more focused on making a true lifestyle change and not simply relishing shopping in a different section of a department store.  Skinny became like a drug to me 8 years ago and what I used to swallow with food I ended up running from with exercise.  Turns out thicker or thinner, I am still me and the challenges the I needed to wrestle with were there regardless of my weight.

This time I’m not going for thin.  I’m going for healthy.  This time I am working to call myself on when I’m swallowing or running from something I need to face.  This time I’m truly hoping it is a lifestyle change.  Judging from the last month I’d say that’s true.  As you may recall, I spent a month away from the gym and the scale.  Spent much of that time not having control over the food around me and also needing to navigate some tough stuff.  All said and done, I gained two pounds.  Not too bad.  Not too bad.

But what is really striking me today is how this whole journey seems to be marinating in my sermon crock pot.  As I ponder and pray over the story of Jacob wrestling with ish–a man?  God?  An angel?  (Angel–that’s the Midrash interpretation.)  At any event, somehow this has all been stewing in the same pot of my mind.  And I don’t like it.  Not one bit.  You see Jacob isn’t such a great guy.  He manipulates his brother into giving him his birthright, steals a blessing from his Father, and tricks Uncle Laban just about every step of the way.  He is one ambitious guy who may not step into the realm of murder and armed robbery but he sure isn’t  my ideal of ethical.  And yet, when I’m honest, I think I’m just a wee-bit like good ole Jacob.  I’ve spent time pretending to be somebody else.  Lord knows I did my share of manipulating, conniving, and competing with my sisters when we were young.  And, well, I’ve played innocent, dumb, or naive to gain an advantage.  And ambitious…yes I can claim that one too.

Sometimes I don’t like that I can relate to Jacob.  But as I sit with him this week, I think maybe it’s only as a recognize the Jacob within myself that I can actually begin to make different choices.  Maybe that’s the real blessing.  The blessing of being who I am.  Who we all are.  The blessing of admitting our own humanity .  The blessing of recognizing where and when we’ve hurt others and the ability to make amends.  I mean, let’s face it, Jacob wrestles with the Ish, receives another blessing and a new name, reconciles with his brother, and then lies to his brother again.  He may have changed a little.  He may be walking differently.  But he is who he is.  And I am who I am.  Making progress….not perfection.

Quotations for the Week:

24Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak.25When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him (Genesis 32:24-25)

Now I become myself. It’s taken  / Time, many years and places; / I have been dissolved and shaken, / Worn other people’s faces ~May Sarton

No is not a 4-Letter Word

As a recovering perfectionist


do whatever you need of her

I have discovered that no

is a word that had not been in my vocabulary.

At least not the word no to other people.  I feared uttering the dreaded no.  Quivered at the thought that I would incur the wrath of God, Satan, and Santa.  I’d be left alone–friendless and forgotten.  What I came to realize the last time I entered Weight Watchers and hit my goal weight was that I’d become alone–fat and fake.  I was so consumed with figuring out what everyone else wanted, needed, and expected of me, I lost touch with the most important person in making decisions about my life–ME!  Part of what I started to learn while Weight Watching ten years ago was that saying yes to something is also saying no to something else.  IE–Saying yes to following my points meant saying no the quantity of cookies and cakes I had grown accustomed.  Saying yes to my health and well being meant needing to say no to some of the favors and requests of others.  Saying yes to this self hidden under 40 pounds meant saying no to all the methods I attempted to silence the girl inside.  In treating no like a 4-letter word, I had treated myself (and allowed others to treat me) like a 4-letter word.

What brings this up now?  Well, a couple of things.  First, I don’t believe I am the only person who has confused no for a 4-letter word.  In fact, many of the young people I minister with and to also seem to have the same belief.  I have actually devised a sermonlette about Saying No Early and Often.  Basically, I work to reinforce that I don’t hear no as a four letter word.  I would much rather hear an honest no than a dishonest yes.  I much prefer hearing no because then I believe that your yes actually means yes.  So, there’s one reason.  Second, I have spent a year challenging myself to say yes more.  I know.  I know.  I just went on and on about the virtue of no, and here I am sharing that I’m working on yes.

But this is a yes to me.  What I have discovered over the last year and the second Weight Watcher attempt (now 5 pounds from goal) is that saying no is not enough.  I also needed to learn to say yes to me, to God, to opportunity.  I’ve spent a lot of the last 10 years alone.  Solo.  Just me myself and I.  I dated me.  Got a sense for who I was.  What I liked, what I didn’t like.  What I wanted to say no to, and what I wanted to say yes to.  So my 2010-2011 challenge to self was learning to trust enough to say yes.  And what a ride it’s been.  In one year I’ve moved twice, bought my first house, fallen in love, entered into ministry, finished a unit of Clinical Pastoral Education, made it through the ordination process, planned and led a trip to India for students, developed programming, created multiple worship services, said no to work in order to say yes to family, lost 9 pounds, and run 2.6 miles a work-out session (5K soon to come).  If you were to have told me 10 years ago that I’d have accomplished half of this list, I would laugh.  Not possible.  Not me.  And yet, here I am.  So, the next time someone struggles to hear your no (and that someone might be you) stop and ponder what’s so scary about that no?  And what aren’t you saying yes to?

Quotations for the Week:

Saying no can be the ultimate self-care.–(Claudia Black)

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.  Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.  It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.  We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and famous?  Actually, who are you not to be?  You are a child of God.  Your playing small doesn’t serve the world.  There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.  We were born to magnify the glory of God that is within us.  It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.  And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.  As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others–(except from Nelson Mandela’s 1994 Inaugural Speech)