Thursday, February 2, 2017

4 Year of Ordination...

February 2nd marks my fourth year of ordination and call as a pastor with Augustana Lutheran Church in Denver. It is weird, sacred, fun, hard, unpredictable, mundane and amazing work with people I've grown to love. It doesn't get much better than that.

February 2nd is also church festival called Presentation of our Lord (Luke 2:22-40).  I was delighted to discover this tidbit as my ordination was scheduled for that day since picking Bible verses was simple.  Mary and Joseph bring their new baby to the temple. The elder Simeon scoops up the baby Jesus, celebrating the promise of God, while Anna the prophet preaches redemption to all who would listen. This story resonates for me in so many ways - the faithful elders proclaiming good news, the new parents trying to figure out what it means, and the child who IS hope. 


Tuesday, January 17, 2017

So that people may live...

This evening, January 17th, I'm part of a meeting with the goal of strengthening relationship between the community, law enforcement, and elected leaders. After 16 years as a pediatric cancer nurse and now as a pastor, I’m involved in this process because I’m committed to relationship that values everyone at the table…ALL of us – people from the community, law enforcement, and elected leaders.  That is clear.  What isn’t clear, are issues like Lawful Order (state level) that can lead to your detention by law enforcement and Use of Force (local) once you're detained.

The lack of clarity means that people get hurt. And, disproportionately, our black and brown brothers and sisters are at higher risk. People who I know and love.  People who you know and love. Doing this challenging work together as people in the community, law enforcement, and elected leaders means that people will live.  Now, there’s the challenge of sitting through the tension of a public meeting.  And there’s the challenge of figuring out how to do the hard work ahead.  But those challenges pale in comparison to the painful challenge of being someone who is devalued, injured, killed, or grieving someone who’s been killed. 





Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Tinted Purple

The church congregation I serve is tinted purple.  This is also true of my personal friends if I were to bunch everybody together in one place. People are all over the map on all kinds of issues including who should be president.  People I love. This is a push-me-pull-you experience revealing idealism of all kinds.  While I'm known to hum a tune of optimism on occasion, I'm fairly clear-eyed when it comes to people.  Maybe it comes from having a brilliant, loving dad whose mind imploded in a haze of schizophrenia even as he exploded in violence against my mother, the woman he loved.  I was 4 years old. Regardless, I'm clear-eyed as much as that's possible in the shadow of being human.

So, here's my plan over the coming days and weeks. I'm going to continue to do the hard work of loving people - distraught people, jubilant people, and everyone in between.  I'm going to speak up when someone hurts someone else. I'm going to celebrate when someone loves someone else in selfless ways.  I'm going to do these things because I'm a Jesus person which also means that I'm a person of the cross. The cross and Jesus' death on it means that we're inclined to hang out in dark places, saving ourselves as we dehumanize someone else.  I dare say that this is true for all of us including me.  I hear it in the ways people ridicule the Clinton supporters and the Trump base.  I hear it in people's fear for themselves, other people, the country, and the world.

And so, my friends, I will love you through your biography, not your ideology. And I will love others in the hard, bitter, purple-tinted shadow of the cross. Because I have a God who did not raise a hand in violence against the people God so loves. God who loves people, each person, and asks us to do the same.

"No one has great love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends." - John 15:13



Sunday, September 18, 2016

A Glimmer of Unity...

I've been craving a bit peace this voting cycle.  With so many divided about so much, there is a glimmer of unity in Colorado.

100% of the Colorado legislature, both houses and both parties, voted unanimously to place Amendment T on the ballot. Voting Yes on Amendment T removes the slavery exception from the Colorado State Constitution, Article II Section 26.  Right now, slavery is forbidden "except as a punishment for a crime..."

That’s right, there is full agreement among Republicans and Democrats to remove the slavery exception from the State Constitution. Now it is up to Colorado voters.  From my intermittent work at Denver Women's Correctional Facility, there is no doubt that offender work and training programs are necessary for self-worth and successful reentry into community.  However, there is unanimous agreement that the language of slavery is neither an acceptable starting point nor a Colorado value. 

It will take 1.7 million Colorado votes to pass Amendment T.  I'm hopeful that voting "yes" will be a no-brainer for our state as the word spreads.


100% of the Colorado legislature, both houses and both parties, voted unanimously to place Amendment T on the ballot. Voting Yes on Amendment T removes the slavery exception from the Colorado State Constitution, Article II Section 26.  Right now, slavery is forbidden "except as a punishment for a crime..."

That’s right, there is full agreement among Republicans and Democrats to remove the slavery exception from the State Constitution. Now it is up to Colorado voters.  From my intermittent work at Denver Women's Correctional Facility, there is no doubt that offender work and training programs are necessary for self-worth and successful reentry into community.  However, there is unanimous agreement that the language of slavery is neither an acceptable starting point nor a Colorado value. 

It will take 1.7 million Colorado votes to pass Amendment T.  I'm hopeful that voting "yes" will be a no-brainer for our state as the word spreads.


Friday, July 8, 2016

Listening #queenlatifah #nakiajones #trevornoah

Below are a few links to black people speaking in the wake of the two police shootings this week of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile as well as the sniper attacks on Dallas police officers guarding peaceful protesters exercising their First Amendment rights.  Listening to these people is especially helpful for me out of the many listened to this week.

Nakia Jones: Police Officer and Mother, Facebook video

Trevor Noah: The Daily Show, You Can Be Pro-Cop and Pro-Black

Queen Latifah: Musician, Actress, "Black Wherever I Go...I'm Also the Daughter of a Cop, Sister of a Cop, Cousin of a Cop, Niece of Cops

As a white, Christian pastor, wife, and mother, my heart goes out first and foremost to everyone who lost people they love this week - black, white, and blue.  The shock and grief is unimaginable.  At the same time, my mind is challenged by the complexity of the problems needing solutions. I'm open to being a part of the solutions.  




Thursday, June 23, 2016

God's plan: Why it is by faith that do NOT invoke it...

Individual or collective experiences of violence shine a light on just how twisted people can be.  Recent events include Orlando, Charleston, Baylor University's sexual assault tolerance, Brock Turner rape crime, to name a few. Whether in the nightly news or during the pastoral care and counseling that I do, people often say some variation of the following comment, “I know that God has a plan.”  In pastoral care, there may or may not be a response in the moment to the comment depending on how the conversation goes and how reassuring this idea is to the person.  In the news during national crises, there's usually the token interview with a pastor who's willing to say that it's part of God's plan.  

Here’s what I know for me: “God’s plan” is difficult to invoke for myself or anyone else after having a father die when he was 50 years old following his homelessness due to intractable schizophrenia. It's galling that anyone would claim that his suffering and the subsequent suffering of his family was randomly inflicted by God or in any way deserved. The way that I’ve come to terms with my father’s life, illness and death is through the cross.  And, when I say it that way, what I really mean is Jesus on the cross.  

All kinds of things can be said to try to make sense of the cross.  I spend a lot of sermon time saying them.  At it's core, Jesus’ death on the cross is nonsensical, dark, mysterious, incomprehensible, etc.  Yet, the cross is where the nonsensical, dark things in life meet a glimmer of hope.

Hope is what I hear in the classic Bible verse often invoked regarding God’s plan:
For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.   (Jeremiah 29:11)  God’s plan is “for your welfare and not for harm.”  These words land in the paradox between God’s plan and a broken world – two things that are true at the same time and seem irreconcilable except for the cross in between them.

I hang onto the cross because God sunk into humanity in Jesus and was executed by the worst of what people can dish out. In this self-sacrifice, God did not raise a hand in violence against the very people who committed the violence. Rather, God redeemed into holiness what seems utterly unredeemable. But this isn't only about the grandiose, public violence that other people commit. It's also about the small acts of violence I commit in a million ways that hurts other people and myself. My complicity in systems of violence that breeds communities in which solo shooters are possible. God's holy work in me by way of the cross is the hope that I hang onto as those places of violence in me find redemption and new life.