Star Word – Relationship

On Epiphany Sunday many of us at Trinity Lutheran Church, Nampa picked up Star Words, a word or phrase to guide self-reflection and action throughout 2018, as the star guided the magi to the baby Jesus. My word was Relationship. Relationship may seem like a boring or easy word for a parish pastor. After all, my job requires me to be relational, within the congregation and the broader community. When I first read the word on my star my response was “sigh….” I am a true introvert. Members of Trinity Lutheran who have worked with me for seven years might tell you that it is the perfect word for this particular pastor. Why? Because having relationships with people does not automatically mean I am doing the WORK of relationships, specifically the work of being vulnerable. I know after over 40 years on this earth that my default self can appear cold in crowd, simply because I am observing everything rather than engaging. I told my mother once that someone had described me as cold. My mom said, “I have gotten that my whole life.” I could not believe her. She makes a party wherever she goes. Yet she proceeded to tell me that people never understood that she was simply being serious and taking the world in. I remember high school classmates berating me in the hallway, “you always look so serious Meggan.” My mother’s body language and facial expressions, like mine, were interpreted as shyness at best and disinterest or disdain at worst. I have worked intentionally to engage, rather than observe, as an adult. The thing is that my mom and I love people, both as fascinating beings to be studied and listened to but also as people we care about and love. So, guided by the word Relationship, this year I am trying to be just a bit more vulnerable. I am doing this mostly in my personal friendships, which I value so highly. I am also trying to share a bit more of my story, my joys, and my concerns in all of my relationships, including those with parishioners, colleagues, and community members. “Relationship,” I know is a gift, worthy of gratitude and openness rather than a sigh. Let me know if you want to write about your Star Word. I would love to have some guest bloggers.

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“Tully” and “Little Women”

Last weekend I took in a Mother’s Day Weekend double feature–the drama Tully, in theaters now, and the first of the new three-part Masterpiece adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s classic Little Women.

I absolutely loved Tully, the story of a mom, played brilliantly by Charlize Theron, who gives birth to her second child and experiences postpartum depression. Eventually she takes her in-laws up on their offer to pay for a night nanny named Tully, played by Mackenzie Davis. There is a montage of the first few days home that is fleshy, real, and brilliant. Ron Livingston plays the husband/father very well, so well that I felt sorry for him even as he infuriated me. If plot is the only thing that gets you to the movie theater I suppose you may want to pass but when character development can overcompensate for it, as it does in this film, I am fine with a weaker plot. I heard that the film is receiving grief from the professionals who study and treat postpartum. Here is my response–make another film! We have thousands of super hero films and twice as many Christmas movies. Why does one film have to carry all of the postpartum experiences alone? Let us please have more stories told. They will make us cry and laugh and, more importantly, care for the women who are suffering alone. I for one am thankful for a new kind of film about mothers.

Speaking of stories told and retold, I do not know what I went into the newest Little Women adaptation expecting. How many ways can this classic be remade? But I am a die-hard Little Women fan and will watch, and have watched, every version. I was the student in 7th Grade who read a biography on Louisa May Alcott for class. There is something, maybe more than one thing, timeless about this story. Sibling relationships and coming-of-age make for great ingredients. My very favorite adaptation of this story was a double-tape audio recording by The Minds Eye that my parents and I listened to so many times on car trips. I can still hear the music chosen for the saddest part of the story. This latest version, which continues tonight, seems solid so far. They recruited Angela Lansbury to play Aunt March and Emily Watson, a favorite of mine, to play Marmee. Maya Hawke does a great job as Jo. Thus far, of all the screen adaptations, my favorite remains the 1949 version with June Allyson as Jo and Elizabeth Taylor as Amy.  What’s your favorite adaption of this story?

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What Good Ecumenism Requires in Nampa

I had a fascinating week of ecumenism in Nampa, beginning May 3 with the annual Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast and ending with the last (we take a summer break) monthly Nampa Ministerial Meeting at St. Alphonsos Hospital May 8. Here is what I know. For me to continue showing up at ecumenical events in my adopted city I need only one, but there must be at least one, of the following: shared ministry, relationships, or gender equity.

I attended the Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast this year primarily because of the speaker. Several of my friends are on faculty at Northwest Nazarene University and I thought it would be interesting to hear President Joel Pearsall give the keynote address. There was an invocation, a benediction, and perhaps six prayers for things ranging from stewardship to youth and families. I have been the token woman prayer in the past. This year again, one woman was on the stage to pray. I knew only a few of the people at my breakfast table and around the room.  After seven years I still feel like an outsider at this event. Yes, prayer is ministry but none of the prayers made me feel more united with those gathered.

The Installation of Deacon Diane McGeoch on the afternoon of May 5 was intimate but fabulous. Rev. Karen Hunter, Grace Episcopal, gave a wonderful sermon in which she tied together the history of deacons (ministers of Word and Service), the past and future of Learning Peace: A Camp for Kids, and the Holy Spirit calling Diane to this position. Local Methodist and United Church of Christ friends were on hand to present gifts. Lutheran colleagues drove from Boise, Mountain Home, and Star to read, sing, serve food, and support Diane. So men and women both had roles. I have relationship with nearly everyone who participated. We clearly have a joint ministry–Learning Peace: A Camp for Kids.

This was the third time we took a tour and blessed a variety of Nampa Community Gardens. Sunday afternoon, we started at Trinity’s home garden and then proceeded to the Seventh Day Adventist Garden, Nampa First United Methodist Garden, Trinity’s second plot (named after the Saint of Gardening–Saint Phocas), the R3 Recovery Garden, and finally Grace Episcopal’s garden. Karen and I took turns leading the litany. We heard wonderful stories about God working through various ministries to draw people together, heal broken hearts, and of course to feed hungry bellies.

I had just mentioned to someone that occasionally I am the only woman at the Nampa Ministerial monthly luncheons and often I am the only clergy woman. Last week an LDS woman came and three women representing Nampa schools were present to give an update on the Tuesday night community meal the Ministerial helps provide. Though lacking in gender equity, I have known many of the people in the Nampa Ministerial for seven years. We have relationships and care about one another. Someone’s denomination is going through turmoil. A retiree is recovering from surgery. Someone else and I discussed how to train and nurture young people who are continually searching for the next best thing. Even without our shared ministries (in addition to the meal, we discussed the baccalaureate we sponsor) the relationships will keep me coming back to this group. I care deeply about ecumenical partnerships and have written about here before. There is so much more we can do together than we can alone. I give thanks for Learning Peace, the network of Nampa community gardens, and my relationships with colleagues through the Nampa Ministerial.



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Lent 3 – Word of Hope

Last night at our midweek Lent service I read Isaiah 55:1-13, another of the required readings for the Easter Vigil Service. (Here are verses 10-13, “10 For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, 11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it. 12 For you shall go out in joy, and be led back in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall burst into song, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. 13 Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress; instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle; and it shall be to the Lord for a memorial, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.”)

 Snow and rain in Stanley, Idaho, Sept. 2017.

I then read a reflection on verses 10-13 and finally asked people to answer this question, What gives you hope?  Here is a sampling of responses:

People helping each other in need–food, shelter, visiting the sick, mentoring youth and others.

Hospitals–going to one everyday–I see how families receive hope from doctors and prayers.

In places like Trinity, all over the world, scattered but there.  God’s love….

In the everyday small acts of kindness and in the way people draw together in times of crisis or catastrophe.

That God loves us, sin and all. Every day is a treasure.

I see hope when high school students in Florida are willing to demonstrate for change that may improve their safety. And when women are brave enough to speak up about being assaulted or being treated unfairly.

The different agencies and individuals who help the homeless and people in need.

Refugee Community in Boise.

The snow covered mountains.

The miracle of a new born baby.

The kindness people show each other even if they don’t know each other very well.

We have kids in Florida that have taken a stand.

Experience hope in the miracle of medicine to heal cancer and other diseases.

In the establishment of families.

My children.

My neighbors.

New Food Pantry at Good News Community Church.

I see hope in the youth that are going to the ELCA Youth Gathering this summer and also the youth that have made a stand and are working for change in light of the school shooting.

Teachers being kind and helpful to their students.

Our grandchildren’ outlook.

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Exodus – Lent 2

Last night we continued our journey to the Easter Vigil by hearing the story of God delivering the Israelites from Pharaoh and the Egyptian army, ending with Prophet Miriam praising God with song and dance.

I shared a reflection by Princeton Professor Yolanda Pierce.

Then I asked people to reflect on a time when they had known God’s presence (or recognized it in hindsight).


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Creation – Lent 1

This year for our midweek Lent worship services, we at Trinity Lutheran in Nampa, Idaho are journeying towards the Easter by reading through the Easter Vigil texts. We began this week with the creation story from Genesis 1.

I read a devotion by Richard Rohr and then posed this question, “What difference does it make that God calls creation good?”  Here is a sampling of answers:

It is encouraging and uplifting, moves me forward rather than making me pause and wonder and look back.

That what was created by God is Good–We can make it bad.

Affirmation, comes to mind, of birth, death, resurrection, forgiveness of sin. It’s all good.

This is good is a positive statement and a direction

We need to have good in our lives to keep going.

Who would want to worship a creator who created “bad” stuff through violence!? One who uses love and goodness is worthy of being worshipped.

God’s goodness drives all things.

It makes all the difference in the world. With God we have good, we see good. Without Him we see only darkness.

It is freedom to be fully ones self, to be whole.

The alpha and omega.

Without the beginning, where would we be now.

A creation that is good is a reason to hope for good in the world and work for restoration of creation in the face of destruction.

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What Makes Me Happy at Trinity

A more accurate description would be, what gives me joy, but I have started listening to the podcast “Pop Culture Happy Hour,” which usually ends with a piece called “What’s Making Us Happy.”  So, in preparation for this coming Sunday’s annual meeting I have been thinking about what phrases make me happy when I hear them said by Trinity members and friends.  Here they are:

“It’s okay to let that [program/ministry] die.”  We trust that resurrection comes after death, not just on Easter.  Sometimes a ministry simply runs its course and that is okay. We are awake to how and where God might be doing the next thing.

“I love being the church with the garden and the houses.”  So, this may seem insignificant until you learn that Trinity New Hope affordable housing and Trinity Community Gardens have not existed without some pain and loss. I thank my predecessor pastors and past church leadership for helping create the congregational personality that allowed these two entities to begin and eventually thrive.

“Did you hear what [fill in the name of any toddler] said during worship?”  I am so happy that we embrace kids being part of worship life. They are not shushed or sent away. Adults understand their restlessness and want to be part of the village that helps raise them.  Kids at Trinity have lots of adopted aunts and uncles and grandparents.

“We could try this [program/ministry/music] for a season.”  The people of Trinity Lutheran seem open to just about anything.  One wise member looks around the room at the beginning of meetings to make sure some level headed people are present; her way of making sure we do not try something too outrageous. I am so thankful to one of my predecessors who introduced a wide variety of songs and liturgical settings at Trinity.  He fostered this culture of learning and growing and transforming.

“Thank you.” We have a very healthy habit of thanking people regularly.

“I love seeing the guests–every week there are guests!”  Yes, we should have guests.  Idaho has been named the fastest growing state (based on percentages) and a great deal of that growth is happening in Canyon County.  Even in 2018, with church attendance still declining nation-wide, it would be weird if new people were not visiting Trinity.  But I do not take for granted that the members and friends of Trinity will be excited about guests.

“Pastor, do you have any books about …?” I hauled many books from South Dakota to Iowa to Idaho and have purchased more in the last seven years. It makes me happy that we are a congregation full of life-long learners. I have loaned Biblical commentaries, history books by Pelikan, my biography of Bonhoeffer (the Schlingensiepen one), and many others.

“Sit here while we pray for you.”  I am a private introvert who likes to analyze and process and make sense of problems. Yes, I like the idea of prayer and I do pray, but people praying for me, aloud, with me still in the room, that is a growing area.  This is one of the most uncomfortable, destabilizing, humbling, awesome, life-giving phrases said to me by our parishioners.

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