I wish you knew
What it’s like
How it feels
To watch your kitchen table tyrant
wrapped in a red cloak of victory Read more

A decorative image of the book Queering the American Dream, which features the intersectional pride flag amid a variety of graphics

For my Doctor of Ministry program in Faith, Health & Social Equity I was afforded the opportunity to choose any elective I wanted last spring. I chose to take a course titled, “Women’s Religious Leadership as Subversion” taught by Rev. Dr. Angela Yarber at Drew Theological School. Although the class was crafted and mandatory for our sister cohort focusing on Women’s Religious Leadership, I decided that, as a clergywoman myself, the content would be applicable to me as well. What a gift that class turned out to be!

Throughout the semester, we read several spiritual memoirs from women in religious leadership. There was a plethora of memoirs to choose from, so  those memoirs we did not read personally we heard presentations and reports about from fellow students. I have kept  the syllabus, stored forever at the ready in my OneDrive. It waits for me to pick up the next book on the list and find encouragement, solidarity, laughter, pain, joy and inspiration from these “Subversive Sister Saints” who have lead the way and blazed the trails upon which I now tread and those who are currently with me on the trail. Read more

It started with blinding pain in my abdomen—the kind that wakes you up in the middle of the night and leaves you bent over, groaning, on the bathroom floor. 

It ended with—oh wait, it hasn’t ended. There has been no tidy conclusion, no ultimate resolution. It has been a journey with no end in sight. It has been a journey, I’ve come to realize, with no end at all. The journey itself is all there is. Read more

A few months ago I attended a CREDO conference, a week-long conference offered to Presbyterian and Episcopal clergy through their health and pension benefit. It’s something like a cross between a conference and a retreat that centers on four areas: spiritual health, vocational health, mental and physical health, and financial health. It includes plenary sessions, small groups, daily worship, and opportunities to consult one-on-one with the conference faculty members. There is pre-work and post-work inviting reflection on values and connecting those values with a “rule of life.” Much like a monk or a nun who lives by a rule, the conference offered an invitation to create our own rule (unlike monks and nuns who don’t get to write it themselves) and to implement it in our life.

A decorative image showing four people, two white men, one white woman, and a Black woman, smiling into the camera against a backdrop of local trees in Louisiana

The author and her small group at CREDO 397 in Loranger, Louisiana.

I am no stranger to rules of life. Before joining the Episcopal church, as a Baptist-raised liturgy-leaning teenager, I went on a weekend retreat at St. Gregory’s Abbey in Three Rivers, Michigan and became entranced by the daily office. Upon returning to my parents’ home, I began to implement my own daily regimen of prayers, attempting to pray the entire Psalter in a month as the monks did. As with most of my spiritual and devotional innovations, it fell to the wayside, but the desire remained. I continued to feel a tug, a pull, to live a more structured spiritual life. Read more

The new year in American culture rings in the reminder of all the ways our culture wants to change us. Diets and special offers for gyms and workout programs flood our emails and social media feeds, triggering within us the idea that we need to improve. 

Resolutions aren’t a new concept. In fact, the Ancient Babylonians made resolutions for the new year, but they celebrated in mid-March as the signs of spring and new life were beginning to appear. When the new year changed to January 1 in Ancient Rome, it was a deeply religious time, a time to look back at the past year and make commitments to change for the better spiritually. But over time in American culture, these ancient practices have shifted away from the spiritual realm and concentrate mainly on physical improvements to our bodies. Recently there has been a pushback to these cultural expectations of weight-loss and dieting with people recognizing that the weight-loss and diet culture is an industry that profits off of making people feel inadequate. Not only is it an industry, it’s a $58 billon dollar industry Read more

The first thing my partner’s father asked after we told him I had cancer was, “Is Jo going to fight this?” It was a serious, intense question, one that we hadn’t even begun to think about. It was less than a week after the colonoscopy that showed a five centimeter mass at the top of my descending colon near my splenic flexure. It was less than a day after I received the biopsy results that showed that the mass was adenocarcinoma, moderately differentiated. For twenty-four hours, I had been focused on telling everyone that after months of symptoms with no clear cause, the answer was colon cancer. Fighting hadn’t crossed my mind. 

My partner looked at me sideways before he answered his dad, waiting for my nod. I shrugged. “Yeah, she’s going to fight this,” he said into the phone. “Good,” his dad said, and led the conversation to questions about treatment and staging, what resources we had available, who we should talk to, what the timeline was. This was before the chest CT, the consult with surgical oncology, the dizzying flurry of information and instructions. This was still a month away from the six-hour surgery that would leave me with many incisions and arms that still don’t bend quite like they did before. We didn’t know anything about what the “fight” would look like, but we signed up for it all the same.  Read more

Earlier this year, I was at an annual gathering of other local clergy in my denomination. Our speaker for our time together was Dr. Deanna A. Thompson, the Director of the Lutheran Center for Faith, Values, and Community at St. Olaf College. She spoke on a couple of different topics, weaving in her experiences as someone who has been living with incurable cancer since 2008. You can read her story in her book, Hoping for More: Having Cancer, Talking Faith, and Accepting Grace (Cascade, 2012). On our last day together, the topic for Dr. Thompson’s presentation was “Gospel of Irresolution: Illness, Trauma, and Getting to Hope.” It highlighted how illness and trauma can lead us to a place of irresolution, a place where things are not neatly tied up in a bow, no matter how badly we want them to be. 

As we begin a new year, I wonder if this isn’t an idea to lean into.  Read more

“Famous Last Words” is a 4-week sermon series exploring the final words of various books of the Bible. In our fourth and final week, we look at the ending of the end of the Bible: the Book of Revelation. Although not always popular with pastors, Revelation tends to be very popular with your average run-of-the-mill Christian or spiritually curious person. Whether it’s the tantalizing promise of a glimpse into the end of the world or the vivid imagery, there is something intriguing about this book. Here we explore the end of Revelation and the promises and warnings found there. You can read previous posts here.

A stream flows down a slight hill and over rocks against a background of green mountains and hills.

Streams of water.

November 20, 2022 (Christ the King Sunday) – Revelation 22:16-21
RCL texts: Jeremiah 23:1-6; Colossians 1:11-20; Luke 23:33-43 Read more

A gravel path is shaded by pine trees and dappled with sunlight, with light blue sky coming through gaps in the canopy.

The other night in Bible study I posed the question: Is anyone happy? 

People are not OK right now. Whether it is ongoing pandemic fatigue, financial stress, job dissatisfaction, or general feelings of ennui, many of us are feeling burned out, surrounded by other burned out people. It’s not a very life-giving situation. If you are feeling this way, you aren’t alone. Nearly everyone I talk to is feeling down in some way. 

Earlier this year I decided I was going to devote more time to one of my favorite hobbies: reading. I read more than I ever have: by the time fall started I had already finished 100 books for the year, when I usually read about 40-50 a year. It was amazing– until I realized I was using reading as a form of numbing. Reading is a great hobby to have, but I was immersing myself in these worlds to escape my own. It was my way of dealing with this feeling of not being OK. 

We all know that there are coping skills that are unhealthy, and most of us (especially pastors!) wouldn’t see reading as one of them, but I realized I was using it to numb myself rather than try to change what I could.  I decided to make some changes, find some more “balance.”  I started eating better, exercising, meditating, and journaling in place of the time I spent devouring novels. I’m still reading, but back to my pace of about a book a week (and I found that’s ok!). 

Check in with yourself. How are you— really?

Stop to take a few breaths and ask yourself – How am I… really? It’s ok if the answer is you are not OK. You are certainly not alone. The next question is– What do you need to be a little more ok? Expecting to be all better overnight isn’t realistic. I feel a little better than I did with these changes, but let’s be honest, all my problems didn’t go away because I have cut back on reading to move my body more, like dancing around my kitchen to 90s and 00s music. 

A gravel path is shaded by pine trees and dappled with sunlight, with light blue sky coming through gaps in the canopy.

This is a walking path the author comes to when she needs perspective. Do you have a place like that?

Do you need a therapist, coach, or spiritual director? A nutritionist? Use that meditation app you keep forgetting about? Do you need a night out with friends? Do you need to finally get that babysitter so you can go on a date night? Do you need to take a class to restart a favorite hobby or try something new? How about a walk in nature? Alarms on your phone with positive affirmations throughout the day? Something that makes you belly laugh? Just a reminder that you aren’t alone? 

That we’re all struggling. 

That you aren’t failing. 

That you are doing your best right now and your best is enough. 

It is enough. 

You are enough. 

You are loved. Deeply. 

Self care is never enough, though. I don’t have much wisdom for building systems of community care, because I’m still working on figuring that out myself. But I know we have to ask for help- not just from professionals but neighbors and friends too. Churches can be those spaces of community care, but many of our churches have forgotten how to do that. Can we put together meal trains not just for those grieving, but maybe for single parents for a week or two over the summer? Can we revive pastor’s discretionary funds for mutual aid? Can we advocate within our churches or workplaces for insurance to better cover mental healthcare or offer better leave options for mental health care? 


Breathe In. We’re going to get through this together. Breathe out. 

Repeat. You got this. We got this. You are doing amazing. 


I’m so proud of you. Keep going. 


If what you are feeling is too critical to rely on extra TLC and a community safety net, please reach out to a licensed therapist or dial 988, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.

A few months after leaving my pastorate, I am never sure whether to say “I’m a stay-at-home mum” or “I’m unemployed” or “I’m a freelance ecumenist who is slowly starting a coaching business and might be working on a book while moving across the Atlantic for my spouse’s job and definitely is not earning any money.” Technically my denomination views me as on “sabbatical,” but caring for a toddler is neither restful nor soul-renewing. And unlike most sabbaticals, I do not know how long this would last or what I will do after. I’m waiting in a new setting across an ocean to discern the next step in my vocational path. 

I now find myself outside of a defined role. I have no name-tag, or title, or place in local ecclesial structures. I am sitting in a pew after ten years of always being behind the pulpit and the altar. I resonate with the psalmist who remembered the past while questioning the present and waiting on the future: 

“These things I remember as I pour out my soul:
how I went with the throng,
and led them in procession to the house of God,
with glad shouts and songs of thanksgiving,
a multitude keeping festival.” (Psalm 42:4)   Read more