Visual Reflections on the Lectionary

How do you immerse yourself in the biblical text? For one young clergy woman, visual art is key to the process. She writes, “I believe through images and the act of creating, the Spirit engages us
and gives us new eyes to see the unseen God alive in our lives and in the
lives of our communities. … In letting the Word reside in our imaginations and wrestle with us in
new ways, I believe we become more faithful and creative preachers.”

To enlarge each piece–and you’ll definitely want to do that with this lovely work–click on the thumbnail.

Letting Go. 15th Sunday After Pentecost. Luke 14: 25-33.

pent_15

 

The power and mercy of God’s hold gives us courage to let go of that
which holds us captive.

 

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Better Together

When I began seminary, my husband was
finishing, so the question du jour was, “Would you ever work
together?” To which I responded with a resounding, “NO!” We’re
too competitive, too insecure, I’d say. It would never work.

But as I moved through school and into
my first call, and he settled in first one parish and then another,
we began to see how our gifts for ministry could work together–how we could complement each other instead of compete. Our own
personal styles developed and emerged, and perhaps most importantly
we began to add a new dimension to our relationship: we began to
respect one another as a pastor.

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Miles to Go

Though it is in our lectionary, our Lamentations text – this prayer of pain and petition – is not something we hear every day. I doubt many of us could quote from Lamentations as easily as we could from Psalms, from Isaiah, or from any of the gospels or epistles. So when we do hear from this book, it may come as a shock to our system. When I’ve told people that one of the texts I would be preaching from this morning is Lamentations, I got very similar responses. There were a few “ohs” and “that’s interesting,” and even an occasional “oh my.” Not exactly the words of assurance a woman would want. But these words did not really surprise me for what we find in this book – undiluted expressions of despair – are rarely the passages we seek out for nice Bible studies or our bedtime readings.

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Being Single, Being Me

I began seminary with several single classmates, but our number was
significantly reduced over the three years we spent there.  By senior
year, it seemed like a mass headlong rush to the altar.  Those of us
who had not joined the stampede mostly avoided the topic, as though
voicing it would speak it into reality, but in a fit of honesty, a
friend moaned one night, “Once I’m a pastor, all hope of getting
married is over.” 

At the time, I was puzzled by – and occasionally scornful of – my
classmates’ partnering inclinations.  “Get Married” has never made it
to my life to-do list.  It still hasn’t.  Although I’m sure I’d make it
work if it happened, I can’t imagine doing ministry as a married
person.  I can’t imagine living as a married person.  Still, doing
ministry and living as a single person has brought my classmates’ fears
into sharp and sometimes painful clarity.

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There’s No Crying in Baseball

It’s happened too often to write it off as a fluke. There was that one time in the pulpit, and again the Sunday after Hurricane Katrina hit. At the last board meeting, once during choir rehearsal, and of course the day after we found out our beloved dog was dying of lymphoma. I’ve only been serving my congregation for twenty-six months, and I’m inching toward needing a second hand to count the incidents. No, it’s not a fluke. I’m a crier.

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In it for the long haul

We’ve been in our home for a year now. In actuality, it’s been almost two years, but that first year, this didn’t feel like our home. We were renting. Now we own our home (or at least part of it), and I feel settled.

I am a nester. Not in the sense that I like to clean, but in the sense that I like to decorate and I don’t like to move. I love to hammer nails into the plaster. I am the one who buys the paint entitled “late tomato red.” In our last home, my husband and I embellished our upstairs with the designs of the Ndebele tribe of South Africa.

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The Morning She Was Betrayed

It was 8:35 when my alarm clock betrayed me.

And I only knew of his defiance because the phone rang. Twice. But I rolled over insisting that this, too, was part of my dream. The rebellion continued until the answering machine interrupted.

“Lexi?” My answering machine called out. It was then that I realized that this was the morning I was betrayed. It was now 8:37. Worship had started seven minutes ago, and I was supposed to be presiding.

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baby napping

On the Seventh Day, God Napped

And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation. ~Genesis 2:1-2 (NRSV)

He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber.
He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
~Psalm 121:3-4 (NRSV)

baby nappingI was sure I’d be back in church within one week of my daughter’s birth—not as a pastor, but as one of the faithful, gathered in the pews, free to worship God without fear.

No worries about the Sunday School program, the evening youth group meeting, the prayer I was about to deliver, or the pile of emails waiting in my office. For my six blessed weeks of parental leave, Sunday would once again be Sabbath, a day of rest and reflection, a day to savor with my new little family, a day to relax in the good graces of God’s satisfaction with creation.

And so, a week and half after her birth, with twenty minutes to go before the service began, I found myself sitting on the couch with an adorably decked out baby. I, however, was wearing my pajamas and hadn’t
showered in a few days. Getting to church was not going to happen. I never made it back to worship services consistently until I returned to full-time work six weeks later.

As I began ministry, the idea of Sabbath was important to me. It was easier for the first few years after I was ordained because I was in a Monday-Friday para-church position. Sunday was Sabbath. I went to my
church, I relaxed a bit, I prepared myself for the week of ministry ahead of me.

Three months after beginning a new position in congregational ministry, I was pregnant. As a new mother and a new congregational pastor, I began to wonder how this whole Sabbath thing was going to work. Not only did I face the task of carving out a day other than Sunday, I had to guard this day with my life, keeping back the tasks and worries of ministry to allow for some open space. Plus, many of the ideas I’d had for my Sabbath seemed completely impractical with a newborn. Long walks in the woods surrounded by the glories of creation? Not if it interfered with nap time. A strict interpretation of “no work?” It sounds great, but try telling a new mom that breastfeeding or formula-mixing, not to mention changing diapers, does not count as “work.” Read more

This Month: Visual Art and Poetry

For this, our inaugural feature, we bring you two very different pieces, “On Women and Children and Poverty,” a visual piece by Suzanne Stovall Vinson, and “&,” a poem by MaryAnn McKibben Dana.

While the medium and focus of the two pieces differ from one another, each piece speaks to the particularity of women’s experience while touching on broader themes that unite many of us.

Are you a poet, fiction writer or visual artist? We want to hear from you! Please see our submission guidelines for more information.

And now, on to Christ & Creativity…

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black and white photos of different faces covering a large wall, with three women on a bench looking at them

A Whole Person

black and white photos of different faces covering a large wall, with three women on a bench looking at them

Last night as we lay in bed, my husband Simon, who is a student at the college where I am the chaplain, mentioned that a fellow classmate had asked to “friend” him on Facebook. He asked what I thought he should do, so we began a conversation about his options and how he might handle the situation, knowing that there wasn’t really a perfect answer.

“There are consequences if I choose not to friend her, if I choose to friend her while locking her out of all the personal portions of my page, or if I choose to leave it all wide open,” he said. “And I’m pretty sure I don’t want her to see the pictures from the last time we went clubbing or the ones of me in the wedding dress at my stag do.”

Three years ago we never would have had these conversations, but now that I am clergy, these conversations are a constant. We both must filter what we share with the people around us based on context, their confidentiality, and what we want the world to know about The Chaplain.

We all filter the pieces of ourselves that we share with others. Often unconsciously, we build up certain parts of the story and censor others so that what we have to share will flow easily into our listener’s mind, mingling with what they already know about us. Sometimes we choose to filter in order to avoid difficult conversations and truths. And sometimes we filter because we must, because jobs or relationships demand that our story fractures, so that some pieces may remain carefully reserved for telling in special circumstances only. As ministers this is a reality of what we do. Sometimes it is the work that allows us to minister in our context and to our people. Read more