25 August, 2000


Doubt is not the opposite of faith; it is its partner. Doubt and faith challenge one another. Without doubt, faith cannot grow and mature.

Doubt and faith are seeds planted, nourished by questions, fertilized by seeking, blooming with each generation of answers. Doubt comes and nourishes faith.

20 August, 2000

Tree Stumps

In the park beside my home there is an elm tree. It stands beside the road, tall and valiant. It’s limbs and branches divide into innumerable twigs and leaves that reach toward the heavens in leaves of praise. It’s shape, though not perfect, is glorious. The shade it gives is dense and cool. It is an admirable tree.

It bears the marks of time… scars where branches have been carefully trimmed, stubs where windstorms have stolen its weaker arms. The side away from the road has fewer branches at the bottom; the branches above more than compensate for the inadequacy It has weathered the blight of Elm trees… the dreaded Elm Disease. It remains, however, strong and tall. It stands victorious over all its history. It is a triumphant tree.

Beyond the tree, amidst the bramble weed and brush away from the road, there stands the ruins of a stump. It too was once an elm tree. It too once stood with limbs and branches divided into twigs and leaves of praise. It too once was a glorious admirable tree. It too weathered storms. As saplings, the two had formed an inviting form, a promising configuration. From a distance they formed a single profile, each complementing the other in a shared silhouette.

The stump, however, is a defeated tree. A grounds keeper saw that one tree was tall, broad and strong. The smaller tree’s trunk was strong but its branches at the top were weaker. So the grounds keeper cut away the smaller tree giving the larger more room to grow. Amidst the bramble and scrub weeds, the trunk feeds the decomposers, adding nutrients to the soil, feeding and supporting the pulsating roots beneath it. In ruin and submission, it provides for the needs of the other, unseen.

I am that stump.

16 August, 2000

Too Young to be Real

I was a very young girl when I first heard it: “You’re too little to do that. You have to wait until you’re older.” I was always too little or too young. I was the youngest. All the big kids reminded me of what I couldn’t do that they could do on a regular basis. I had to follow them, not walk beside them in life.

When I first heard it, I was probably less than 2… I was too young to go on vacation with the rest of my family. I got left with a family friend for 2 weeks while the rest of the clan spent their days at the beach and in our Cape Cod cottage. I was 3 when they said I was too small to climb up on the garage roof with them; I tried anyway and stepped on a nest of yellow jackets. I was 6 when they said I was too small for first grade, but they had to let me in anyway because I could already read and do my brother’s second grade math; I sat under the table and laughed at all the kids who couldn’t read. I was 9 when the teacher told me I was too young to be reading with the 6th graders; the 6th graders picked on me because I was too small to be in their fastest reading circle. I gave up trying when I was 12 because no one would take me seriously… I was too young to be so smart. I was a 13 year old punk when a family friend told me I was too young to be such a loser. I was 14 when the local pastor told me I was too young to be selling drugs. I was 16 when I cleaned up and tried to change social groups; but I was too immature (another word for too young!) for most people I tried to be friends with. I was always too young, too small, too inexperienced. I always figured that when I was older, no one would say it any more. Surely I would age like cheese and I could be a part of the flavor of things.

But getting older didn’t change it. I was “just a young thing” and $14K in college debt when I got my first degree. One had to have experience in order to get the job… but how do you get experience if not in a job? One had to be “older” and more experienced to expect to be paid like a professional. “Take this lesser position and get some experience” they told me. So I did. But it didn’t change things. People always said I was wise beyond my years, mature beyond my experience, too young to be so old. Too assertive to be female. Too much energy, too little experience.

Oh I’ve followed all the rules. I’ve done all the steps. I’ve taken the lesser jobs to get the experience. Of course, it was easier for my husband to get a church, so I got the secular job that paid the bills. Then there was the part time youth ministry with kids whose last youth minister sexually abused them – but not an ordained position; that would have to wait until the degree was finished, but the bills still had to be paid. So there was the AIDS work, but again, not ordained. Next it was, “Oh yes, come here and be the minister’s wife… work for us without pay!” Then the little church in the country that no ordained person would take and who’d been abused by non-denominational clergy – yes, we’ll license you, but you really need to finish that degree and get ordained… yes, we’ll support you… take the little church part time until you’re ordained. Then, stay there and gain the experience. Now it’s “Your experience isn’t adequate for a church of any size, Let your husband find a church on his own and you follow him and find a church later.”

I’ve been the supporter and the team player. But unless you’ve been the main dog full time, it doesn’t count. And you can’t get a full time church that pays enough to support your family if you’ve only been a part time pastor and a licensed lay pastor…any where. Why? The same old thing: You don’t have the experience, You’re too green. You’re not seasoned enough.

It’s all gotten me no where

It’s not fair. We call ourselves the Church. We work for justice and lift up the oppressed. Yet our very system oppresses us and keeps us “in our place.” And it’s not the folks in the pews who are doing the oppressing; the local church was very affirming and very supportive It’s the folks who insist that you must incur tens of thousands of dollars in debts to be about “full ministry.” And any thing you do before then doesn’t count. It doesn’t get figured into your experience because it wasn’t “full ministry.” Nothing about my ministry changed when they laid their hands upon me; nothing changed except my net worth. And everything I did before that time is of no value. I still have no experience. I’m still too unseasoned. I’m still too female.

So now I’m going to have yet another birthday next week. And I still am too “unseasoned” to do what I’m called to do. It doesn’t matter that I’ve been doing it for years. I’m still too green. Just what does it take to be seasoned? And just what can I do about the fact that I’m female?

I’m ready to just quit it all. To hell with God and this call. Nothing I’ve done is worth anything. I still can’t get paid enough to pay off all the debt I incurred following this thing. I’m still to green, too young, too inexperienced. I’m still too young to know so much.

And so I’m back to square one…. I have to walk behind rather than beside my husband. I have no choice but to take the lesser position. I’m still too little to be a real person.

13 August, 2000

Illusion and delusion.

I have lived my life in illusion and delusion.
My mother repeatedly told each of her children that we could do anything we set our minds to doing. My brother once objected when I said I was going to be president of the United States – “You can’t be! You’re a girl!” My mother remained strong. “Just because there’s never been a woman president doesn’t mean there will never be one.”
You can do anything you set your mind to doing. I believed it. I was intelligent and able. I could do anything.
But it isn’t true. I may be bright and able. I may have “wisdom beyond my years.” But there are limits to what I can do.
Some limits are physically imposed. I cannot father a child. I cannot move large, heavy boxes. I cannot drive a wedge through a stone with a sledge hammer. I cannot eat food with small seeds and expect to be pain free. I cannot survive being stung by a bee without immediate medical intervention. I am limited by the confines of my own body. But I can make adjustments and arrangements to live and grow despite these limitations.
I am limited by the confines of my mind. I cannot comprehend the expanse called eternity. I cannot understand the logic of God’s grace. I cannot understand why my cannot differentiate between my clothes and those of my son. The extent of my knowledge and understanding is limited. But I can make adjustments and arrangements to live and grow despite these limitations.
I am limited by the free will of others. I cannot make my son like broccoli. I cannot force my opinions to be accepted by others. I cannot change how someone feels. And if that someone feels women cannot do this or be that, I cannot force that someone to change their mind. Their free will will affect what I am able to do because they will not hire me, will not hear a call from God to listen to my wisdom, will not invite me to be their pastor, teacher or friend.
I have lived my life in illusion and delusion.