Life is preparing to shut down here in rural Illinois, as it already has in many places in the world. Like many states, restaurants and bars are closing as of 9 pm. The drive-thru gets to stay open. My 16-year-old works at McDonald’s, and they are wearing gloves. My husband pointed out that sure, it keeps her hands safe, but unless they are changing them with each customer that comes through, the germs from the previous person are transferred to the next. We only have one grocery store, a small Wal-Mart. No toilet paper, paper towel, paper plates, hamburger, bread, or soap is to be found. Yesterday, people were cleaning out the beer aisle, not that I blame them. I hope that the older folks who have a hard time getting out or have to rely on someone else to get their supplies for them have what they need.

My girls went to school today so that their computers could get updated, and they could get the rest of their items- books, papers, art supplies…clean it all out like it is the end of the year, that is what they were told. E-learning starts Wednesday. The local college extended Spring Break by two weeks, they hope it is enough. My oldest daughter is one of the marshalls for high school graduation this year. “Mom, we will still have graduation, right?” I answer, “I’m sure there will be graduation at some point this year. We will get through this.” I’m not sure that I believe my own words though. I just hope that if I say them enough, eventually I will.

In our rural community, 75% of our children are on free and reduced lunch. Beginning Wednesday, families can stop at the high-school during the week to pick up a sack lunch, but it is only for the children. What about our older adults, especially the ones that do not drive? What about the ones that depend on Meals on Wheels, although that number is drastically lower than it was a year ago. The government cut funds and many people cannot afford to pay for it.

Most of the churches here refuse to cancel service. People are not going to get sick here. Okay, denial, party of 6,500 confirmed cases, and counting. If we cancel, how are we going to be able to pay the bills? Many churches are no different than the many Americans who live paycheck to paycheck. It is scary. We will have to find a new normal when this is over. But until then, we wait, and we wash our hands.

We will get through this. It will be challenging. It will be difficult. We are going to have to do things differently than we have done before, but that’s okay. It is time for us to be the Church. It is time for us to love our neighbors, check on our neighbors, feed our neighbors, spend time with our neighbors. Support the US Postal Service and send cards, especially to folks in nursing homes who cannot receive any visitors right now. Pick up the phone (I know, it’s hard) and call people. Be safe. Do not feed the fears. And please, wash your hands.


Long Time Gone

It has been a very long time since I last wrote anything. Why? Probably because I am a coward. This world is so full of criticism and I think that I just needed to have a little less. When you live your life in a fish bowl, that is what happens. I do less social media than I used to. I would love to share pictures and thoughts, but when a congregation can take a comment you make and turn it into a thing, it is not worth it. So, why am I back? I guess because I feel like I have something to say. I am not looking for praise or platitudes. I just hope that something I say is helpful to someone who shares the same struggles. I hope that someone finds joy in something I say. I hope that someone laughs. I hope, yes, I think that is the reason I am back, because I still have hope.

More Than Just

We all need reminders that we are more than just… We are more than just moms, just administrative assistants, just cashiers, just waitresses, just victims, just a high school graduate, just entitled, just angry, just feeling left out. I heard it all the time when I was a nurse, “You are just an LPN.” No, I was the person who sat with your parent or grandparent and held their hand as they died. I was the one who helped clean them up and give them medications. I was the one explaining to your doctor why we needed to double-book her schedule because you needed to be seen today.

We are more. We are more than just pastors who work once a week. We are not just the replacement for the previous person who had our job. We are people. We are becoming. We have names. We have stories. We are more than just.

Jesus wasn’t just some Rabbi who lived among his people and had special powers. Jesus wasn’t just a man. Jesus wasn’t just anything. We are more than just. BUT we have to believe in ourselves, because if we don’t believe in ourselves, why should anyone else? I love the Peloton commercial that has an anxious man looking in the mirror reciting, “It’s just another meeting,” as he adjusts his tie. Overhearing his words, his young daughter reminds him what she has been hearing the trainer tell him, “You did not wake up to be mediocre!”

Remember that you are more than just. You define who you are. Be more than just. Find your people, people who encourage you to grow, people who remind you that you are more than just, and that most importantly you are enough. When you find those people, be who you are, be you. You are more than enough!

You Need A Hobby

“You need a hobby!” More than one person has made the suggestion that I get a hobby. Apparently, reading, drinking coffee, being a chauffeur for my kids, laundry, and occasionally binge-watching Netflix does not count. So, I decided to learn to knit. I purchased yarn and knitting needles, and after a couple of instructional YouTube videos and asking my daughter for a little help, I was knitting. (Full disclosure, I had taken knitting lessons once, while I was living in New York, and while my daughter caught on immediately, I just could not get it.)

My first project was a disaster, it looked rather like Swiss Cheese. I kept ripping out stitches and starting over. I tried different needles and yarn, hoping it would help- it didn’t. Finally, my very wise daughter said, “Mom, you have to stop starting over or you are never going to accomplish anything. There are holes, let it go. Finish. You are going to be able to look at that project in a few months and say, ‘Look how far I have come.’”

She is right. When I finished my second project, it looked so much better. It looks good enough that I would actually consider giving it to someone. No, it is not perfect. But we put so much pressure on ourselves to be perfect. We must take care to remember that Jesus sees us at our best, as well as our very worst, and still loves us completely. We all make mistakes, but that doesn’t mean we have to give up or keep starting over. Sometimes the best thing we can do is finish what we start and try again. That gives us the opportunity to see just how far we have come.

Everyone Dies

Death, Life, and Funerals

Everyone who has ever lived will die one day. As much as that statement sucks, it is true. From the moment we are born, we begin to die. Some of us get more revolutions on this earth than others, although except for those who die at their own hand, we have no idea why this is true. But, everyone dies. 

I went back to my “homeland,” Indiana last week for a visit. My father has been struggling with an infection in his foot for several weeks now, and after having his great toe amputated, I decided a visit was in order. I had not been back to my homeland for over a year now. I wasn’t planning on going this time, but I needed to go. I needed to see for myself that my dad was okay. And he is okay, healing, but my dad is different. I used to see him as this really strong guy; my hero. Okay, he still is my hero, but he has changed from the person he was 13 months ago. His arms and legs are thin, and as I watched him maneuver using his crutches, I found myself holding my breath. My parents have aged in the last 13 months. I mean, I know we all age, but sometimes it sort of sneaks up on you, especially when you have not seen someone in a long time.

Death is something I know a thing or two about, although I wish that were not true. Before I was a pastor, I was a nurse. The unfortunate part of living is dying. Just in case no one ever told you, life is fatal. One day each and every one of us will die, as much as we fight it. Maybe that is the key to life; knowing that one day this crazy journey will be over, so we damn well better enjoy it while we can. I mean, there are car accidents, people get shot going to work, getting pulled over, going to church, getting groceries, and it is all really ridiculous. Things like that just should not happen. No one should have to bury their child; life should never work that, and yet it does. Is it fair? No. If you have some resource that says life will be fair, please share it with me, I have a bone or two to pick with the author. Want to know how unfair death and life is, just remember there is something called “Pediatric Hospice.” “Only the good die young,” well I disagree with Billy Joel. It just hurts a lot more when they do.

While on my trip back to the home of Indy Car and Tony Stewart, I went to a funeral visitation. This sweet lady had dropped dead at 65 years young. No time for another goodbye. No time for another hug or an “I love you.” There is always going to be another funeral, at least as a pastor anyway. In the 2 years I have served as a pastor, I have officiated 15 of them, I believe. As a way of catharsis, I now announce the number of dead I have burried in each cemetary I pass. I didn’t say I always make sense. 

All this to say that everyone dies, sooner or later. So be sure to love the ones you have. Hold them close. Appreciate them. Tell them you love them.

First Posted July 14, 2015 

Miss Meg’s God Shack

Let’s rename the church

My daughter’s BFF suggested a new name for the church I pastor: Miss Meg’s God Shack. Apparently, the Baptist title is much too scary. I can’t say that I disagree with her. A church that slaps a Baptist sign outside seems to think that indicates they can do and say whatever they wish. Yes, as Baptist we have the whole autonomous thing, but often that seems like a license to exclude. That is the reason that I belong to the American Baptist denomination. They are supportive of women in ministry, and are far more inclusive than any other type of Baptist that I am familiar with. That does not mean that being a woman pastor in the American Baptist Church is an easy thing. Far from it, but that is another story, for another time.

If I could create “Miss Meg’s God Shack,” I would have some rules.
1. Our Goal, Our purpose, Our everything would be: Love God. Love People. The end.
    Everyone is people. You are people. I am people. Your neighbor- people. Your boss- people.         People need love, and that what this is all about. If we cannot love people, there is no point in the church.
2. We do not meet in a church building.
    We meet in a shelter, homes, parks, maybe rent a storefront or something. Let’s not be a slave to keeping a building running. Yes, old church buildings are beautiful, and I am not saying knock them down, but what does it take to maintain them, and isn’t there better use of the money we spend on that? I don’t believe God intended for us to build great buildings and become more devoted to the building itself than to the creator of the universe.
3. No skinny jean, smoke machines, strobe lights.
    I do not care what people wear. It is not about putting on a show, it is about Jesus and authentic worship. If that happens singing Amazing Grace acapella, great! If it takes some Kari Jobe, that works too.
4. Have Coffee, will travel.
 This preacher needs her coffee, so wherever we meet, there will be a coffee pot, or carry-in coffee in the midst of us. If you want water, a pepsi, whatever, that works too.
5. Crying babies, kids, people with special needs, and everyone in between are welcome.
We spend way too much time telling kids to be quiet or complaining about a crying baby; noise means life in the church, and I welcome the noise.
6. Shoes are optional. I don’t wear my shoes to preach now, so why should I change that. No one else needs to wear their either, unless they want to.

This is it for me. I want to talk about Jesus and love for every single person who ever lived, without exception. I am looking for honest and simple. I think that is what other people are looking for as well, and it has all gotten lost in the- this is what we must do, this is how you must dress, this is how you must act, this is what you must say, or it is not church.

Welcome to Miss Meg’s God Shack, where we love God and we love others, the end.

Original Post March 27, 2017

This Life I Live

Bachelor’s degree. A Master’s Degree that takes 3.5 years to earn if you go full-time. Over a hundred thousand dollars in school loans. Moving your entire family 700 miles away from grandparents and cousins, aunts and uncles. Spending every holiday at church, not with your kids or your parents. Smiling when you don’t feel like it. Biting your tongue when someone insults you or your family. Feeling broken, alone, and like you aren’t doing anything right. Why would I do this? Why would anyone want to sign up for a job like that?

Sometimes I ask myself the same question. I wonder what I am doing in Central New York. I wonder how in the world did a person like me ever become a pastor. For some reason, God decided this life was a good idea for me, and my family. Some days I wonder about the wisdom in our Creator’s decision to call me to the ministry, but what do I know. I have the opportunity that many people will never have. I get to be there when babies are  born, when people are married, and when they die. Intimate moments, certainly. I am privy to secrets of the heart, that are known only to the person that owns them and to God. I get to stand behind a pulpit week after week and proclaim the Gospel truth; the Good News that is our Lord and Savior is alive, and will return again for us all. Some days loving others is really easy, and others, loving even myself is difficult.

I get to live this life as a pastor, for whatever time I am given or until God tells me to stop. But I do not know how I would define myself, if at least part of my definition was not pastor. This life I live can be difficult, but anything worth doing, certainly is. I am just going to continue to get it somewhere close to right.

What’s in a Name?

Titles are funny things. For instance, if one is ordained as a Reverend and then earns a Ph.D or other Doctoral degree, one gets to be known as Rev. Dr. Never Enough. Yes, certainly you are a doctor of theology, dreamology, delusion, or whatever you choose to call it, but you shall always and forever be Reverend first. I have always hated name tags, especially when they include titles. I realize that we have earned them, we have gone to school for a thousand years, and will be paying on the school loan until after we die. A year ago I was rejected for a job in Upstate New York, only to get the next one that came along and I have found contentment. This job comes with a title, Pastor Meg. I certainly have been called worse. With that title comes great responsibility (great movie line, right?)!

My life is no longer my own. I cannot just run into the grocery story anywhere, because I am probably going to run into someone from my congregation, and ducking them is not an acceptable practice. Okay, I might have done it once, twice, no more than a dozen times, I am certain. I only duck out of fear. You see, I have a recurring nightmare that I am out in public without pants, and I am not quite sure how that happened. So until I figure that one out, I shall continue to duck, but I digress.

My life is no longer my own. It is’t okay that I swear, especially in public. People pay attention to the clothes I wear. They comment on them. Sometimes the ladies in my church remind me that I have a new top on. I do not drink anything of the alcoholic variety in public, or at a parishioner’s home. I don’t want to give the wrong impression to anyone. Once people find out what I do for a living, they decide to tel me when was the last time they were in church, the reasons they haven’t been to church and often promise to come and visit. Let me say something about that- don’t promise something just to be nice, becuse I have expectations for people. I expect that if you give me your word, and tell me you are coming for a visit or you are going to do something, you will.

Being a pastor has been one of the most difficult and rewarding things I have ever done in my life. I don’t regret it for a moment. In the 9 months I have been here, I have officiated 6 funerals, and 1 wedding. I know more things about people’s lives than I ever cared to know, things I wish I did not know, but I am honored to be trusted, none the less. People let you into those deep, dark parts of their lives, where no one knows the pain they have experienced, and no one goes without an ingraved invitation.

Please, continue to call me Pastor Meg, for as long as you wish. Some day I might get around to making it Reverend, but then again, maybe not. What’s in a name? Certainly, there is much implied in the title added to mine, and that is okay by me.

Just a Glimpse of God

If you believe that everything happens for a reason, that there is a destiny to things, even if you don’t believe in God, you should continue reading.  Since I am going to assume that you have read a blog posting of mine before, I am a going to assume that you know God and I are well acquainted.  (But, you know what they say about assuming….you make an ass out of you and me.)  Moving on.

This summer I drug my way through a chaplain internship wondering how on God’s green earth was this going to benefit me?  What was I going to get out of it?  How would this help me in ministry?  Well, there was the first part of the problem, the me and I statements that tend to rare their ugly heads.  I was looking at this as a requirement for school, the final requirement actually, in which I was not allowed to work for eleven weeks because I would be spending 40+ hours per week at the hospital as free labor in the chaplain department. (Not a good attitude to have.)

I met death head on.  In a few cases I got kicked out of the room, because the chaplain is the last person they wanted to see.  But for the most part, I got people asking questions that I could not answer, such as why.  Why me? Why us?  Why my child?  I saw suicide, accidents, cancer, and more dying children than one person should ever have to face in their lifetime.  And do you know what happened?

I BECAME A BETTER PERSON BECAUSE OF IT!  Before that happened, I had to get over myself, and my issues, and move on.  Open your eyes, there is so much this world can teach you.  There is so much good you can do in the world, and it won’t cost you a thing, except maybe a moment of your time.  Each and every one of those people I was with had a story to tell me, even though it wasn’t always using words.  I will think about that summer for the rest of my life and remember the brief glimpses of God that I saw in every one of the patients that I encountered.  What are you going to change in your life so that you don’t miss the glimpse of God?

Rick Warren on his late son: “Matthew was not afraid to die…he was afraid of pain”

Rick Warren’s response to his son’s question, why can’t I just die is painful. We lose too many people to suicide every year. Some call it selfish. Some see it as escape from pain. It makes me hurt deep within. I weep for the parents that bury their children. Having spent time as a Chaplain Intern, I saw the effect first hand. It might provide a way out for the victim of suicide, but it destroys those left behind. There are more questions than answers, and I don’t pretend to have any of them. But if this describes you or someone you love, please get help. It is never too late to ask for help. It’s not about judging someone or trying to “fix” someone, it’s about meeting them where they are, and loving them, no matter what.