A Sermon On Demons that Won’t Make You Want to Die From Boredom

So, you may know that I was a parish pastor for 20 years. It was a brutal ride most of the time.

As I reflect upon those years now, from the relative safety of 9 years away, I think it would have been a joy if I had felt that my seminary education and the role I was given in the churches I served really wanted ME to be there. Me, rather than some kind of cut-out, public symbol and personal mascot to the historic values and expectations of ministry. Because I will tell you, my life as a pastor was the life of someone shaped to live a role a certain way, and while it worked for me on occasion, all the while it was strangling me. 

As I listen to Nadia preach and speak, as I read her sermons (link below,) I recognize in her words so much of what I wanted to say, to be and to be appreciated for as a person, as a young adult, as a mother, a woman, a spouse, a pastor.  Her journey, unique as it is, makes me wistful for a past I didn’t get to have : the chance to be a pastor as a real, full, imperfect, intolerant, anxious but bursting with ideas, concerns and love of God person that I was.

Maybe this is the core difference : she started her church and shaped it around the goals she brought to it. I inherited systems that were so entrenched, there was no moving them without someone accusing me of all manner of untrue and awful things. I had to work in the shadow of pastors who were living lies and working full-time to keep them hidden. I had to work with the feeling of judgment from unhappy people in every, single moment of my work day. Honestly, I’m not exaggerating.

So I listen to preachers like Nadia with joy as well as a heavy heart. I would have like to speak as colorfully as she does because I use those words every day. I would have liked to bring that kind of full person-hood to my work. It just wasn’t the road I ended up walking. So here is what I say: you go, girl. Preach. Because I’ve moved over to make room in a church that needs more preachers like you.

Demon Possession and Why I Named My Depression “Francis”

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More Deadlines

It’s Thursday night, and I have more writing deadlines. I’m late on my professional blog post at GoodTherapy.org (again), and I have a sermon to do for Sunday.

For the first 12 years of my parish ministry life, I preached about 46 Sunday sermons a year. I had time away for vacation, and occasionally for continuing education, or a bout with laryngitis, or a special guest preacher, but otherwise, I had a deadline every week. In addition, each year I had a half dozen Lenten sermons to write, a dozen or more funeral sermons to prepare, half a dozen wedding sermons, and a dozen or more newsletter columns to do. When I joined a staff for my last 8 years in the parish, the rhythm slowed to about every third Sunday plus the added services which I led. That’s a lot of writing to the clock. That’s a lot of writing, period. I know I learned to cope with this demand while an English major in college. What I remember most about my Major are the piles of papers I had to produce in every class. I was writing something, or some things, for some class All. The. Time.

I don’t like that pressure. Never did. Even if I got good at it. So this is me, procrastinating, writing on my blog because I want to.

Writing well is not easy. It takes a lot of thought, and a pretty sharp mind. And a good deal of discipline. Just to be clear, I do have an idea what I’m going to write about on the GoodTherapy.org blog: I will be talking about how hard it is for family members to really listen to each other. And for my sermon, I will be talking about the OT story of Jacob wrestling with God as he makes his way back home to finally ask his brother Esau for forgiveness. So, I’m not a total slacker. I’ve got my central ideas for each project.

But whining occasionally helps me get back on track. And writing in my journal, or warming up on here. So tomorrow afternoon, after the gym, and my noon meeting, I’ll be on the deck, writing my first drafts. Fountain pen to paper. Promise.