Monthly Archives: June 2011

I Made a Video!

Bruce Reyes-Chow is coordinating the We Are Presbyterian 2011 project, in which people made videos addressing our denomination and saying whatever they’d like to say. Click on the link above for the complete listing—I can’t wait to dive into them! What fun.

My thoughts originated with a conversation at Preacher Camp, then a few weeks ago I woke up from a dream and the video was fully formed in my mind. (I wish the book would work like that.) For those of you who’d like a different metaphor for our church than “deathly ill,” I provide a counter-testimony—an alternate diagnosis.

There are a lot of things I would change, and there was a span of time when I was cursing the families of those dastardly people who wrote iMovie, but I learned a lot and can now add “video production” to my bag of tricks.

We Are Presbyterian 2011 — A New “Diagnosis” for the Church from MaryAnn McKibben Dana on Vimeo.

Constructive feedback welcome. Comments on the ideas especially welcome.

Tuesday Link Love

Since I’ll be at Wild Goose at the end of the week, I’m doing my links early. I might do a short blog entry or two via WordPress for iPhone while I’m there, depending on coverage.

But in lieu of Friday’s post, here’s some interesting stuff that’s crossed my screen recently:

Death Star PR: An Open Letter to Beloved Academy Award Winning Actress Natalie Portman


Upon the birth of her son:

Give him freedom (Yes, it’s a balancing act, but if anyone can manage it, it’s the Academy Award winning actress who gave a tour de force performance in Black Swan). If he wants to go to Tosche Station to pick up some power converters, let him. Where’s the harm in that? It might even prevent him from keeping out of trouble/meeting a stalkery old hobo who will guide him down a path that will lead to the tragic deaths of his caretakers (i.e. you) by rogue Sand People, and the eventual explosion of some 1.3 million government employees.

Um, this letter is great, but everybody knows it was not rogue Sand People that killed Owen and Beru, but rather Imperial Storm Troopers. You can’t paper over the truth, Death Star PR! WE ALL KNOW WHAT HAPPENED!!!!!



How to Land Your Kid in Therapy

[The young adults coming to me for counseling] truly did seem to have caring and loving parents, parents who gave them the freedom to “find themselves” and the encouragement to do anything they wanted in life. Parents who had driven carpools, and helped with homework each night, and intervened when there was a bully at school or a birthday invitation not received, and had gotten them tutors when they struggled in math, and music lessons when they expressed an interest in guitar (but let them quit when they lost that interest), and talked through their feelings when they broke the rules, instead of punishing them (“logical consequences” always stood in for punishment). In short, these were parents who had always been “attuned,” as we therapists like to say, and had made sure to guide my patients through any and all trials and tribulations of childhood. As an overwhelmed parent myself, I’d sit in session and secretly wonder how these fabulous parents had done it all.

Until, one day, another question occurred to me: Was it possible these parents had done too much?

This is a good, long article. She manages never to mention the phrase “helicopter parent,” which is good, because nobody ever cops to being one of those. But I know lots of folks who parent the way she describes… including, to some extent, me (though she’s going to have to work hard to dissuade me from logical consequences).

Incidentally, having a job outside the home makes it very hard to overparent the way she describes. You’re just not around as much to smooth things over.


In My Next Life I Will Be…: Studio 360

One of my favorite public radio shows recently had a live show in which they asked the audience to complete that sentence on notecards. You can see a slideshow at the above link. What’s interesting is how many very young adults have already decided what they’ll be in their next life, i.e., what they’ll not be in this one. I mean… really? Really?

What will you be in your next life? And can you really not do that now? At least a smidge?

Monday Miscellany

Long-form blogging just ain’t gonna happen this week, so here are some random tidbits as I head into some busyness:


On Thursday I leave with Caroline, Margaret and my mother (a Unitarian who doesn’t mind Jesus) for the Wild Goose Festival. I’m excited that the girls’ first camping experience will be a girl-power affair—Robert will have a boys’ weekend with James. They’re thinking about a train museum in Pennsylvania, plus Cars2. I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed at the logistics.

I haven’t camped in at least a decade, our equipment is scattered all over our house and in variable states of repair, and whereas *I* would be happy relying solely on food vendors for sustenance, I don’t think that’s going to cut it for our somewhat pickier children. So: campstove and simple meals.

That said, Woo! Wild Goose! Woodstock for Jesus hippies! I can’t wait.


Remember when I wrote that Caroline was a dedicated swimmer but not likely to break into the top tier of swimmers? Ahem. She won a blue ribbon at her first-ever “A” meet on Saturday, in breast stroke, which she’d DQ’d  just a week earlier at time trials. She is elated. It was funny the way it happened—she was in the middle of the pack time-wise, but every other girl in her age group DQd. It’s a very hard stroke to get right, apparently. This is SO Caroline, who is not the speediest, but is persistent, and she works hard to make her strokes clean and precise.

Kinda reminds me of her mama, who continues to do C25K yet is still tortoise-like.


The commitment to Sabbath continues, though its look and feel have really changed over the months. It’s gotten easier and harder. It’s become more and more essential for my sanity, and there are also more and more things tugging at it, trying to make it not happen. One of my twitter followers was kind enough to tweet this page, which is a listing of all of the Sabbath-related posts I’ve written over the months. I need to get back to that. I’m writing about Sabbath all the time but a lot of it is still rough notes.

My manuscript for The Sabbath Year is due in October, and because of Chalice’s long publishing cycle, it won’t be published until Fall 2012. In the meantime, this blog is the place to be for sneak peeks and updates.


We’re starting a new sermon series at church called “Postcards from the Bible.” We will look at different significant places in the Bible—archetypes, such as garden, valley, mountaintop, city, beach—and explore what they represent for us spiritually. This approach appeals to the English major in me: we talk all the time about the plot, characters and themes of Bible stories, why not setting? Besides, it’s a way of traveling without leaving the sanctuary.

In addition to being a fun series, and one that builds on some earlier work I’ve done in print, the series is a way of addressing the travel bug that has invaded my life once again. But the bug is not appeased by this series; I’ve started dreaming of a trip to Cuba in January with members of this presbytery and Iona over the summer with Robert and the kids. We’ll see.


Things are busy on the writing front. In addition to writing several articles for the new Feasting on the Gospels series, I’m also writing the liturgy for the Sunday worship services at Montreat Conference Center. It’s been fun to get messages from friends saying, “I was at Montreat this weekend and we used your stuff in worship!” And I’ve got articles coming soon on Religion Dispatches and catapult magazine.


I also recorded a video for Bruce Reyes-Chow’s We Are PC(USA) project. I will let you know when that project kicks off. It was fun and frustrating, a stretching experience, to be sure. As a recovering perfectionist, I had an ideal look in my head, and what came out is far from it. But it’s a start. I can now add video to my grab bag of tricks.


What’s keeping you busy and hopefully bringing you some joy?

Friday Link Love

Lots of juicy links this week…

Female Pastors in the PCUSA: Some Stats

Women ministers report the same level of job satisfaction as their male counterparts… yet there continues to be a gender gap at the “highest level” of ministry (head of staff of large congregations). What do you make of this? I snarkily summarized on Twitter: “We haven’t been able to break the stained-glass ceiling, but at least we’re happy about it!”


Good Hours, Not More Hours

One of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned about life over the past several years is that your good hours are the only valuable ones.

You know exactly what I’m talking about. There are a few hours during the day where you’re revved up. Your mind is clicking. You’re efficient at solving problems. You’re able to produce great things.

At other points in the day, though, you’re nowhere near as able to produce good work. You sit there staring at the computer screen or at your desk, not really achieving anything. You feel tired and muddled.

I’m going to take this article as evidence that my part-time hours are of higher overall quality than other people’s full-time hours 😉


How Your Happiness Can Save the World

Finally, a book/article about the impending climate crisis and accompanying economic tremors that doesn’t make me want to kill myself. I hope he’s right. I’ve downloaded The Great Disruption onto my Kindle and am saving it for the fall, after my fiction-only summer. Or maybe we’re doomed and this hopeful book IS fiction! Hardy har.


The Backfire Effect: You Are Not So Smart

The Misconception: When your beliefs are challenged with facts, you alter your opinions and incorporate the new information into your thinking.

The Truth: When your deepest convictions are challenged by contradictory evidence, your beliefs get stronger.


In 1976, when Ronald Reagan was running for president of the United States, he often told a story about a Chicago woman who was scamming the welfare system to earn her income.

Reagan said the woman had 80 names, 30 addresses and 12 Social Security cards which she used to get food stamps… The story solidified the term “Welfare Queen” in American political discourse and influenced not only the national conversation for the next 30 years, but public policy as well. It also wasn’t true.

Sure, there have always been people who scam the government, but no one who fit Reagan’s description ever existed. The woman most historians believe Reagan’s anecdote was based on was a con artist with four aliases who moved from place to place wearing disguises, not some stay-at-home mom surrounded by mewling children.

Despite the debunking and the passage of time, the story is still alive.

And just like that, I’m back to “we’re doomed” again.


Blessed Are the Uncool

I posted this on Facebook yesterday.

People sometimes assume that because I’m a progressive 30-year-old who enjoys Mumford and Sons and has no children, I must want a super-hip church—you know, the kind that’s called “Thrive” or “Be” and which boasts “an awesome worship experience,” a  fair-trade coffee bar, its own iPhone app, and a pastor who looks like a Jonas Brother.

While none of these features are inherently wrong, (and can of course be used by good people to do good things), these days I find myself longing for a church with a cool factor of about 0.

That’s right.

I want a church that includes fussy kids, old liturgy, bad sound, weird congregants,  and…brace yourself…painfully amateur “special music” now and then.


Read the rest to find out.

And as I said on FB yesterday, the church that ejected a 12 year old boy with cerebral palsy on Easter because he was “distracting” makes Baby Jesus cry.


And something to make you smile…

Conan O’Brien’s Dartmouth Commencement Speech

A standout in this genre.

Have a great weekend, everyone.

Trusting the Internal Ding

I finished the Couch to 5K program about six weeks ago, while I was at Preacher Camp. I don’t mind telling you that once I reached that milestone, I floundered for a while. I also got sick, which threw me off my game that week and next.

It’s been slow to get back into it.

People suggested, “Sign up for a 5K, that’ll motivate you!” For some reason that didn’t hold much interest. (Maybe it was the infernal heat we were having at the time. Find me a 5K that runs in an air conditioned arena on treadmills and I’m SO there.)

Besides, I already have a goal, and it’s this:

Mt. Washington. New Hampshire. July 2011. 3800-foot elevation change during the hike.

One of the things I loved about C25K was that it told me exactly what to do each day. I’m pretty clueless about running, so it was nice to have an expert right there in my iPhone, ordering me around.

DING! “Run.”

DING! “Walk.”

DING! “Cool down.”

Once you’ve graduated C25K, the app says, “Now you can go on a 30 minute run whenever you want!” Which is fine, except I never want. So, the last few weeks I’ve been running some of my favorite days in the program: Week 6 Day 2, Week 7 Day 1. At least I’m doing something, I reasoned, but it felt like a copout. These are all much easier than a 30 minute run.

Today I ran Week 6 Day 1, which is “run 5, walk 3, run 8, walk 3, run 5.” And I realized: Of course! I can work on increasing my speed! I achieved the 30 minute goal; now I can work on other goals that I set for myself.

It’s one of my classic “aha/duh” moments, but it also marks a milestone—I feel comfortable enough with my skill level that I don’t need a program to tell me what to do. I can trust my internal sense of what I need and want to do.

I’ve always liked the four levels of competency:

incompetent and unaware: you don’t know what you don’t know
incompetent and aware: the most anxious stage, because you know what you don’t know
competent and aware: the most fun stage, when you’re performing well and you know it
competent and unaware: the level of the sage; the skills becomes second nature; you’re out of your own way

I can’t even imagine stage 4 as it relates to running, but I’ve gotten there in other areas of my life. It’s a beautiful stage. A deep and wide place.