Author Archives: MaryAnn McKibben Dana

They Wrote a Thing and It’s Awesome: A Review of #WomanInThePulpit

51EX8kPEJjL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Ten years ago this summer, RevGalBlogPals was born. It began as a loose collection of pastor-bloggers, mostly women, mostly pseudonymous (as was the custom at the time). We began, as all good things begin, with a T-shirt.

Now, RevGalBlogPals is a global network, with conferences, events, meetups, a burgeoning Facebook community, and a director, the Rev. Martha Spong, who is the editor of There’s a Woman in the Pulpit: Christian Clergywomen Share Their Hard Days, Holy Moments and the Healing Power of Humor.

One of the nagging regrets of the last year is letting the deadline for submitting essays to this collection pass me by. Given my life at the time, it couldn’t be avoided, but after getting to know so many of these women over the past decade, I’m sad not to be a part of this project.

But having their words on my shelf is a gracious plenty.

This book is stuffed full of 50 essays on life, death, the unique gifts and challenges of being women in ministry, and the things they don’t teach in seminary. The essays are the perfect length for picking up the book and putting it down in the midst of a busy life, or reading one selection a week for an entire year, or revisiting them again and again, which I’m sure I’ll do.

I’m still making my way through the book, but there are so many favorites. Kathryn Johnston writes an incisive piece about double standards between men and women in leadership in the sharply-titled “Balls.” Later in the book, Stephanie Anthony’s essay provides a good companion to Kathryn’s as she describes the feeling of not being “one of the guys,” but realizing it’s important to be present for the little girls who are watching us step into leadership.

Deborah Lewis considers “The Weight of Ash” and the full depth of what is many pastors’ favorite church observances, Ash Wednesday. Rachel Hackenberg offers a couple different selections, but “A Prayer for the Plunger” was a personal favorite: “As you eavesdrop on the church council’s argument over new carpet, do you remember your debate with the Pleiades over the color of grass?”

Robin Craig’s essay on how she learned to preach the gospel following her son’s death by suicide is worth the price of the book. Patricia Raube’s glorious meditation about coming out to her congregation brought tears to my eyes. Love wins, people.

And editor Martha’s essays and section headings provide a gracious glue for the book. (I now “see” the RevGals logo in a whole new way!)

You know what though… those are my favorites right now. The beauty of a book like this is that favorites will change as life changes.

I hope you’ll check out this wonderful book. Congratulations to everyone who was a part of it.

~

The title refers to a catchphrase during that first miraculous Big Event, where many RevGals met for the first time: We made a thing and it’s awesome.

Failure to Adult

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I was “bequeathed” a few of my father’s writings, which are precious artifacts to me. Some were written for publication; others are more personal. One of the more personal ones dealt with a simple home improvement project that went wrong. In addition to feeling frustrated, my dad began hearing his own father’s voice in his head, berating him for not knowing how to do something so simple. The louder the voice got, the more my dad tried to hammer away at the problem, making it worse and worse, literally knocking holes in the wall in his shame. No matter how he tried, he could not silence the voice: You should know how to do this. What kind of man are you?

The people involved are all deceased, which is one reason I feel I can share those bare-bones details. The other reason is this: Don’t most of us struggle with shame scripts from time to time? Brené Brown wouldn’t be a bestselling author if we didn’t.

Even if your parent didn’t speak this language, you have probably picked up some of the basic messages of shame. Brené articulates them as:
Not good enough.
Who do you think you are? 

Robert and I have been slowly making headway on some long pending home projects. (Long pending.) Sunday morning I went on a long run and when I got back I decided to take advantage of my already-sweaty status and tackle the garage. Over the next several hours I sorted a bunch of items for donation, boxed up little-kid toys for the attic, and collected all the outdoor toys into a single place in the garage. As I left for Goodwill with the back of the van piled high with stuff, I proudly announced to Robert that we were probably one weekend away from being able to park our van in the garage for the first time in James’s life.

It was an amazing feeling.

Late in the afternoon Robert and I set about putting the boxes of Christmas decorations back in the attic. (Yes, mid-April… and that’s not even our record. June 25 is the magic day on which the next Christmas is closer than the previous one, so why bother putting the boxes away?)

As I started to hand up boxes of ornaments and ceramic figurines, I heard him say “Umm… hold up a second. Yeah, stand back.”

Then down through the hole came a shower of debris: empty box after empty box, large styrofoam pieces–old storage for computer monitors, desktops and other household appliances we don’t even own anymore.

I began to hyperventilate, and it wasn’t from the dust.

Here I had spent the entire day getting the garage in order, and we were trashing it out again! This wasn’t a rational response, of course. I knew intellectually that one trip to the recycling center would do it–and that’s exactly what happened. And it’s great to have more space in the attic.

But with each cascade of boxes came this voice in my head: You call yourself a competent adult? Look at this stuff you haven’t dealt with… for years! You will never conquer the chaos and clutter in your life. There will always be more–more than you can ever handle. 

I realized that keeping up with the Joneses can take many forms. Some people are lured by the Joneses’ shiny new toys, or the Jones children’s impeccable manners and shelf full of trophies.

My trigger is competence. I often feel like there’s this body of knowledge about adulthood that I somehow missed. Our dishwasher recently started leaking and it turns out we needed to clean the seal from time to time. Where in the heck were we supposed to pick up this information?

As the Internet leaves its infancy and adolescence, we’re seeing more and more studies on the effect of social media on happiness. I’ve read a lot of it and it’s a mixed bag–there are net positives and net negatives. But I do know that Facebook and other sites have given us insidious new ways of comparing every one else’s outsides to our insides, which is never a formula for a wholehearted life. Our real-life messiness will always lose out to everyone else’s carefully curated personas. Blessed be those who will post the graphic like the one above. Blessed be the pockets of radical honesty where a super capable person I know can say, “It’s April 18 and my taxes are a mess. I have done nothing. Help.”

I talk to many friends and colleagues recently who struggle with some version of impostor syndrome: If people found out how screwed up I was, I’d be fired/ridiculed/judged. A woman and pastor colleague who serves a large church told me several years ago, “I feel like I’m always fifteen minutes away from complete embarrassment.”

Not good enough.
Who do you think you are?

As I continue to reflect on Sunday’s experience of cascading boxes, I’m trying to confront those messages in my head as the shame-poisoned lie that they are. Yeah, life is chaotic, and I’ll never have it figured out. But I’m trying to practice radical kindness toward myself in the process.

Last week at The Well, one of my colleagues quoted that beautiful line from Ram Dass: We’re all just walking each other home. That’s what I’ve been trying to hear over the din of not good enough.

These conversations need to leave the quiet moments behind closed doors. I hate that our culture doesn’t reward this kind of truth telling. But you know what? We are culture. We have the power to move toward greater authenticity with one another. I hope we will.

~

This one’s for KB.

 

Tips for Getting Started with #Evernote from An Unapologetic Fangirl

hero_evernoteThe other day I posted on Facebook:

Scanner, Shredder and Evernote: the holy trinity of home organization.

A few friends responded that they’d like to use Evernote but haven’t quite figured it out. I wish I could sit side by side with each of these people and offer a tutorial–I love Evernote just that much. (I love it so much I have the water bottle!) It has made my life easier and more organized in countless ways.

What I can do, however, is try to capture some general getting-started ideas and offer some examples of how I use it in hopes that others will be inspired to give it a try.

GENERAL THOUGHTS

  • It may not be your thing. If you’ve really tried to use Evernote and just not gotten anywhere, it could be that it just doesn’t work the way your mind works. No sense in banging your head against the wall.
  • Know your options. Some people use Pinterest in the same way I use Evernote—to collect things in notebooks (or in Pinterest’s case, boards) for easy access. The problem with Pinterest is it’s mainly built for web pages, and it’s public… so private information and info you get from non-websites are hard to store there. Similarly, many people use Dropbox as a repository for their stuff. Also a good option, except Dropbox doesn’t have the sophisticated tagging and thumbnail capabilities that Evernote does.
  • Understand Notebooks v. Tags. These are the backbone of Evernote. Notebooks are self-explanatory—they are collections of common information, such as Recipes, Travel Destinations, Tax Receipts. Tags are searchable and are good for labeling things across notebooks. So for example, maybe I have a great article about raising tweens that’s in my Articles notebook, but I also wrote a journal entry about my experience that’s in my Personal Writing notebook. Both can be tagged with “parenting.”
  • Start where you are. I think people get stuck because they’ve got lots of paper files and the thought of putting all of that into Evernote seems overwhelming. It definitely is. I feel the same way about all these photos I have in albums. It stinks to live between two different technologies. My advice? Don’t worry about your backlog for now. Just move forward using Evernote instead of a paper filing system, then get to the historical data some other time. (Or not–do you really need all that? The stuff you do need, you’ll dig up and use, and that will be your cue to put it into Evernote.)
  • Start with one topic. One manageable way to get going is to choose one topic and start putting all of that into Evernote, then put other stuff in there later. So start with a Recipes notebook, for example, or financial stuff.

WHAT YOU NEED

  • An Evernote account–premium is best, but start with the free version if you’re not sold yet.
  • The Evernote app installed on your desktop and, ideally, your phone/tablet.
  • The Evernote web clipper for the browser of your choice.
  • A scanner, although you can take pictures of documents with your camera for a lower-tech alternative. Photos in Evernote have character recognition, and there are plugins that will straighten and clean things up too.
  • Your own unique email-to-Evernote address. When you sign up for Evernote you are given an email address that you can use to forward email messages straight to Evernote. There’s even a complicated system where you can tell it in the subject line which notebook to sort it into, but I can never remember the syntax, so I just send it and sort and tag manually later.

USE CASES

A big sticking place for people (I think) is getting into the Evernote mindset. The more you use Evernote, the more useful it is, because it’ll become your go-to place to find stuff (as opposed to that pile on your desk… or was it in email… or in that blog post you read three weeks ago, where was that again?).

So here are some of the ways I’ve used Evernote in just the last week. Hopefully this will spark your own ideas. (I also wrote a post a few years back specifically for pastors.)

  • While traveling this week, I got a receipt when I checked my bag. I took a picture of that receipt with my phone and filed it in my Tax/Expense notebook so I can forget about it until next spring when I want to write off that expense on my taxes.
  • Along the same line, I emailed a receipt for that flight to my Evernote account so when I need that receipt at tax time I won’t have to hunt around my email for it.
  • Evernote is my digital scrapbook, so I scanned the bib of a recent race, as I do for all of my races. I can look at these later and, if I wish, can get them professionally printed and do one of those artsy-crafty bib display projects. (But let’s face it–I’m not going to do that, so why keep them lying around?)
  • I scanned an article from Runners World on “healthy evening snacks for runners.”
  • I did menu planning using an Evernote that lists the most common recipes we make, which helps jog my memory of what we’ve had recently.
  • I wrote a blog post for my contract gig. Evernote is great for composing early drafts because it’s faster than Microsoft Word, it saves automatically, and there’s even a note history if you end up liking a previous version better. Once you get to the track-changes phase you can save that Word document into Evernote too.
  • A friend posted this article on my FB wall and I clipped it from Chrome into Evernote and gave it tags like “courage” and “kindness” so if I’m preparing a sermon or other presentation on that topic I can find it.
  • I scanned all of our bank statements, bills, and other financial items we’ve received recently. I do this every month or so. (Again I refer you back to the “it may not be your thing” bullet point. If the thought of doing this gives you hives, don’t do it.)
  • I scanned an essay Margaret wrote for school about swimming across the lake in Maine last summer. Each of the kids has their own notebook containing my favorite artwork, schoolwork, and letters.
  • I input statistics from the girls’ latest doctors appointments so I have them all in one place.

Each of these tasks (except the blog post and updating doctor stats) took less than a minute to complete–often much less than that. As I type all of that, though, it sounds like a lot of work. But for me it’s a lot more work not to have the receipts I need at tax time. Or to spend 45 minutes looking for that article that illustrates my point perfectly in the article I’m writing. Or to rifle through a pile of bank statements until I find the one I’m looking for. I’ve written about how the harder thing is the easier thing. Evernote is a prime example of that.

Again, everyone’s temperament is different. But I do hope this inspires people who are “Evernote shaped” to give it a try. You may end up loving it as much as I do.

Last Week’s Muffin: Apple Pie

ApplePieSpice2These were a big winner. The recipe calls for pumpkin pie spice, but we’d received a sample of apple pie spice in a Penzey’s order this winter, so we were able to use that.

I love recipes that make more than 12 muffins—this makes 18, all the better to share. I made these before I left town for preacher camp and got an email from J’s teacher on Monday: “Thank you so much for the delicious muffin!” I had to respond that I had nothing to do with the gift. It made me smile though because while J can be an ornery first grader sometimes, I think he’s sweet on his teacher.

Apple Pie Muffins, adapted from My Baking Addiction

INGREDIENTS

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons apple pie spice (pumpkin pie spice is fine)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 egg
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
2 cups peeled, chopped Granny Smith Apples

Topping:
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup rolled oats
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons butter, melted

INSTRUCTIONS

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line 18 cup muffin cups with paper liners or use cooking spray. Set aside.

2. Topping: In a small bowl, stir together 1/2 cup of brown sugar, 1/3 cup flour, rolled oats, and cinnamon. Drizzle in 3 tablespoons of melted butter, mixing until well blended.

3. In a large bowl, whisk together 2 1/4 cups flour, apple pie spice, baking soda, and salt. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, buttermilk, 1/2 cup melted butter, vanilla and 1 1/2 cups of brown sugar. Stir until sugar has dissolved.

4. Pour butter mixture into the flour mixture and stir until just combined. Gently fold in apples. Use a large scoop to fill each muffin well, filling the cups to the top. Sprinkle topping on each muffin.

5. Bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes, or until the tops of the muffins spring back when lightly pressed.

6. Cool on wire rack. Store at room temperature.

Off to Preacher Camp!

I’m off to be with my preaching peeps this week, and as is my custom, I refer you to previous posts about the joys and challenges of cohort groups as pastors and church professionals. I am a big believer in them.

Design Your Own Preacher Camp: A Re-Reprise

What Makes a Clergy Group Work

On Competition and the Church: what happens when colleagues “compete” for the same positions.

Off to the city of the big shoulders.

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photo credit: Chicago Skyline via photopin (license)