selling the world

The family joke goes like this: My children ask me what I want for my birthday. I tell them that I want them to write me a poem. Sometimes it has even worked, this birthday request of poetry.

Yesterday I received a gift. Aware that my heart is sore from the pain of my little sister’s beloved son in intensive care and knowing that my heart is sore from the bruising of this election and life, my eldest daughter sent me a poem.

I share it with you because it was balm for my soul and perhaps it will be so for yours.

And, would you loft a prayer for my nephew Miles? He is a paramedic who flies through the air on a helicopter to provide healing for others. His medical helicopter crashed early Saturday morning. He is in critical condition. We are not meant to fall from the sky and live but live he does and so we give thanks for good bones and the ways in which beautiful is made.

Good Bones
Maggie Smith

Life is short, though I keep this from my children.
Life is short, and I’ve shortened mine
in a thousand delicious, ill-advised ways,
a thousand deliciously ill-advised ways
I’ll keep from my children. The world is at least
fifty percent terrible, and that’s a conservative
estimate, though I keep this from my children.
For every bird there is a stone thrown at a bird.
For every loved child, a child broken, bagged,
sunk in a lake. Life is short and the world
is at least half terrible, and for every kind
stranger, there is one who would break you,
though I keep this from my children. I am trying
to sell them the world. Any decent realtor,
walking you through a real shithole, chirps on
about good bones: This place could be beautiful,
right? You could make this place beautiful.


Today I am so tired.

I cannot much fathom that our nation is running up to the brink of electing to our highest office a man who has held no office.  None.

This is a man who has insulted and demeaned and fomented and this is a man who seems to revel in the bizarre theater of buffoonery.

I am tired of the barely veiled woman-mistrust that under-girds the unlikeliest of presidential contests ever held.  In the race is a woman who has been consistent in her concern for and advocacy in regard to children and community and decades of work and philanthropy are also-ran material in the circus of misdirection and media clowning.

The circus seems to be the desired reality show of our day.  How can this be so?  The implications are staggering.

Gone with the stroke of a pen would be environmental protections and choice and health care coverage and most terrifying of all?  Gone would be our sense of who we are as a nation.

I am tired of black people being gunned down in the streets. I am tired of the stifling of outrage and I am tired by the sense that somehow it is wrong to name the injustice.  It is as though naming the mattering of black lives equals disdain for the police and isn’t that a convenient way to silence allies?

I am tired of navigating Sunday morning preaching.  I am tired of knowing that there are some who will pounce on the opportunity, any opportunity, to feel affronted by what is preached or named in God’s house.

I am tired of the sniffing around of others as though a different view point or world view is affront.

I am tired of the repeated trope that politics don’t belong in church.  You’re kidding, right? Everything we do is political.  Jesus was intentional about the fact that black lives matter and poor lives matter and women’s lives matter and all lives matter to the Holy and they must matter to all of us or surely we are destined to wander this world broken and afraid.

Such insistence upon the sanctity of each life was dangerous for Jesus.  It seems dangerous yet, God help us.

I am tired of “broken and afraid” as the seemingly inevitable harvest of this season.

On this day I give thanks for the solace of work that matters, a community that is courageous, and the ongoing compassionate invitation of Jesus the Christ:

“Come onto me” says Jesus.  “I know what loving costs.  I’ll give you rest”.

There is so much pain.  Being tired makes sense.

So too does believing that God is far from finished with this world and we are walking miracle and there is  Spirit movement in the midst of despair and that movement is about coming together and learning through differences and allowing ourselves to hear the pain and naming tired for sure but also naming the power of love and hope and a conviction that we have the courage to live love.

We have that courage.  Through the heart of the Christ, through the unity of the Holy Spirit and through the stunninng gift of those who hold us when we are so tired, we have that courage.








Sometimes I wonder if I’m ever going to make it home again.  It’s so far and out of sight.  Carole King

Carole King’s Tapestry album was soundtrack for my adolescence.

One of the songs on the album finds the singer wondering if she will ever make it home again.  Tired and dispirited, she knows the longing for a place that will take her in and hold her gently.

I am headed to just such a place.  This Memorial Day weekend I will be home again.  In a few short hours I will join my guy and my dog in the car for the journey to the cabin that has been in our family for fifty years.  My girls and my new sons will join us in reading, coffee communion and lake watching.For nearly all of my life I have climbed into the lap of the logs and the water and the space of being home.

Going home is particularly poignant this year.  My mother died two months ago and her being in that space echoes yet so I will miss her and celebrate her as the weekend unfolds. My father died in that space the day after Memorial Day twenty years ago.  His presence lives in the logs.

And, I will be meeting with a realtor in order to learn what might be in store for me as I consider selling the cabin.

How can I let her go?

My sense of “home” has changed.  For the years following my parent’s divorce and in the years following my own divorce I clung to the cabin with a sort of Scarlett O’Hara fierceness.  I would not let it go.  I could not let it go.  The cabin was my childhood and my adulthood and it was my solace and it continues to be more things than my tender psyche will ever be able to articulate.

But home?  I am learning that home is a movable gift.  Home is where my loves are.  Home is not frozen in place nor is it frozen in time.  It is ongoing in its unfolding and for this I give thanks.

I don’t have to own the cabin to give thanks for my parents and my childhood and my children and the generations of friends who have shared cabin life with me and mine.

I don’t have to wonder if I’ll ever make it home again.

Turns out I’ve been home all along.







wisdom cries out

Proverbs 8: 1 – 4, 22 – 31

Romans 5: 1 – 5

Wisdom Cries Out

Rev. Elizabeth Macaulay

Christ UMC, Rochester

May 22, 2016


I have found myself walking the dis-ease of feeling vulnerable these days.


My sense of vulnerability comes from the day by day awareness that we are so real, we human beings and we are so full of fear, we human beings, and we are so needful of reassurance that we matter and that we are safe and that we will be seen and known as sacred and worthy of love.


Don’t you sometimes feel the acute ache of that kind of vulnerability?


I think it is what is going on within us, and I think that kind of raw need for reassurance and respect is going on all around us.


Witness our national political spectacles playing out in both political parties.


Witness the last two weeks spent by the global United Methodist Church as they met together in Portland, Oregon for our every four years General Conference.


Brothers and sisters, the United Methodist Church came up to the brink of disintegration as a United church.


We came to that place of fracture because we human United Methodists are so real, so full of fear, so needful of reassurance that we matter and are safe and we are so needful of the reminder that we are sacred in our various ways of being and we are worthy of human and holy love.


I went to the first week of General Conference.  I went because I got a scholarship from the United Methodist Alliance for Transgender Inclusion.  I went as an advocate.  My father was transgender.  The shame of being “othered” by our culture led to a suicide attempt that weakened her heart.  My father died of massive heart break at the age of 69.  Too young.


And her story is not unique.


(I’d like to ask you to raise your hand if you have a friend or family member who is gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.)


…So I went to Portland to see how our church is able to deal with the increasing call to fully welcome all people into ministry and community life.


It turns out the church is not ready to decide that.  With tensions rife in the air and perspectives so varied across our globe – African delegates have been taught by the missionaries who shared the good news of Jesus that homosexuality is an abomination – in the midst of protesting attenders, in the company of the 111 pastors from across the US who came out as gay and lesbian – a move that could cost them their credentials – in that midst the Body of Christ called United Methodists barreled up to a place where there seemed to be no solution other than dissolution.


And then the Rev. Adam Hamilton spoke from the floor.  He asked that the bishops leave the session and come back with a solution.  He asked the bishops to lead.


So the bishops left and met together.  They prayed and wrangled and you know that they were leaning into the assurances Paul gave to the church in Rome:  That God’s love would pour into their hearts and into the hearts gathered.


That through the power of Jesus Christ the power of wisdom – in the midst of community, at the crossroads of life – would speak to and through those bishops in order that we might be the people of Jesus Christ who live open doors and minds and hearts.


The bishops came back to the hopeful and fearful and they delivered the results of their deliberations.  They were not all of one mind.  But they spoke through their president – our bishop, Bruce Ough – words meant to forestall rupture.


What they asked is that all legislation pertaining to human sexuality be set aside for a time.  They asked for a group of disciples from all regions of the globe to come together to craft a way for us to move into our future without ripping out hearts.


And of course, hearts continue to be ripped.


This waiting… the psalmist and gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender children of God and those of us tired of the carnage of ambiguous welcome.  We together cry out:


“How long, O Lord?  How long must I bear pain in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all day long”  (Psalm 13: 1 – 2)

To paraphrase:

“When will the United Methodist Church claim our gay children and our transgender brothers and sisters as beloved and fine?”


In the midst of pain and in the very real possibility of fracture, the United Methodist Church is taking a long breath.


And so we pray:  May this be a time during which wisdom cries out and love sustains in the midst of suffering.


On Wednesday night this past week my sore heart was treated to a time of stunning wonder.


A woman who is transgender shared her story and her wisdom at the crossroads of our town – at the public library.  Ellie Krug spoke of how it is she came home to herself and claimed her need to be whole in the gender she believed God created her to live.


The room was packed.  She told her story of being football player and husband and father and the ongoing sense of not right in her being until she risked all that she loved in order to be fully alive.


I wrote her a note of thanks, and included in her response to me were these words:


“We only have so much time. Often, we forget about the power of words, the force of emotions. In our time, we are being barraged by messages based on fear and mistrust. I want my message—my remaining time—to be filled with hope for the human spirit and the value of compassion for others and self. It is the right thing to do.”


Friends, Jesus came that we might have life and have it abundantly.


We only have so much time.


In these days when our hearts are sore worn by fear and mistrust, may we still the toxic chatter of relational and institutional violence too often filling the airwaves of this world God calls us to love.


We are so real, so full of fear, so needful of reassurance that we matter and that we are safe and sacred.


Wisdom – Jesus Christ – calls out to us in the messy middle of our lives – in the places where we long for wisdom most.


May the courage and wisdom of those seeking wisdom on behalf of United Methodist Church enable this mighty movement to fully welcome all in order that all might:


“…Find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand—out in the wide open spaces of God’s grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praise.”  (Romans 5 The Message)



Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Straight, Brown, White, Man, Woman, African and American.  May we actively seek the kind of wisdom and heart that sings God’s praise.


Out of closets and into the hope-hungry world the people of Jesus Christ will sing.




I needed a word.

This morning, I heard the Word.

We are blessed in life with people who teach us the importance of leadership.  Pope Francis is such a one.  Pope Francis has spoken words that have sparked hope in such a way that the whole Christian movement is awakened to possibility.

One of Pope Francis’ admirers preached this morning.

Bishop Sally Dyck was one of my teachers.  She served as bishop in the Mn Annual Conference for eight years.  During her time in God’s country she provided me with a model for what it is to be a woman in leadership.

It was amplified grace that she preached so powerfully this morning at General Conference. Bishop Dyck preached about our shared need to live mercy together.

She wondered how it is we singularly call out homosexuality as incompatible with Christian teaching.  (That statement in itself is without mercy – my words, not hers).  To further compound the pain of that statement, the UM church is woefully silent about other things that are incompatible with Christian teaching – things like racism and gun violence and desecration of the earth and, well, you get her meaning.

We heard a word this morning at General Conference.  Thanks be to God.

I’m done with my time at General Conference.  I will go to a fundraiser tonight and thrill to the music of the Indigo Girls.  The concert is given to support the vision of full inclusion in the United Methodist Church.  It will be so good to be in a place where mercy is sung.  We need those words.

I will get on a plane at 7:00 AM tomorrow morning and happily resume my life.

And the work of the church will go on.  Legislation will be brought to the floor of General Conference next week.  We will learn more about the future of our United Methodist Church.

Pray for our delegates.  Pray for all who are gathered in Portland – the volunteers and protesters, the hopeful and the dispirited.  Pray for our bishop Bruce Ough.  Pray for the Good News Movement and pray for the too many who have been hurt by the language and silence of our church.


Let us pray and live mercy.






I was a really good waitress.

Every good waitress knows that the front of the house and the kitchen have to work in harmony together.  It is probably best that diners in fine restaurants are blissfully unaware of the heat and the unloveliness of the kitchen.  Good chefs make great meals.  Good waitresses serve up great meals while creating a sense that there is nothing but peace in the kitchen.

So now I am a parish pastor.  It is a job not unlike that of a waitress.  My desire is that people who worship at the church I serve can be undisturbed by the clank of the liturgical pots and pans that go into cooking up worship and life together.

I am glad I am in the front of the house in this ministry business.  Because truthfully, after three days of being at General Conference, I am not sure I ever want to enter the kitchen of the United Methodist movement again.

Today Rule 44 was defeated.  After hours of technical difficulties with voting apparatus and points of order and amendments and heart-felt testimony, it seems the people called Methodist are not willing to talk to each other.  We seem more inclined to talk at each other using Robert’s Rules as shield.

So it went.  I only wept once.

The rest of the day was spent in legislative committees.  That Book of Discipline that we turn to in the ordering of our life?  Every line of it is up for editing and polishing and so committees are digesting thousands of legislative petitions and after sitting on the floor of one of the break-out rooms (there was no room in the inn for the curious) I fled.

I admit it.  I got out of there.

It turns out I don’t have the stomach or heart for the work in the kitchen.  I am glad that others do.  I am glad that others can craft words that can somehow invite people to taste and see the goodness of our God.  I pray that inviting and inclusive and delicious words flow from this time.

As for me, I went out for ice cream.

Here is what I know.  I am blessed to serve a remarkable church in Rochester, MN.  My sense of doing church there is that the kitchen and the front of the house are all seeking to do the same thing:  we want to serve up grace to the hungry of soul.  I get to work with people who are huge of heart and excited by God’s stirring in our midst and I left the convention center today so grateful for my local church and my place in it.

Christ UMC in Rochester is where I am called to serve up the Body of Christ; in the midst of the hungry and the seeking and the hopeful.

I’m hoping I am still a good waitress.



“Everyone here is a child of God.  Hard stop.  Period.”  Bishop Gregory V. Palmer

We were gifted with a fine preach this morning.

We who gathered for 8:00 AM worship on day two of General Conference were the tired and the dispirited.  A new rule, number 44 by name, had been brought before the body as a way to participate in one of Wesley’s Means of Grace:  Holy Conferencing.  The gist of the rule was that Roberts Rules could be put aside while considering challenging issues.  Perhaps, given the clear challenge of discussing issues regarding sexuality (why is this so very hard???) people could speak heart to one another and learn from one another and allow for decision-making to be shaped by listening to one another.

This is clearly an uncomfortable notion.   It is clearly uncomfortable because Rule 44 is not being readily adopted.  Rather than agreeing to enter into holy discourse, the chains of protocol (Robert’s Rules rule) are being rattled and the Body is (thus far) bound.

Into that collective sense of “Is there no balm in Gilead?” Bishop Palmer rose to speak the Episcopal Address.

Oh my.

It felt to me that the Bishop was summoning the Spirit to blow grace through the gathered faithful. Bishop Palmer was prophetic and his words resonated with the same sort of deep sense of love and grief Jesus shared in his prayer in John 17: 23.  Jesus prays that the disciples might be one in order that they might bear witness to the miracle of God made flesh in the heart and teachings of Christ Jesus.

The quote above about everyone being a child of God was just one of the things that made me rejoice in the power of the Word preached through the prism of a heart broken open by grief.

We are those hearts, aren’t we?

Our hearts are broken, to be sure, but from such a laid-open place the sounding of the gospel gains urgency and power.

Jesus prays yet for us to live the legacy of love offered to us.

Conversation by conversation, shared heart by shared heart may we lay ourselves open to the wash of God’s grace.  Surely we have the courage to learn the hearts of others in order for us to become one in the Spirit.

“The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one.”

Jesus said it.  We might try it.