Pastoral is Political: The Talk — RevGalBlogPals

There it was, out of the blue, I mean, I maybe should have seen it coming, but didn’t. I can’t explain it, all the signs were there. Last week I was catching up on Grey’s Anatomy, a show many have abandoned over it’s forteen seasons, but one I still watch. If you watch it too, […]

via Pastoral is Political: The Talk — RevGalBlogPals

Transfiguration: A Sermon for Pastors

Confession: Transfiguration is my second least favorite Sunday of the year, next to, you guessed it, Christ the King.

I feel like I made up some BS in my children’s sermon about this being a text that appears on a “minor Holiday” every year because it reminds us we don’t, nor can we ever have it “all figured out” with God, because with God, all things are possible (Matthew 19:26).

I like it, I stick by it.

I listened to “The Working Preacher” podcast for Transfiguration and they spent about five minutes telling me (the preacher) how impossible of a text it is to preach, and how you shouldn’t fall into the pitfalls. Helpful guys, really… (or not).

So I fell on the sword and preached about the desire to stay in a mountaintop experience and how God told Jesus (like Moses and Elijah before him) to get their ass off the mountain and return to the struggle of a messy and complicated life where ministry sucks.

I believe I even said, “God doesn’t need us to build dwellings (NRSV) because God dwells within us.”

I like this sermon. I do. I love a good “get off your ass and on your feet” call.

But as I’m preparing and preaching I’m painfully aware that this week is my 6th anniversary in this church. And I was seven years at the church before that and 2 years at the church before that.

I am tired.

I am painfully aware of the struggles of ministering down the mountain. So literally as I was preaching the word of God to the people fo God in my time and place, God’s still small voice whispers, “you know Shannon, it might be time to go up the mountain.”

In our worship service there is a hymn after the sermon, followed by prayers of the people. A beloved member of my congregation stood during the prayers and gave thanks for the life of his brother-in-law, a man we buried this week.

“I want to thank Shannon for her beautiful tribute and service to this wonderful man, we are so lucky to have her.”

Tears filled my eyes. It was a good funeral sermon, for a good man, and I pray such things can be said about me when my days have ended.

I know I’m tired, a few hours after the funeral I was in my bi-weekly therapy session declaring to my therapist how completely spent I feel, and I don’t see an end. I’m desperately trying not to burn myself out.

And although there is a sabbatical planned for me next year, it’s far away.  “It’s time to go to the mountain, Shannon.”It’s time for renewal, it’s time for healing, it’s time to be transfigured.

The season of Lent is coming. Adding spiritual practices can sometimes add stress, but Jesus shows us time and time again how important climbing to the top of the mountain can be, or disappearing for a few hours to pray, or getting some sleep, even when there’s a storm coming.

Pastors we have to care for ourselves, we have to go to the mountaintop and renew ourselves so we can go back down into the struggle. And yes, thanks to the Gospel of Mark and countless commentaries I’ve read, we have to not just go to see, we have to go to listen.

Because the top of the mountain isn’t just about the view, sometimes it’s about standing in the fog of the cloud and trusting, listening. Stopping. Sometimes seeing the beauty can give you another thing “to do”.

I hope you preached the word of God to your congregation today that they need to take the God that dwells in them into the world, but I hope you too can listen to that voice that tells you to go and listen on your mountain, whatever that may be.


Luminous: A Year End Review

Tonight ends 2017. To which I say “bu-bye” like the SNL sketch with Dana Carney and Helen Hunt.

Yeah, a year ago I chose a word that challenged me to be a light in the darkness. It was a foreshadowing of what I thought this year would be, and I’m sorry to say I was right.

This is one of those times I would have loved to be wrong. I would have loved for our country and our world to choose love of neighbor instead of an “every MAN for themselves” attitude.

But it was a luminous year. Not just for me, but for thousands of women who stood up and said #metoo. For the harassers, rapists and assault era exposed. For the women’s match where in DC alone hundreds of thousands of women took to the streets and said hate will not win.

It wasn’t enough, but light shines.

I am still hopeful, somehow, and as I look to 2018, I pray that the word is true, that he darkness can never overcome it.

The Force is Strong in Community

Warning may contain spoilers, to which I say, “Get Thee to the Theatre!”

The other day I saw this meme, and it got me thinking…

Screen Shot 2017-12-29 at 1.17.45 PM

First, let me start with my problems with it. Male fragility is real, but so is toxic masculinity. Wrestling with the “dark side” and the “light side” of life does not make you weak. Period.

This is the oldest struggle of all time. The struggle of existence, the struggle of life, of good and evil. People who struggle with “sin” and “virtue” doesn’t make you feeble, it makes you human.

Second, I will say that the Star Wars franchise has largely dealt with the story of two Skywalker men, Anakin and Luke, and we do not have a franchise about Leia. All of this is to say, how do we know she has never been tempted to go to the dark side, “not even once”? I think it is a disservice to her charicter to say she has never been tempted. I also think it is a disservice that we may never see it.

But here’s what this meme did make me think about that I think is really important. Like, really, really important.

The force, the light, the virtuous, choosing the good and being confident in those decisions: requires community. 

Leia is a strong woman, no doubt about it. She was raised in resilience having lost her mother (who she remembers in Return of the Jedi as being beautiful but sad) and being adopted by the Senator and raised on Alderaan she is raised by her family and her community to resist the Dark Side.

She knew it could be done, she had confidence in that because from a young child she was taught that hope existed and was the one thing no one, not even the Empire, could ever take away.

Her family, at least we know her father, was very active in the Rebellion against the Empire and she was a trusted member from a very young age.

One of the only things I don’t like about The Last Jedi is that I have talked about moments in the storyline of the prequels, which I still refuse to acknowledge exist. I’m not engaging in their content, but their story.

It has been joked that fanbros don’t like the Last Jedi because of male fragility and I tend to agree. Luke isn’t the hero they wanted. I say, too damn bad. He was the hero we deserve, and was consistent with his charicter. Luke is shown as still wrestling with demons, wrestling with the idea that he doesn’t know everything there is to know and Yoda only confirms that.

In the prequils (grrrr) Anakin is around 8 years old when the Jedi Counsel says he is “too old to be trained”. Luke is about 18 years old when Yoda tells Obi Wan’s ghost that he is too old to be trained.

Luke only shows that the training of the Jedi that takes a lifetime to accomplish cannot be complete in a few weeks or months. Luke was never fully trained. He may have become a master, but he was never fully trained. That lack of “full” training is what created Kylo Ren. And what was the largest demon he carries from his lack of training? Fear.

He fears that dark side in a way Leia doesn’t. Luke fears it may overcome him, a fear Leia knows she can resist, because she has her entire life. She was trained to, she was given the confidence to, because she never, not once, had to resist it alone.

The training to be fully in the light, fully in the force, without wavier, without temptation of the dark side needs to happen from birth and with a team of people around you. The community is everything.

This was the legacy of the Jedi order that Leia, of all the Skywalkers, is the only one to receive. It is not that Leia has never been tempted but that she doesn’t fear it overcoming her.

When Rey finds the dark in her meditation she goes to it, not “in fear of it” but because “it’s trying to tell her something”. Luke is the one afraid.

In all the moments we meet Leia on screen she doesn’t have time to grieve (see, Star Wars really DOES belong in the Disney Dynasty!) but the strength of her community gets her through. There is work to be done.

The meme is correct, she has watched her home planet destroyed, and personally felt the disturbance of the force as “millions of voices cry out”, she learned her biological father was a mass murderer and dictator. She has “lost” (either through death or abandonment) all the other men in her life she cared about.

In The Last Jedi one of the most beautiful lines happens when Leia says to Vice Admiral Holdo, “So much loss, I can’t take any more.” Holdo, “Sure you can,” she says. “You taught me how.”

And how did she model that strength? Leia is a charicter of grace and virtue because she has the power of community and hope that only comes knowing that people are on your side.

So if that’s the lesson that Skywalker men need to learn? Then I’m all for it.

Leia doesn’t push her grief aside nor do I believe she has “never been tempted by the dark side” she simply has the power of a hopeful community around her, which, by the way, is exactly what Luke teaches Rey the Force is all about.

And Leia is the master teaching that lesson to her students. Not just the people of the Rebellion/Resistance she commands, but a new generation of Jedi.

Her last scene says it all.

“How do we build a rebellion from this?” Rey asks.

“We have everything we need.” Leia says with grace and truth, hope still in her soul. A knowing that only comes through the time and experience of being held with other amazing people time and time again.

May the Force be with you.

Yes “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” is Rapey

There’s a lot of argument over new Christmas Songs. Say what you will about “newer” songs like “Mary Did You Know?” and “Christmas Shoes” but older ones are some of the worst offenders. (If you’d like to read of my hatred of Mary did you Know you can read last year’s post) If you need some newer Christmas Music check out “Earth Stood Still” by Future of Forestry and the Oh Hello’s Family Christmas Album.

For years die-hard lovers of Christmas music (which, by the way, I am a HUGE lover of Christmas music) have dug their heels in on some of the more questionable tunes, old and new.

I have had SO many conversation about how “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” isn’t about rape and how it’s just a flirty song. And you may like it, and whatever, I get that it’s fun to sing, but I’ll admit that every time I’ve had this conversation I get upset with the argument that “she’s flirting” and after months of #metoo stories I’m finally able to put my finger on why.


Warning: Rape Story Ahead

As a survivor of “date” rape I can tell you this song almost identically mirrors my experience. I was not roofied, but other people who’s stories I hold were and their stories are very similar.

So here it is: We were alone in my house as we had been countless times before. We were at the end of our relationship. He was controlling and prone to anger and had been physically abusive more than once.

I had continued to see him knowing I was about to move away and could get away from him. I tried to create stronger boundaries with him but I was still very broken and loved him. So when he called one night, upset and asked to come over, I said yes.

From the moment he walked in the door I had a bad feeling. I decided we should go out (he had never acted out in public). So we went to get a drink and talk. On the way home I was acting tired and hoping he wouldn’t want to come in. He wanted to come in to make a phone call.

As he did, I went to the restroom (located through my bedroom). I had shut the bedroom door and as I opened it, there he was, standing in the doorway. I was so taken aback and off guard.

“It’s really late, I should go to bed” “I had a good time, but you should probably go” “I’m not sure when (person’s name) will be back and I should really stay here because they’ll worry if I’m not”.

Here are the lyrics to Baby it’s Cold Outside. The first is the woman talking and the second is the man:

I really can’t stay (but baby, it’s cold outside)
I’ve got to go away (but baby, it’s cold outside)
This evening has been (been hoping that you’d drop in)
So very nice (i’ll hold your hands, they’re just like ice)

My mother will start to worry (beautiful what’s your hurry?)
My father will be pacing the floor (listen to the fireplace roar)
So really I’d better scurry (beautiful please don’t hurry)
But maybe just a half a drink more (put some records on while I pour)

The neighbors might think (baby, it’s bad out there)
Say what’s in this drink? (no cabs to be had out there)
I wish I knew how (your eyes are like starlight now)
To break this spell (i’ll take your hat, your hair looks swell)
I ought to say, no, no, no sir (mind if I move in closer?)
At least I’m gonna say that I tried (what’s the sense in hurtin’ my pride?)

I really can’t stay (oh baby don’t hold out)
But baby, it’s cold outside

I simply must go (but baby, it’s cold outside)
The answer is no (but baby, it’s cold outside)
Your welcome has been(how lucky that you dropped in)
So nice and warm (look out the window at this dawn)
My sister will be suspicious (gosh your lips look delicious)
My brother will be there at the door (waves upon the tropical shore)
My maiden aunts mind is vicious (gosh your lips are delicious)
But maybe just a cigarette more (never such a blizzard before)

I’ve gotta get home(but baby, you’d freeze out there)
Say lend me a coat(it’s up to your knees out there)
You’ve really been grand (i thrill when you touch my hand)
But don’t you see? (how can you do this thing to me?)
There’s bound to be talk tomorrow (think of my lifelong sorrow)
At least there will be plenty implied (if you got pnuemonia and died)

I really can’t stay (get over that hold out)
Baby, it’s cold
Baby, it’s cold outside

There are about a dozen different ways the woman says no, including one in the middle of the song where she says, “the answer is no”, it doesn’t get clearer than that. She cried for help at least a couple of times, “What’s in this drink” “I wish I knew how to break this spell”. She plays the game twice, “maybe just a half a drink more” (notice that is before she asks what’s in the drink) and “maybe just a cigarette more”.

And there is the one, the one line which people use to defend the song and say she gave consent, “I ought to say no, no, no, sir, at least I’m gonna say that I tried.”

Guess what? Still not consent.

You know what words came out of my rapist’s mouth?

“Come on, let me stay just a little longer.” “Look how good you look tonight, how could I just walk away?” “Why are you asking me to leave, don’t you like me?” “Can’t we just sit in your room?” “Why are you holding out on me?”

Literally, almost verbatim to the man’s line, “get over that hold out”.

We cannot claim to believe women and say we must do better with #metoo and then defend songs like “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.”

You cannot even defend it by saying, it’s not about rape but it is about a patriarchal society. No, the song promotes rape culture and is about coercion which very often leads to rape.

Think about the ways people defend the song, “no, she wanted it” “she was teasing” “she was leading him on, it was playful”. Sound familiar? It’s the things powerful men say about the women that have accused them of sexual assault.

It is rape culture that tells women that they are helpless in those moments, that a thousand no’s will not change anything if a man wants something. It is rape culture that told me simultaneously “you are alone” and “what happened to you happens to everyone”.

You want to applaud women for speaking out? Then listen to me when I tell you nothing in pop culture, nothing describes the moments leading up to my rape the way that “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” does.

And you wonder why women don’t speak up more? Because “it’s not about rape” is what I am told at every turn when I try to tell someone my experience.

I don’t owe you this explanation, but please understand why I will no longer tolerate your intolerance of countless women’s experiences.

Also, if you want to hear a version of the song that is “flirty” then here you go:

Family. Food. Foot…in my mouth

This is what I’ve always said about thanksgiving, my favorite holiday of the year. It’s about my favorite things: family, food, and football. What’s not to love?

Last night I was a guest host on Pub Theology and we were talking about the awkward and divisive holiday meals where politics is on everyone’s no, no list.

But no matter what, we always have family, food, and football. “How’s the family? You wouldn’t believe what the baby did!” or “Is that sage stuffing I smell? Remember when grandad was so afraid of salmonella he used cook the turkey for 8 hours?” And when all else fails, “what’s the score?”


Family First. Families have always been complicated. All families are, no matter how well you all get along or how toxic you are for each other. Thanksgiving being centered around family is… complicated.

If you spend Thanksgiving single or with your nuclear family, like I do, then it somehow feels like something is missing. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great too, but there’s something amazing in the gathering of multiple generations. Don’t be afraid to mourn about the holiday if that’s what you need to do, but don’t lose sight of what you do have.

Do something nice for yourself. If you cook, cook it all. Buy the flowers that you would have bought if company was coming. Go out to dinner, even if there’s only one or two of you. Or, treat the day off as a free day. Order sushi and binge watch a good show, have a junk food day, the sky’s the limit! This is an opportunity, what do you need most?

The midsize gathering is probably the hardest. This is a few generations gathered, say 10-20 people (some of those children). This is where awkwardly all the adult can sit around one table and soapboxes get stepped upon. Politics and religion, God and country, all the hot button issues are land mines. This is also the perfect sized group for passive-aggressive behavior and multiple generations of family dynamics get played out.

No thank you. But if this is what you’ve got then dive in! What other topics is your ranting Uncle Joe into? Do 10 minutes of research on his second favorite person (besides Trump, Patton?) and talk about that. If he tries to bring it back to politics or you get cornered, say “I’d really rather not discuss this” and change the subject. You are an adult, you have rights!

If you’re hosting send out an email (or however you communicate) the day before and state the obvious. “Tomorrow is a day to give thanks and focus on each other as friends and family. In a politically charged world, which we all care about deeply, I’m/We’re asking everyone tomorrow to avoid hot button topics and rest from the 24 hour news cycle so we can live into the gratitude of each other.” This will probably not work, but it’s worth a try.

Last is the large family gathering. Multiple tables, multiple rooms. Find your tribe, stick with them. There’s safety in numbers. If the conversation gets uncomfortable, leave it. This is not you being avoidant, this is self care.

Take your cousin’s baby for a few minutes and give them a rest. Go watch an episode of Parks and Rec in your aunt’s bedroom. It’s 20 minutes, they won’t call the police. Force your grandfather to talk to you about his first job, or bring adult coloring for everyone, others will thank you. Assign yourself a task, put yourself in charge of the kids, or the dishes, or setting the table.

Then when the dinner is done, or the weekend, go home, open a nice bottle of wine and call a friend and debrief the day. Also, if you’re the one that loves to discuss hot button issues, remember this is not the place, keep yourself in check and do the work, this is not the time to pick your crazy cousin’s brain about gun control.

Food is Good. Thanksgiving meals are often traditional. If you love to cook but aren’t hosting, then decide that you will show up a little late. Cook your own Thanksgiving meal with all your favorites on another day so you can have leftovers too.

If you have dietary restrictions bring a dish. This not only relieves the host of “one more thing” but you know you can eat and not offend your host but also be a little satisfied with your meal. Restrictions suck, but it’s your day too.

Make all the pies. Seriously, Thanksgiving is about having all the pies, this is not a day to worry about waistline. Eat the pumpkin and the sweet potato, they’re vegetables after all! Pecan? Pass it. Apple? ah…please! Minced Meat? Okay, everyone had their limits.

Also, when the host offers leftovers, take them or if you’re hosting and you don’t want to give them away, don’t. You did the work after all!

Football: Is Nothing Sacred?

We used to at least have football. We could gather around the tv and coordinate dinner schedules to halftime and then TiVo came along and we didn’t even have to do that. A group gathered in the kitchen around the food preparation and others gathered on the tv with the occasional scream.

A lot of Thanksgivings arguments have been avoided because of football.

But not anymore. Some will blame Colin Kaepernick for his kneeling, others Trump for his involvement… AND there we are.

Open mouth. Insert foot.

If you’re boycotting the NFL, like we are, this is going to be one tough holiday. I don’t know a way around a “Trump vs. #noKaepnoNFL” debate. Which leads to a conversation on white supremacy and #blacklivesmatter.

Just accept that you’re screwed.

If you decide to suspend the boycott for one day to survive your family, no one will blame you, survival of the fittest, but tell your family you don’t want to talk about it. Simply DO NOT ENGAGE.

If it’s too complicated and you don’t see a way around it simply say, “I know you don’t understand but please, it’s important to me.” If football was the only thing that bonded two people together, as it is for many families. Accept your life is built on a lie and hide beer in your car. Also, create a fictional work emergency that makes you have to walk away from people for 45 minutes out of every hour.

These are not good solutions, but you’ve accepted you’re screwed so how can it hurt?

Seriously, good luck, and I promise you’ll make it. Remember, you are enough, you are loved, you are fearfully and wonderfully made.

Oh, and just to get the party started Happy Holidays 😉

Dreaming of the Apocalypse

It’s the end of the world, as we know it” plays in my head on repeat today. Thanks, R.E.M.

Last night I had an entire night full of dreams that I could only describe to my husband as being trapped inside the Pacific Rim 2 trailer. “That sounds awesome!” he said. If you don’t know what I’m talking about it, look here.


Here’s what was similar from my series of dreams: It was intense from beginning to end, monsters were coming up out of the ground, total destruction, and people were running everywhere.

Here’s what was different: There were no giant fighting robots, there were no trained professionals to control them, there was no one on earth who knew what the hell was happening or how to fix it. Also, there was a sudden downpour of what I can only describe as lava rain.

I awoke once in the night. I have no idea what time, I awoke to find myself cover-less and cold. This is not really unusual, I have to fight my husband for the blankets on a regular. I re-situated them, scooted my body next to the man-furnace and fell back asleep hoping it was over.

I was right back in it.

This time I was watching it like a video game, and there were mutant animals climbing out of city buildings to join in the apocalyptic rebellion.

When my alarm finally went off I wanted to be awake, I couldn’t take anymore. I had slept all night, but received no rest. I lay there, eyes closed, waiting for coffee running through my “am I depressed” checklist.

I have a history of situational depression. If you want to understand how that is different then chronic depression, here’s an article. After Sunday’s shooting in Texas, it is no surprise that I haven’t wanted to get out of bed. Sadness overwhelms me, and if I am completely honest (thanks dreams…) I, at this moment, really do believe this is the end of our civilization. And therefore, through that conclusion, the end of the world as I (at least) know it.

This isn’t a shock, every great civilization falls, the American Empire (or “experiment” as some refer to it) will too. We cannot sustain ourselves the way we exist, the question was always when and what will be “the thing” that does it, the question was never “if” it would happen.

“Trump’s America”, gun violence, the unveiling of racist, xenophobic hate, the manipulation of our country’s (or any country for that matter) citizens by Putin is terrifying to me and if this isn’t bottom, then what is coming is downright Apocalyptic.

This is the depression talking. Or is it?

I have a nasty habit of waiting for the other shoe to drop. I’ve worked through this in therapy, but I still try to anticipate how it will happen so I can best take care of myself. It’s the consequence of a lifetime if dropping shoes. But in America’s case, the shoe dropping and it all coming crumbing down, may by apocalypse to our way of life, but may actually save our humanity.

In a recent interview Ta-Nehisi Coates did with Stephen Colbert he responded to the question “Do you have hope in America?” with a simple answer. “No.”

Here’s the whole exchange:

“You’ve had a hard time in some interviews expressing a sense of hope in this country,” Colbert said toward the end of the interview. “Do you have any hope tonight for the people out there, about how we could be a better country, we could have better race relations, we could have better politics?”

“No,” Coates said, to scattered laughter. “But I’m not the person you should go to for that. You should go to your pastor. Your pastor provides you hope. Your friends provide you hope.”

“I’m not asking you to make shit up,” Colbert interjected. “I’m asking if you personally see any evidence for change in America.”

“But I would have to make shit up to actually answer that question in a satisfying way,” Coates explained.

I can’t shake this exchange. I am a pastor, my job is to provide people hope. He’s not wrong, that is my job. But not in the way Colbert is asking. If I, as a pastor was sitting in Colbert’s chair and he asked me if I saw any hope in this country I too would have a hard time coming up with something.

Because even though I am a pastor my hope DOES NOT lie in America, or to be completely honest, in its citizens. And if I have hope at all, it is from God.

For God alone my soul waits in silence,
for my hope is from God.
God alone is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress; I shall not be shaken. -Psalm 62:5-6

My job is to have hope and to spread that hope to other people, but sometimes, I tell you, America, you’re making it really hard right now. We lie to ourselves and we let other lie to us because we don’t want to face our fears. We have made ourselves so comfortable that what we refused to deal with the fact that we are actually vulnerable and fragile.

Time to dust off Micah.

We have made ourselves God. We have put love of country synonymous (at best) with love of God. That, my friends, is idolatry.

So I don’t need Mr. Coates to make shit up, in fact, that’s what got us here in the first place. And he’s absolutely right, come to your pastor for hope, but if we’re doing our jobs right, we won’t be making shit up either.

My hope comes from God alone. I still have hope for all of humanity, I still believe through God’s grace humans are naturally good, and that God is working through each and every one of us in any way God can find to make us individually and as a society better.

I know this in my head and I experience people’s goodness and god’s grace on a daily basis, but I would also not be doing my job if I didn’t worry that it’s going to be too late for us. It’s both my sin and my sainthood to be Jonah in this moment screaming to the people of Nineveh to repent, but also believe we are too wicked to deserve redemption.

Which is why I am not God.

And why I need to let the sadness roll over me. I need to hold and kiss my babies tight knowing that while I stand in the pulpit I would not be able protect anyone fast enough for a AK-15 assault rifle, bought and sold, readily available in this country, not even my children who sit in the front row. I need to take the time and weep knowing the truth of that sentence, and the implications of it.

Then, I will pick myself up and proclaim my hope that comes from God alone.

#metoo Raise Your Hand If You’re Sure

Ahh, social media, you’ve done it again… the Harvey Weinstein story has started a hashtag trend, and it’s good, great in fact. I am not surprised at all by the number of women posting #metoo and if you are then, wow, open your eyes.

I have not posted a status update that declared #metoo. And I want to be honest about why. The encounters with sexual harassment and assault haven’t been as traumatic as the post-encounters. And friends, that is a bold statement.

I have not posted #metoo because I wouldn’t be able to handle one more shred of “are you sure?”

Let me say, I keep my Facebook friends tight, I don’t think one of them would ever say to me, “Are you sure?” (however, they have in the past) but I will not have that discussion one more time. I won’t. (and yes, it is far more dangerous putting it here. I know.)

I detest when people say, “You are not a victim, you are a survivor.” (BTW- if that makes you feel powerful, great, really, I’m glad) I have been a victim, trust me, I survived it, but not without a very high cost. That cost is so high that I can’t type #metoo in a status update without feeling physically ill. Am I only a victim, no, absolutely not, but I cannot deny that part.

But every encounter of sexual harassment or assault I have experienced has also been gaslight. Gaslighting is not a term I particularly like because of it’s definition: manipulate (someone) by psychological means into questioning their own sanity. I don’t like the use of the word sanity, I don’t know why particularly, but there it is. The people who have questioned my stories are sometimes really good people trying to understand, and yet, in that moment, I cannot be your teacher. I don’t like the idea that I have bought into the idea that other people know better than I, but I have. Over and over and over again.

Very rarely it was the abuser themselves, since I do not usually feel safe enough to confront them, very often, it is the people around me who are well intentioned and well meaning.


When I was in college I was sitting with my sister and two of our closest girlfriends, a few male friends were sitting near us. The steps of the School of Music at UofL are shaped like an amphitheater, we would spend hours at that building and take breaks from practicing or studying to sit in the sunshine on those steps.

One of the boy’s pass times would be to sit on the steps, watch for attractive women to walk by and they would yell “Go Cards!” at them if they liked what they saw. I’d watched them do it a hundred times, yet, the four of us sitting there felt powerful enough in our group to call one of them over and told them how offensive it was. I believe there was even a justification of “what? it’s a compliment?” As the discussion went on he exclaimed that sexual harassment or assault was very rare and it just gets “highlighted” often. I asked of the four of us sitting there how many of us fit into that category. All of us raised our hands.

I was about 21 years old at the time and was just beginning to find my voice on this subject.

Our dear, “innocent” male friend was appalled. He knew us, trusted us, we weren’t lying and he couldn’t make any “she was asking for it” kind of excuses.

A few years later I told my rape story to one of my closest friends in seminary. “Are you sure?” he asked. “I mean, sometimes my wife says she ‘doesn’t want to’ but does anyway, and that’s not rape.” Seriously dude? You just compared my rape to your committed, trusting relationship with your wife, whom you are married and have children with?

No. Not okay. You don’t get to ask me if “I’m sure” it was rape.

This kind of encounter with gaslighting was not unusual, to the point that I did question the word I used “rape”. Was it “rape”? Maybe it was “date rape”? Maybe it was “mixed signals”? I spent so much time and energy around what to call it that I went years too long not dealing with it.

In therapy I learned to call it what it was, I was raped. I was raped by a man I let into my house, who I did not trust, who I had previously dated, who did not stop when I said no.

Are you sure? Damn right I’m sure.

The effects of that night haunted me for years, and on a very, very rare occasion still do.

Because of other people’s gaslighting I took the fear of sex into my marriage. Was it okay to like it? (Conservative evangelicalism didn’t help with that one either). Was it okay to say no? And if I said yes, but only kind of wanted to, what did that mean?

Let me pause to say my ex-husband never hurt me, not once, he never pushed or forced and he was patient and kind. But there is no way the issues around sex didn’t effect our marriage and it was another thing I mourned during the divorce, that man, was still fucking me over.

I once tried to bring it up, very early in our marriage, with our couple’s therapist. I told her that I was afraid sometimes, that even though I know my husband is safe that I still get scared, I was afraid to want sex, that sometimes in the middle of it, I would get flashes of my rape and have panic attacks. (this is called PTSD friends) She told me, in front of my husband that I was being ridiculous, that I needed to get over it and freely have sex with my husband.

I relived my rape in dreams and flashbacks during sex for months. I would cry, silently in my pillow, either because we had sex, or because we hadn’t.

Eventually I got a therapist who specialized in childhood sexual trauma and rape, the story changed, I began to heal. I began to tell my story to other male clergy in safe groups to help them understand what the women in their pews lived with, they looked at statistics but people hadn’t really told them stories and guess what? “Are you sure?” was the first question out of their mouths. “I mean sometimes…” they would say.

I realize now that the “are you sure” is a need for absolution, “that time” when they made a woman uncomfortable and desperately need to justify it because they “would never do that”.

But this isn’t just about being raped. Sexual harassment is far more common and an almost daily occurrence. I have been blatantly harassed by men who are my superiors, unwanted advancements from my peers, I have been felt up by men who felt that my body was okay for their hands since the sixth grade. I’ve been cat-called and stared at, and even in what was the most polite ways, made uncomfortable by unwanted advancements.

“Excuse me ma’am,” he said from his pickup truck, “I don’t want to be rude but you are looking very nice today.” Man at gas station, last spring. Was that harassment, are you sure?

Just a few weeks ago I was gaslight by someone who said that because they “weren’t attracted to me” it’s not sexual harassment. Grow up.

In full discloser, I want to say, I have also sexually harassed, both explicitly and implicitly. There is no question that they are amongst the most shameful and deeply sorrowful moments of my life. I am so sorry, I really should have known better.

The #metoo hashtag is not surprising in the least and I’m sorry to see it, but it in no way is a new revelation. However, if you have even spent one second questioning these women then I need you to take a good, long, hard look in the mirror. Because yes, we’re sure.

Celebrate Good Times, Come On!

When I was doing my chaplain residency I was assigned to three units, the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit, the Cardiac Care Unit (level below) and a Mother/Baby unit. My supervisor heard nothing but positive things from the CICU and the CCU (well, except for the complaints that I was a woman). “she’s great in a crisis”, they said, “she listens well and is very warm and people respond well to her.”

At one of our meetings my supervisor asked me about joy, about celebration. “How do you feel about joy?” “Fine, I guess, why?” He had spoken to the nurses on my mother/baby unit and although I was great in  crisis, I (apparently) didn’t know how to respond when something good happened. I was always waiting for things to go wrong.

“Well, that’s really sad.” I thought.

He assigned me a task to start teaching myself to celebrate, to start shifting my thinking to a little more “glass half full” (I cannot tell you how infuriating that was) and yet it stuck with me, and I couldn’t stop asking myself the question, “Do I know how to celebrate?”

Truth is, I worked on it, and I became better and better at celebrating the joys in people’s lives. Here we are 15 years later and as a pastor and friend I love celebrating with people, celebrating their accomplishments, who they are, or when good things happen. There was still a flaw, however, I can celebrate the joys of others lives but not my own.

I guess you could say I struggle with this: Joy is for other people. 

Good things don’t just happen to me, or at least they don’t seem to, or, probably most accurately, I don’t really notice them when they do, I have to work at it, I have to work at celebrating the joys of my life.

Please don’t read this as ingratitude, I am extremely grateful for my life, my gifts, my friends, but I have a hard time celebrating. Celebration involves not just gratitude, but a freedom. And you can’t feel free when you’re constantly afraid the thing or circumstance that brings you joy will be taken away.

So I guard myself, I downplay my excitement, I keep joy at bay. Why? Because in my head if something bad happens, it will be easier to deal with when it’s gone. And frankly, it so often has in life, that my heart works overtime to protect itself.

When I became pregnant with my daughter I was on the phone with one of my dearest friends who understood loss of pregnancy and even children, but also the joy of two surviving. I was downplaying my excitement of the (very early) pregnancy. “It’s not a big deal” I kept repeating.

“Shannon! This is a VERY big deal” Mary shouted at me. She knew how many years I had wanted this, how worried I was when the doctor said, “this may not happen for you.” But she also understood my concern. After months of fertility treatments and a snowball’s chance in hell of getting pregnant here I was, pregnant, and there was one last hurtle, carrying to term, which statistically I had a 50/50 chance of.

I was afraid of the loss that didn’t happen, that wouldn’t happen, but that could happen.

This is a pattern I repeat today. I’m scared. I’m scared to be free enough to celebrate, to let all my fears go and enjoy. But I’m trying, and more then trying, I’m challenging myself to do just that.

I’m getting married in 10 days. It’s going to be a beautiful day surrounded by my closest friends and my beautiful children in a stunning celebration of, not only marriage and family, but one of the most amazing things I have ever experienced, hope after hopelessness and love after loss.

I am not afraid that it will rain or that I will look fat in my photos (okay, maybe a little on that one) or that some thing will go wrong because I would marry Derrick anywhere at anytime in anything. I could not ask for a more loving, caring, and sensitive partner, who listens even when what I’m saying is hard.

I could not be happier about it or filled with more joy and excitement. But I am holding it at bay, afraid of what it looks like that a 37 year old woman is giddy about her second wedding. (or just that fact that it needs a qualifier like “second”) I’m flighting against the cliche’s of marriage, “You only get married once!” or “It’s the best day of your life.”

I’m scared for it to be a big deal and for no other reason then “something could go wrong”, I won’t go into details, but there’s a list. It wouldn’t “ruin” the day but there are many scenarios in my head that could put a downer on the day. (mostly toxic people who will make all of this about them) But it’s time for me to put that in a drawer where it belongs and focus on the good.

It’s time to turn Kool & the Gang full blast and Celebrate. It’s time to free myself to feel what I’ve been holding at bay, the bliss of being in love, so madly in love with someone that I am willing to risk any “could” that might ever come my way again for the rest of our lives.

I still struggle with celebrating “me” but thinking about celebrating Derrick and our love, our commitment, and our family, which we have worked so hard for… well that’s easy. I’ll bring my good times, and my laughter too, I’m going to celebrate and party with you. Because I do know that you, reader, are happy for us, and celebrating with us.


Nothing But Love for Women of Color

I need to say a few things. I am a privileged white woman (white, educated, middle class) and I am tired, TIRED of my sisters of color getting treated like dogs. First, we are women together. We struggle with issues in this world as one sisterhood: rights to our bodies, struggles with underpayment for the same jobs and mansplaining, oh my God, the mansplaining.

But unlike my sisters of color, I am a protected class as a white woman.

Now, I am a white woman in an interracial marriage with children that span skin color, etc. But that doesn’t negate my privilege, it does alter it slightly at times. However, that is nothing, NOTHING to what my sisters of color go through on a regular basis.

Last week the president called Colin Kaepernick a “Son of a Bitch”. I’m done. Kaep’s mom is a white woman and her badass self tweeted to the world in response that she was one proud bitch.

(Side note: Jesus was once put in his place by a woman of color after he called her child a dog, and guess what he did, apologized!)

The term has been reclaimed, but used in this way is highly offensive (read this). Yes. Yes! the term really does revert women to animals, and in this country specifically black women as “bitches” really does refer to them as dogs. And yes, I do believe that’s exactly what he meant when he said it.

Which makes me dreadfully sad. It makes me painfully sad that specifically black women are still looked at by white men with a slave mentality, that they are dogs and therefore allowed to be treated as such. But this doesn’t stop at white men.

Last week a news story came out about two nurses who posed with an African American newborn baby. You want to feel sick, read this. “Little Satan” they snapchatted with a NEWBORN BABY! I wonder if they have a “Pro-Life” bumper sticker on their car…

These woman have taken a “do no harm” oath and were hired to care for and protect newborns and they do this. Yes, they got fired, but all the expletives! I hope those parents sue that hospital for everything.

When I read this article I admit my first response wasn’t anger, it was extreme sadness. I imagined the moment post-delivery when they wheeled my newborn out of the room. I was flooded with the thoughts of someone violating the fragile body as they “danced” the baby around.

Then the anger came, what if someone had done that to Thomas and Sophia at birth (although I wasn’t there) and never got caught? What if this were my son or daughter? Because this precious baby is someone’s child.

A mother carried her around in her womb for 9 months, struggled through labor and birth and was forced to trust a hospital staff with her care for a few short moments while they defiled the most precious thing in the world to them.

There are no words strong enough for the feelings that arise.

Sortly after I stopped crying there was another post that appeared on my timeline. It was an instagram post of Serena Williams of her daughter, and a written letter to her mother.

It is a beautiful letter of a mother wanting to protect her child but also naming some painful childhood trauma around body shaming. Body Shaming from one of the most celebrated athletes in the world.

“But mom, I’m not sure how you did not go off on every single reporter, person, announcer and quite frankly, hater, who was too ignorant to understand the power of a black woman.”

We ask women of color on a regular basis to take all the shit of this world on their shoulders and then tear them down even when they respond gracefully, let alone try to protect their children in the most basic, human ways.

And finally, there was this:


A grandmother trying to protect her 13 year old grandson in a St. Louis mall while he had an asthma attack, was choked and arrested.

Women of Color deal, on a daily, hourly, and minute by minute basis discrimination on every level. I am outraged, I am disheartened, and I am deeply saddened.

So I’m here, we’re here, to support you, to encourage you, to lift you up and help in any way, but mostly, I’m here sisters to get out of your way because you are magic.