Monthly Archives: September 2013

Blessed grief

My eighty-nine year old father will soon pass. His health has deteriorated significantly in the last year as he as moved from ambulatory to bed-ridden, assisted living facility to nursing home, and now to hospice care. In the last week and half, he has been in and out of the hospital, and over the weekend we had serious conversations with him that the end is near unless he would choose to override his living will which rules out extreme measures to prolong life. He understood and didn’t change his mind. Today, he will be returned to his nursing home and will spend the last days in hospice care.

We called his sister and a sister-in-law from his hospital room, and he heard their voices on speaker phone. With exertion, he was able to whisper “Hi”. They were able to express their love and say their goodbyes. When the word spread, others called. Family gathered in his room, including children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Dad smiled at our jokes and with each new arrival. Pastor Trish from our home church in Upsala, Minnesota came, and we shared bread and wine and many tears.

Even though I tend to be an emotional person, easy to come to tears, I am surprised at just how teary I have been. My cheeks are wet as I write this. But it’s good. It’s so very sweet. This is a holy time, and each memory, each phone call, each labored breath is sacred. My yoga-instructor daughter would say we shouldn’t avoid the pain but embrace it as part of the fullness of life. We can learn from Eastern religion. God is in our tears.

Long remembered stories are told again. Pictures are popping up on Facebook. I add my personal favorite. The scene is from a Minnesota winter in which we sat in a steamy sauna and then ran outside and rolled in the snow. The picture shows Dad returning inside, and you can see the snow in his sideburns; the exuberance demonstrates his essential nature.Dad and sauna

More than any person I know, Dad has loved life.

On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear.  Isaiah 25:6

Yes, my dad ate the marrow—literally. And stinky cheese, pickled herring, venison steaks barbecued in the fireplace during the winter months, and he drank his homemade wine made from Basswood blossoms picked at Cedar Lake. The way he  relished rich foods serves as metaphor for his life. With a flourish. As he savored a tasty morsel, he had a characteristic flick of the wrist which said, “Yes, life is good!” Amen.

Though I cry, I am not sad but joyful. Along with so many others, I have been blessed to have him in my life. Thanks be to God!

When Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber talks, Lutherans listen

Nadia Bolz-Weber

I was one of 500 or so who packed the sanctuary of Central Lutheran in downtown Minneapolis last night to listen to ELCA rock star, Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber, as part of her whirlwind tour to promote her spiritual memoir, Pastrix.

Rev. Bolz-Weber, a tall, slender, dark-haired, heavily tattooed, “cyber-punk” pastor and a self-described “cranky, post-modern gal of the emerging church a la Luther,” rocked this audience, much as she did the 35,000 screaming teens and chaperones at the most recent ELCA youth convention in New Orleans. The irony is that her counter-culture appearance and hip language born of a prior career as a standup comedian (I’m sure last night was the first occasion that “F-bombs” were dropped inside this hallowed sanctuary) is used to convey a decidedly mainstream Christian, especially Lutheran, message (grace and redemption, saint and sinner, death and resurrection).

I first encountered Rev. Bolz-Weber, long before she became famous, about the time I started this blog back in ‘09, and she had started her own called Sarcastic Lutheran. At that time, I read a story in which her mission church startup to “my people,” the House for All Saints and Sinners in Denver, had provided sanctuary to a lesbian teen who had been booted from her own home. Though Bolz-Weber is straight (she talks about her really cool and good-looking husband), she has been an outspoken LGBT ally. In 2011, Pastor Nadia offered the sermon at the California Rite of Reception for seven gay, lesbian, and transgender Lutheran Pastors. One of them, Pastor Ross Merkel, had been defrocked by the ELCA in the early nineties after he came out to his Bay Area congregation, but the congregation kept him in place and a newly-elected synod bishop did not object. Pastor Nadia calls Pastor Merkel her spiritual mentor, and she embraced Lutheranism in his adult-confirmation class after a childhood of spiritual abuse in a fundamentalist, patriarchal, congregation.

Again, an irony. This outsider and pastor to the outsider has been embraced by the ELCA establishment. Though there were youngsters in the audience last night–including a carload of teens from Iowa who tweeted while traveling north on I-35, “We’re coming! Don’t start on time!”—the audience was mostly middle-aged Lutherans, even elderly, including several hundred clergy from the Twin Cities area.

Before encountering Pastor Merkel and Lutheranism, Pastor Nadia had experienced spiritual healing in AA, where she became sober “by the grace of God and in the fellowship of other recovering alcoholics.” I share this journey with Pastor Nadia, and I have given talks entitled, “I learned all I needed to know about grace in AA.” She also credits a couple of years of Wiccan involvement for healing the patriarchy-inflicted, gender scars of the church of her youth.

Queer Clergy cover jpgJust released this week, Pastrix is already appearing on best-seller lists. As an author whose own book will be released later this year (Queer Clergy: A History of Gay and Lesbian Ministry in American Protestantism), I must confess to more than a little envy. Maybe I should hire her publicist.