Thursday, October 20, 2016


A few weeks ago, I found out that many people who know and love me had worked for a long time to
nominate me as one of the YWCA's Women of Achievement in Alaska. I started getting congratulatory texts and emails before I officially found out about the award. Due to my personality (but not my essence), I am primarily a do-er and thinker, so it was not unusual that I didn't know how to feel about this great honor and recognition.

My first reaction in text to a good friend was that there was no way I could accept this. Responding to her "Why not?", I said, "Because [the woman who watches my children] isn't getting one and I can't do anything without her." This is true and not merely self-deprecation. I am immensely grateful for Carolyn and for all who have the vocation of childcare, which help so many people work other jobs. 

When I found out that the award is only given to 10 women each year and the nomination process is extensive and requires many letters of recommendations, I was even more touched and even more unsure how to feel. In my perception of myself, I am just doing my job. The work of trying to make a more inclusive, less racist, more accessible, less divided, and more godly Anchorage seems like it is the summation of my job description- wherein I focus the energy for the work on the people whom I serve directly and indirectly in the Spenard/Turnagain neighborhoods and beyond. 

Acknowledging that learning to integrate my feelings is part of the emotional work I need to do, I also have to graciously accept this award. If someone tells you that you are doing well or that you look nice or that they appreciate you, diminishing their compliment or notice is not humbleness, it is calling them a liar. I don't serve a community of liars, so what I perceive as "only what I ought to have done" actually comes across as extensive and special effort. 

The CEO of the YWCA of Alaska, Hilary Morgan, said to me recently that almost all the women who receive this award react in the same way. We perceive that we have only been doing what we were supposed to do. Sometimes we do know that we have to stretch and never stop in order to achieve a level of achievement or success in a field where we may be the first woman or among the first women. Sometimes we have been told for years that we have to work harder because we are women. And some of us are naturally disposed to leaving it all on the field and we're surprised when we finally turn around and find that we have had a cheering section all along. 

The thing for me to remember in this, and perhaps for other as well, is that I am not what I do. I am not only as good as my last achievement. I am not defined by my last success nor my last failure. I am a child of God, which is my primary identity. What I do well is rooted in that identity. What I think about should be grounded in that identity. What I feel should springboard from that. When all of that is aligned (please, Spirit, help and guide me), then I feel appropriately grateful for recognition, able to thank those whose vocations have helped me achieve in mine, and able to receive an accolade, but not have it define me. 

This recognition is amazing and it is a big deal. A big enough deal that I have bought new shoes and a new dress and have a hair appointment and a makeup appointment and I will get my eyebrows and maybe my nails done. It's also a big enough deal that sometimes I just sit quietly and think about it, still overwhelmed. And then I put my pin in my sweater and go do my job. 

Monday, October 10, 2016

Say it! Say it! Say it!

A couple years ago, I was discussing politics with a man I know and love. I mentioned that I was no longer going to vote for anyone who didn't clearly distance themselves from sexual assault, rape,
photo by Julia (Dunlap) Seymour
February 2005
molestation, or abuse.

He replied, "It goes without saying."


No, it does not.

In a baptismal service, we specifically RENOUNCE the devil and the forces that oppose God. We don't throw a little water around and say that everything else "goes without saying." We SAY the things that we believe because WORDS have POWER.

Therefore, I would like to update my position. I will not support any candidate who does not clearly state that they are opposed to sexual assault, rape, abuse, racism, violence and/or social isolation and/or denial of rights to anyone based on sexual preference, gender identity, or gender expression, religious bias, religious favoritism, bias based on skin color or body type, the limitation of reproductive choice, and (my personal bugbear) the privatization of the prison system.

I reserve the right to expand or contract this list, which is rooted in my understanding of the gospel of Jesus the Christ. There is no such thing as private faith or private sin. A life lived faithfully is a faith lived publicly. A public life involves speaking truth. Speaking truth means what is said matters, as well as what is unsaid. Nothing goes without saying.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Litany for Loosing

This was written for a prayer service in Anchorage, Alaska in response to a significant rise in reported homicides and other personal crimes. It has a partner in the Litany for Binding.

Holy God of all creation, you are always moving toward resurrection, restoration, and reformation. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we are open to this work.

We truly welcome this.

God of love and light, you have provided us with diversity in race, creed, sexuality, experience, gender, and spiritual gifts- all of which can be used for healing and peace. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we are open to this work.

We truly welcome this.

God of peace and hope, open our eyes and ears to see and hear stories of pain and promise that we might hold space for one another and move toward reconciliation. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we are open to this work.

We truly welcome this.

God of consolation and mercy, those who grieve need accompaniment not only in the hours after death, but in the weeks, months, and years ahead. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we are open to this work.

We truly welcome this.

God of justice and peace, help us to value the vocations of all who live within our city, peace officers and fire fighters, teachers and municipal employees, tourists and residents. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we are open to this work.

We truly welcome this.

God of the living Word, grant us the courage and will to challenge complacency, resignation, and resistance against change and community. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we are open to this work.

We truly welcome this.

Holy God, you are the ground and source of our very being. You have revealed your faithfulness through keeping your covenants, sending your prophets, and through the birth, life, and resurrection of Jesus, your Son and our Savior. Knowing that you cause all things to work for good, we dare to ask that we would see that in Anchorage here and now. We ask to be part of how you heal and restore this city. We ask for change and we seek to accept how it convicts and transforms each of us in its wake. Stir up your Holy Spirit in us and send your peace to us and through us into the world. We ask all this in Christ’s name… [and all God’s children said]… Amen.

Litany for Binding

This was written for a prayer service in Anchorage, Alaska in response to a significant rise in reported homicides and other personal crimes. It has a partner in the Litany for Loosing.

Holy God of all creation, we know that violent death and mindless destruction do not come from you. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we bind and reject these things.

They have no place here.

God of love and light, revenge and aggressive retribution are not tasks you have given to us at any time. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we bind and reject these things.

They have no place here.

God of peace and hope, glorifying violence and denigrating other humans violate every commandment you have given. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we bind and reject these things.

They have no place here.

God of consolation and mercy, desecration of creation and division between people are not possible in the true way of Christ Jesus. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we bind and reject these things.

They have no place here.

God of justice and peace, lawlessness and a breakdown of communities are in direct violation of how you have taught us to live. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we bind and reject these things.

They have no place here.

God of the living Word, slurs, insults, curses, and threats sow seeds of dissension that are not in your plan for us, this city, or any part of your beloved creation. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we bind and reject these things.

They have no place here.

Holy Lord, holy and mighty is your name. All glory, praise, and honor go to you. We trust and believe that your word is true. In binding and rejecting all that is not of you, we believe with our whole hearts that we are aligning ourselves with your will for healing, unity, peace, and reconciliation in Anchorage. We ask that you would continue in your powerful work and word and that we would be privileged to alongside you here in the City of Lights. We ask you all this in Jesus’ holy name… [and God’s children said]… Amen.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Friday Five: Read Your Bible

Prompts are from RevGalBlogPals! :)

1. What is your favorite Bible verse?

If I'm only picking one, it's Jonah 4:11. I like it enough that I literally made a bumper sticker for it.

But God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the bush?” And he said, “Yes, angry enough to die.” 10 Then the Lord said, “You are concerned about the bush, for which you did not labor and which you did not grow; it came into being in a night and perished in a night. 11 And should I not be concerned about Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also many animals?”

2. What is your favorite book of the Bible?

Judges. I don't think we learn enough from those stories about what happens to as a society increasingly turns away from good leadership and opts for thuggery. Furthermore, we fail to pay attention to the lessons of what happens to a nation that devalues the lives of women or other minorities. Lastly, nothing goes well when everyone does what is right in their own eyes. 

3. What is your favorite story from the Hebrew Scriptures?

Nathan confronting David about Bathsheba and Uriah. That took nerve and the Holy Spirit. 

4. What is your favorite story from the Christian Scriptures?

The Canaanite or Syro-Phoenician woman confronting Jesus about the people in the margins and what they deserve. 

5. What verse do you wish people would quote less often?

Matthew 5:4 "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted."

Bonus: What is your favorite obscure fact or verse or story or thing about the Bible?

The consultations with Huldah (a woman!) about what to do given that the people and the king had not kept their end of the covenant with God. (2 Kings 22:14-20; 2 Chronicles 24:22-33)

At the End (Prayer)

Holy One-

There came a time when Greece knew she was done. The lamp that was Rome blew out and was no more. The Holy Roman Empire had its days. Dynasties rise and fall- Jin, Tang, Ming. Shores are sheltered and then breached. The sun did set on the British Empire.

Photo by Julia (Dunlap) Seymour, Dec 2005
In the waning days, when those with power panicked at the grains slipping through their hands? What did You do, oh Lord? Did You watch, weeping and wrenched? Did You dispatch Jonah after Jonah, who fled again and again? When You cast your holy hand around- was all simply lukewarm, with all passion and abstinence spent and melded?

As the sunsets on empires deepened and the powerful reached out and began to increase the pain, increase the violence, increase the oppression- how did You brace the believers, the seekers, the uprights? Does the Spirit work overtime? Are additional angels dispatched? Is the meeting of the beloved more efficacious in this time?

I am not asking for a friend. I am not even asking on behalf of a country. It’s me, O Lord, standing in the need of this prayer. It’s me who sees the fade of an empire and the blood that is sweeping out the end of days of glory that were only ever really for some, never for all. It’s me who stands, impotently grieved, and wants to know: what did You do before, so I know how to look for it now?

The preservation of the faith tells me that You have acted in history. So what will it look like and how will I know? There are fights to fight, spoons to wield, forgiveness to seek, and reparations to be made. When the city on the hill shines its beacon into its own streets, strewn with bodies, there is nothing left but the cross, the community, and compassion, but we haven’t reached this level of acceptance. We aren’t there. We are still fighting as though there was a greatness to be achieved again. What never was, never will be.

If You had lapels, I would grasp them as I shout this prayer. If You were holding my hand, Your fingers would be pinched in my grip. If we were at coffee, I might have chipped the dish, setting the cup down a little too hard.

We need equipping for the last days of an empire. You have done it before. Do it now.


Prayer originally written for and posted at

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

ING #1


I've been trying to catch up on my podcasts since I didn't listen to nearly any during the month of June. That means I'm months behind in Stuff You Missed In History Class, This American Life, Slate, and many others. I'm interested in adding another book podcast to my feed, but I don't know if that's wise financially. (The podcast is free, but... books.) Not all the podcasts are child-friendly and since a lot of my time in the car (otherwise known as podcast time) is with kids, some things have to wait. 

I also have three new audiobooks waiting. 


I'm seeing fall. Of course, that means winter is, at best, 2-3 weeks away (hello, Alaska!). The yellow birch is gorgeous, though. 


I have a lot of crocheting projects anywhere from just started to almost finished. And it's almost hat making season! 


I'm going to start a second blog (because I'm so good at this one). The second one will be focused on book reviews only. I'd like to have a concentrated place for that work and more discipline about that part of my writing life. Stay tuned!


I have some travel for work coming up in October. Need to get a lot of things in motion for that. 


There's a lot of pain in the world right now. I'm listening to stories, sitting with information, and letting go of what's not mine to hold. 


I'm watching my To Be Read pile get out of control. 


In some shape, form, or fashion, I'm reading Firecracker Boys, Trouble I Seen, HillBilly Elegy, The Shelf, Why Be Happy... and Adnan's Story. Send snacks!

(Please don't ask me what I have pre-ordered that's coming out in the next couple weeks. Forget the snacks; I need a lifeboat, a au pair, and a backup reader!)


I don't always snack, but when I do... I eat the best gummies in the world! 


All over town... soon to the hospital to visit a parishioner after her surgery for a broken ankle. 


I am 100% ready for the election to be over. I am tired of the "commentary", the "quotes", the "research", the "journalism", and the complete lack of real conversation about what's actually happening in the world in the lives of real people (not people who are good for photo ops). 


I feel saddened and frustrated that two people I care about have been called "fat ass" by strangers recently. In particular, I consider that they were probably told by well-meaning people, possibly including me, that the insult was unnecessary and mean, but did we say it was untrue? Did we counter with a different truth about their bodies and how their bodies are used in God's kin-dom? I believe in health at any and every size, but I am not sure that I communicated that well in a time when people may have been shamed or hurt about their bodies and their receipt in community. 


I am learning to be clearer about boundaries, especially what's my job and what isn't. I think about what is mine to fix and what isn't. What's your shit to own and what isn't. 


I love that it is finally cold enough for me to sleep well. This probably means that my husband is going to want to close the windows soon. Noooooooo!

Thursday, August 18, 2016

10 Ways to Defeat a Bully (Crosspost)

10. Walk away. Do not give the bully attention. Completely unfollow on social media, if applicable. The person in question has nothing that you want.

9. Information embargo. Engage in ZERO information seeking. Consider what power you have personally and how you can use it to stop streams of revenue, attention, or power to the bully in question. Abstain from where you might see the person or be forced to hear about him/her/them. If another person wishes to rant about the bully, politely inform them of the embargo. If someone else wishes to know the whys of the embargo, give short truthful answers that speak from your own experience. Do not mention the bully by name.

8. Sanction. Words do hurt as much as actions. There are consequences to saying whatever you want, whenever you want, to whomever you want. Gaslighting, lying, bluster, and threats are not acceptable speech. Refuse space to the person who engages in this behavior. A person who cannot hold to accepted rules in an interview, debate, or conference is not invited back to play with other adults. Period.

7. Divest. Pull out of situations and circumstances that give power to the bully. Tell others related to the bully’s platform that you intend withhold money, time, and energy at all levels of an organization until the bully is disciplined, if not completely removed from representing the organization or group in question. Refuse to participate in channeling any type of resource- fiscal, physical, or psychic- to the bully.

6. Be smart. Gather information that thwarts the untruths, mistruths, and misdirection from the bully. You don’t have to be an expert on anything to refuse to be scared, cowed, or overwhelmed by rhetoric unsupported by reason and reality.

5. Work with an ally. It is extremely unlikely that you are alone in a bullying situation. With particularly stubborn bullies, it can seem as though they’re everywhere all the time. Get a friend or a group of friends to join in your anti-bullying efforts. A joint information boycott or rant sabbatical may really improve morale and keep you from feeling alone, isolated, or despondent.

4. Be not afraid. The bully is not in control, despite how things may appear. God is in control. Furthermore, it is essential to remember that there are judgments we are called to make as those who are walking the Way, even as we acknowledge our own imperfections. It is entirely acceptable to pray seriously for a bully to realize the error of his/her/their way in thought, word, and deed.

3. Be prepared. There are actions and opportunities all around that afford ways to defeat a bully. These may need praying hands, feet, or mouths to help. See what you can do to make a solid offensive move against the bully or bullies.

2. Yield to the Spirit. The strength to resist the bully is a fire shut up in your bones. If the Spirit says pray, pray. If the Spirit says sing, sing. If the Spirit is leading your energy toward the disciplines of art making, writing, movement, building, silence, service, or prophesy, give way to that calling. Do not resist the urge, believing that the bully is only fought through “more important work”. This is the most important work, refusing to cede spiritual ground to any force that opposes the real resurrection and reformation work that God is doing and will not stop.

1. Embrace Christlike behavior. Remember that righteous anger, flipping over tables, cracking a whip, cursing trees, expressing frustration, praying in grief, weeping, and wishing for fire are all options.

This was originally written by me for RevGalBlogPals and posted there on 8/15/16

Sunday, August 7, 2016

The Way of Christ (Sermon)

Pentecost 12                                       

Isaiah 1:1, 10-20; Luke 12:32-40

            Two weeks ago, I did a silly thing, since I was still on sabbatical. I looked ahead to see what the texts were for today. Innocently thinking, I’ll start preaching again and it would be good to have what I’m supposed to reflect on rattling around in my head. So I looked up the lectionary passages- that’s the list of prescribed readings for the year- and then looked them up in my Bible. In reading the Isaiah passage, I got about as far as “you rulers of Sodom” and closed the Bible with a loud swiftness. Let’s check the gospel: don’t be worried, sell your stuff, and be consumed with showing mercy and charity. Snap, close it again.

            Gosh, that’s just the stuff people looooooove to hear.

            It would be great if I just decided here, instead, to tell you some stories of my sabbatical- right. Surely, I saw some interesting things or thought some deep thoughts or was moved in some way that can bear fruit for us now. Then I can tie it up in a nice theological bow, perhaps linking back to “Be not afraid” and we can go straight to the hymn. Huzzah.

            Have we met?

            The reality is that we are actually confronting three of the most frequently occurring issues in Scripture in these passages. Sodom and Gomorrah as an example of how not to behave is the first. “Be not afraid” is the second. God’s concern with our possessions is the third. Each of these things appears so often in scripture as to be ubiquitous. If a complex, literary compilation like the Bible uses the same examples and exhortations through different styles, writers, and time periods- there must be something fairly significant about them.

            First, why are Sodom and Gomorrah mentioned in a passage that refers to God hating the way people worship? What did Sodom and Gomorrah have to do with ritual sacrifices, liturgy, or religious practices? To be very clear, the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah is one of gross inhospitality. Living in the desert requires an openness to strangers, a willingness to take them in, offer them sustenance, and care for their animals. Life in the wilderness is communal, even when you do not know each other.
            The men of Sodom and Gomorrah, when confronted with strangers in their city, not only ignored social norms and expectations and failed at God’s call to hospitality, they demanded to be allowed to do what they wanted with the strangers. In other words, not only did they fail to be generous with what they had, they decided to make the very bodies of the strangers their own property to do with what they wanted.

            When these cities reappear as examples later, it is due to a prophetic call to hospitality and alertness to God’s work in the world. In the time of Isaiah 1, which is written much later as a kind of foreword to the proceeding chapters, the people of Israel have been exiled, lived in exile, and now have returned to the land. The writer is not telling those listening to stop worshipping. Instead, they are being called out for believing that their worship life will absolve their failure to live ethically with the rest of their time and their community.

            This is where it applies to us as well. What we do with the other 167 hours of the week is as important to God as what we do in one hour on Sunday morning. Both historical and contemporary readers of Isaiah are supposed to understand that our worship can be distasteful to God, not because God doesn’t like the hymns or the order in which we do things or the candles are wrong, but because we don’t bother to align the rest of our lives with what we do and say here, which affects the people around us during this hour and all the other hours of our lives.

            Which brings us to the theme of “sell your possessions and give alms”, which really means “sell your possessions and do charity or mercy”.  I am guessing that most of you didn’t want or need a better translation on the second half of the sentence and were hoping for something different in the first half. Here is the hard truth: we all have too much stuff. We have more than we need and, if we were honest, we have more than we want.

            Just like how our worship may get separated from our living, instead of intertwined and one informing the other, so our possessions may begin to possess us. We do not have a good connotation of “being possessed”, but think of how many commercials, advertising emails, discount mailers, catalogues, print ads, and other things we receive on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. Speaking for myself, I hesitate to mention how often I see something and want it.
            Jesus’ words here go beyond mere accumulation; they are aimed directly at questioning our priorities. How dedicated are we to the way of Christ- a way of radical welcome, of mercy, of forgiveness, of generosity, of time and talent? Is the way of Christ our highest brand loyalty or does that belong to a certain shoe manufacturer, fishing rod company, athletic team, or car brand? To whom do we belong, by what are we possessed, and how would someone looking at us or our homes or our bank statements know?

            This seems like a good time to mention “Do not be afraid”. This phrase comes up again and again and again in the Bible. Why would it be repeated so often if it were not a thing God cared about? In the light of the other two examples in this sermon, does it mean- do not be afraid if you are not hospitable, not community-oriented, or if you just love stuff? No, I am pretty sure that if you find yourself in that boat, you are called to a little healthy concern about your priorities.

            However, “be not afraid” does mean that you should never doubt God’s priorities. A merciful God, revealed in the preservation of Israel through the exile and beyond and even more fully in the life and resurrection of Jesus the Christ- a merciful God will not cease to love you, will not fail to walk with you, will not stop making space, opening a path, and inviting you forward into the way.

            The Quaker writer Parker Palmer wrote about going to an elder in his community when he was struggling to find direction in his life:

Ruth's reply was a model of Quaker plain-speaking: 'I'm a birthright Friend,' she said somberly, 'and in sixty-plus year of living, way has never opened in front of me.' She paused, and I started sinking into despair. Was this wise woman telling me that the Quaker concept of guidance was a hoax? Then she spoke again, this time with a grin: 'But a lot of way has closed behind me, and that's had the same guiding effect.' (Letting Your Life Speak)

            As we go forward into the life of faith, into the life we are called, the more deeply we trust the Spirit, the more way will close behind us. The way of dedicated individualism, the way of over-consumption, the way of anxiety and fear, the way of dehumanizing strangers and alienating neighbors—the way of Christ leads 180 degrees away from all of this and as you walk into one, the other closes behind you. This is real. This is the truth. Be not afraid.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Fairy Tale Ending

The BlogHer August prompts are about fairy tales.

Do you believe it's possible for some people to get that fairy tale ending of happily ever after?

I think it depends on what we think happily ever after looks like. I read a lot of romance novels and the community of romance readers is very big on what we call the HEA (happily ever after). In fact, if there is a not a clear resolution of conflict and at least the implication that the main characters are going to live together in love and harmony, then we're fairly quick to reject it as romance. 

However, HEA covers a multitude of dishes, vacation squabbles, differences of opinion, socks forgotten on the stairs, burned dinner, and general frustration. The implication is that love will cover all these things- if indeed any of these things occur. Many contemporary (setting and writing) romances deal with a variety of more complex issues: learning difficulties, mismatched personalities, chronic illness, children who are more than genial plot devices, temptations, anxiety, and other real life/world issues. 

The next station on that train of thought for me is that if HEA was enough, the gospels would be the end of our written scripture. They would end with an empty tomb, encounters with the risen Christ, and then we would fade to the sunset. Ta-da! And Peter and James and John and Thomas and Mary Magdalene and Johanna and the other Mary all lived happily ever after. 

Except that Acts tells us otherwise. And our experience of church tells us the same. 

There is an HEA of resurrection, promise, and presence, but there is also work. Riding off into the sunset with the risen Jesus only leads to the sunrise and the one after that and the one after that. As it turns out, the fairy tale ending is just the end of the recitation. It's the commencement of the work of living out the togetherness that was the joy of the story. 

So do I believe that it is possible for some people to get that fairy tale ending of happily ever after? 

I do. I really do. But I think the ending is only the beginning- the beginning of the work of the new life, the new love, and the new reality that has been made in the HEA.