My Dream Job

Thirty five years ago today – December 1, 1986 – I started my dream job at The Upper Room. And, thirty five years later, I am still serving in an Upper Room dream job.

While in divinity school, I had the opportunity to work for Alive Now magazine during a summer field education placement. That was the summer I fell in love with editing. I couldn’t imagine working anywhere but Alive Now, so I did freelance editing and housecleaning for two years until the Assistant Editor job came open. I applied, and a year later I was hired!

I worked with Alive Now for ten years. In 1997, I had the opportunity to become the editor of The Upper Room’s first website. After thirteen years in digital publishing, I journeyed back to Alive Now as managing editor, helping, also, to oversee the production of Weavings Journal. These last five years, I’ve served as the director of prayer and Upper Room worship life and Dean of The Upper Room Chapel.

I’m grateful to the staff of The Upper Room for teaching me, nurturing me, forming me. I would not be who I am today if it were not for those Saints, living and dead, who shaped my life. Rueben Job, Mary Ruth Coffman, Janice Grana, Judy Smith, John Mogabgab, Michael Williams, Hoyt Hickman, Mary Lou Redding, Marjorie Thompson, Deen Thompson, and so many more.

I am grateful, today, and each day, for waking up, going to the office, and working for my Upper Room dream job.

Healing from Trauma

Many of you know that I am a survivor of childhood trauma. When I got to the point of being ready to face what had happened to me, I had the privilege of receiving lots of help from my community and from professional helpers. (I’m grateful!)

On this side of the healing journey, I can see that this terrible experience helped shape who I am today — and created in me the gifts that I give the world. I can see the presence of the Holy One who took those wounds and made them into strengths that I can offer to others who have gone through trauma. I believe that God takes our wounds and transforms them for the sake of the world.

This is why I’m so excited about The Upper Room’s upcoming event: RESILIENCE | Healing Practices for Mind, Body, and Spirit. We’ll be hearing from experts around the world who will share the wisdom that they’ve gained in the areas of trauma and the healing of trauma.

I’m especially looking forward to sharing with you the conversation between Rev. Trevor Hudson and Rev. Sidwell Mokgothu, both from South Africa, both present and active during that country’s long journey from Apartheid to post-Apartheid healing. We’ll also hear from Rev. Dr. Ron Bell on the body’s responses to trauma. Rev. Dr. Amy Steele will offer us biblical narratives and a theological framework for understanding trauma. I’ll be the worship leader for this event.

The retreat is virtual — you can attend from your home or wherever! And if you cannot be present for the retreat — or if you miss any sessions — recordings will be available following the end of the retreat.

We’ve got a $15 discount for you. Just use the code FRIEND15 when you register. I hope to see you there as we work through our individual and collective traumas.

Learn more or register: UpperRoom.org/resilience.

Resilience: Healing Practices

Friends, I hope you will consider joining me in this online event at the end of September. I’ll be leading worship for the retreat. We will open with prayer at 5:00 p.m. (CDT) on Thursday, September 30 and we’ll close with prayer at noon (CDT) on Saturday, October 2nd. Join us as we create spaces to heal.

Resilience: Healing Practices for Mind, Body, and Spirit

In March 2020, everything changed. As we reflect on the last 18 months, we find ourselves in a new and unfamiliar place. The world has changed. Our work has changed. Our families have changed. We have changed. These have been months filled with trauma for people all over the world.

Now we begin the task of finding our way in this changed world, of healing from our individual and collective trauma. How do we do this? 

You’re invited to join The Upper Room as we create space to listen together as we find our way. Our virtual event will include storytelling, time for personal reflection and conversation, guided spiritual practice, and worship. This time of gathering offers spaciousness—time for reflection and interaction, a fresh array of spiritual practices to help with healing from trauma, and an introduction to spiritual tools you can use in your own healing journey or the healing journey through which you lead others. 

Speakers and workshop leaders include Rev. Sidwell Mokgothu, Rev. Trevor Hudson, Rev. Dr. Amy Steele, Rev. Dr. Ron Bell, Rev. Kimberly Orr, Kara Lassen Oliver, Rev. Beth A. Richardson, and more. 

Learn more or register today for early bird pricing.

Online Academy Day Apart

I hope you’ll consider joining me. I’ll be leading worship for Courageous Curiosity: Cultivating an Antiracist Spirituality. An Online Academy Day Apart with Lucretia Berry and Ben Boswell. August 27, 2021. Learn more and sign up.

“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” -James Baldwin

“Why is it that Christianity seems impotent to deal radically—and therefore effectively—with the issues of discrimination and injustice on the basis of race, religion and national origin?” -Howard Thurman

Join us for this online Academy Day Apart retreat with Lucretia Berry, author, speaker and founder of Brownicity – Many Hues, One Humanity (brownicity.com) and Ben Boswell, Academy alum, pastor, and creator of a nine-week spiritual formation curriculum with the working title What Does it Mean to Be White? (slated for publication by Upper Room Books in July 2022). We will engage the deep soul work of antiracism supported by the resources of community, silence, worship, and embodied spiritual practice.

Space is limited. The registration deadline is August 15, 2021.

Retreat Rates:
$75 full registration rate
$125 full rate + sponsor another participant
$40 student rate

Join us!


Blue Christmas Service

Join us on this day of the winter solstice as we gather for a Blue Christmas service — to give voice to those who are grieving and to remember those whom we have loved and lost. Even in our darkest times, God offers us hope and comfort.

The service is led by Rev. Todd Outcalt, author of Blue Christmas: Devotions of Light in a Season of Darkness, as well as Rev. Beth A. Richardson, Rev. Dr. Jacqui King, Rev. Bryan Tener, and Dylan White. Music by Rev. Dr. Cynthia Wilson, Dr. Diana Sanchez-Bushong, Tim Bushong, and Doc Hall.

The Ruler

I brought home my last load from the office on Wednesday and am starting to unpack and get things situated here at home. Plastic Jesus is sharing a cubby with Grandpa Tom’s wooden ruler.

More treasures from the office — A ruler from the pre-digital printing days.

Who knows how many years this ruler sat in the office of the Assistant Editor at Alive Now. When I arrived there in the 80’s the magazine was still being produced the old fashioned way. We sent the copy to the typesetters (amazing people who could key in strokes faster than anyone). The copy came back to us on really nice paper with the margins already set. These sheets were glued down on large sheets and marked up by the designer. The boards were then photographed and turned into plates that fit onto the printing press.

My job would be to read through the boards before they went to the production department and check the type and the instructions. That’s when I might use the ruler to try to imagine whether black words on an 80% screen of a color would be easy or hard to read.

I’m not remembering which was our first digitally-produced issue of the magazine. For a few years, the magazine was produced sometimes in the old way and sometimes in the new way. By the time the magazine was redesigned in the late 90’s, it was all digital production.

I loved the hands-on tasks of those early days of printing. And I’m so amazed to have gotten to see how much things have changed in technology since I started working at The Upper Room.

I remain deeply grateful for this wonderful work.

Related post: “Saying Goodbye to the Office.”

Saying Goodbye to the Office

So many people have lost so much this year. I’ve been fortunate in many ways. I have kept my job. I’ve not lost any friends or family to this disease. And I’ve even thrived by being able to work from home. When, six weeks ago, we learned that we would be working from home permanently and would need to clean out our offices by the end of the year, the grief of this time of massive change really hit me.

I’ve had an office at 1908 Grand Avenue for over thirty years. As I’ve worked through the process of cleaning out, throwing away, digitizing, and packing, I’ve felt both deep loss and profound gratitude. The people with whom I have worked these years have shaped and formed me. The Holy One has guided my path through the most amazing jobs. I have not reached the end of this journey just yet, but things will never quite be the same again.

I’ve been taking photos of the treasures in my office as a way to help me remember the stories; as a way to help me let go of possessions. I’m hoping to share a few of these photos with you.

This plastic Sacred Heart of Jesus has been with me since before I started working at The Upper Room. It was a gift to me from friends celebrating my calling as I began Divinity School. We were at a camp in Colorado for some days of renewal. We ate together, laughed, and sat up late at night dreaming about how to change the injustices of the church. The presentation of this plastic Jesus to me was a lovely affirmation of my calling — and a reminder not to take myself too seriously.

Jesus has graced a shelf in all of the eight offices I’ve inhabited. Now Jesus will watch over me in my office here at home.

I am grateful.

P.S. Friends, The Upper Room is not closing.   We are just going to be doing our work in a new way. The chapel is closed now because of Covid. Hopefully it will be open again after things are safe again.

Praying on Behalf the World

Nine of us gathered this morning in The Upper Room Chapel to pray with and on behalf of the world. Two guests from Colorado joined us. We sang, prayed, and lit the first candle of Advent, the candle of peace.

Our candle lighting prayer by Steve Garnaas-Holmes:

Loving God, you are our peace;
prepare our hearts for your coming.
Forge the swords of bitterness into plows of blessing;
till the soil of our souls for your springing forth in us.
Remove our heart’s defensive armor,
clothe us in light alone,
and pierce our wide-open hearts with your love.
By your Spirit in us, may we be at peace:
awake, and ready to welcome your presence.
Amen.

Join me in an online course this Advent. Child of the Light: Walking Through Advent and Christmas.

Welcome Home

Three deer, a blue heron, the call of a pileated woodpecker
Welcome me home.

The wind in the leaves, the ripples on the lake, the silence of this place
Welcome me home.

The water of life, the greetings of old friends, the words of the liturgy
Welcome us home.

This place is our home.
This place is God’s home.
Welcome home.

Session six of Academy #41, Camp Sumatanga, Alabama.

For Lovers of Weavings Journal

I’m excited about two recently released books with connections to Weavings.

The Upper Room Disciplines 2020, a lectionary-based daily devotional, features 53 writers who were contributors to Weavings: A Journal of the Christian Spiritual Life. I’m honored to be one of them, writing the meditations for the week of October 12–18, 2020. Marjorie J. Thompson writes the foreword for the book. The 53 authors include many friends and beloved writers, among them: Kathleen Flood, Luther Smith, J. Barrie Shepherd, Wendy Wright, Roberta Bondi, Michael Downey, Rachel Hackenberg, Don Saliers, Jan Johnson, Kristen Vincent, Gerrit Dawson, Marilyn McEntyre, Mark Burrows, Deborah Smith Douglas, and Kara Lassen Oliver. Available now at your favorite bookseller.

The Wondrous Mystery: An Upper Room Advent Reader. This daily Advent reader incorporates articles from Weavings. Writers include Barbara Brown Taylor, Henri J. M. Nouwen, Sue Monk Kidd, Wendell Berry, Wendy M. Wright, and other writers. Now available.