A Women’s Bible that’s not pink!*

It’s here! 

One of the most frequent questions I got as a parish pastor was, “What kind of Bible should I buy myself/my mother/my daughter?”

This was hard to answer, because the version that I usually recommend is not cute. It’s not pink. It’s filled with great insight and commentary, and the translation is very close to the Greek.

But most of the commentary is written by dudes. Here’s where I put in the standard disclaimers, I like dudes, some of my best friends are dudes, etc. But anyone who has heard a woman preach can tell you that even if we’re not playing the woman card (ahem), we’re still looking at the text from a different perspective.

This Bible that I got in the mail from Abingdon Press (full disclosure: it was free in exchange for my honest review, which you are now reading) made me very, very happy, and this is why. It’s a Bible written for women, but also BY women! That shouldn’t be revolutionary, but it is! A quick glance at the editors and authors reveals that many are United Methodist clergy, as well as professors, pastors, and teachers from many other denominations. And they are all women.

However, this Women’s Study Bible is not filled with adorable anecdotes about washing kitchen towels and thinking about Jesus (not that there’s anything wrong with that, okay?). It’s filled with well-researched sidebars about the Biblical background and characters, occasionally inviting one to imagine the scene, occasionally telling more of the story. There’s nothing cute about it, and that’s a good thing. It has an “index of unnamed women,” among other unique indices, and I’ve never seen that before.

I will recommend this Bible, and I do recommend it if you want a Bible that will help you interpret the stories with the help of scholars who are also women. I would recommend it in companion with the excellent “Women’s Bible Commentary” (by Newsom, Ringe, and Lapsley) which gives a few more women-focused comments for each chapter, and that would be the only weakness that I see, if it is one. As the description says, it can be used for group Bible study, for women in the pews and in church leadership, and for individual study.

If you’re a Bible translation nerd like me, the CEB checks out. Words like “anthropos” are translated “humanity,” instead of the less accurate “man.” It’s still nice and poetic where it needs to be, but with more modern words. I’m a fan!

*It’s not straight up pink, but it sorta…hints at the color pink. And I’m okay with that.


Last week after I was finished with my call, I did something that had been a long time wish of mine, a bucket list kind of thing. I went hiking alone for a few days on the Appalachian Trail. Scott (husband) was calling it my “walkabout” because I wanted to go think about the past eight years, as well as what might be coming in the future. And I also wanted to go clear my head after a crazily emotional few weeks, ending my call.


Understatement of the year: it was a LOT harder than I thought it was going to be, and I’ve done a bit of hiking. It was a LOT more uphills and a lot more downhills, and the downhills weren’t necessarily easier than the ups. Okay, they were, a little, but two of my toes are still numb from the rocky downhill climbs.

I won’t lie…I was a little freaked as I started out by myself, southbound from Dick’s Creek Gap in Georgia. But it wasn’t 15 minutes into one of the hardest climbs I’ve ever done (my out of shape 40 year old body wasn’t helping!) that I met a young woman who looked like every camp counselor ever. She was smiling and shiny in the early morning, and said to me, “How long to the road?” which i would learn is one of the most common question on the trail, second only to “how long to the top?” I told her it was only about 15 minutes and she said, “Glorious!”

I took that as a good omen, and relaxed into my hike. I had to stop frequently because the climbs were so intense (the first one was 2000 feet up in less than a mile!), but I tried to stop and look around at the trees, hear the birds, and the sunshine coming through the forest. I met lots of people coming the other way, and they all looked like either my stepdad or camp counselors. No one was middle-aged, except me, who was lucky enough to have this week to spend walking in the woods.


After walking all morning and into the afternoon, and seeing some amazing views, I was DONE. I had planned to do about 10 miles the first day, but that was not going to happen. I made it about seven miles, pitched my tent, did some reading, fetched my water, cooked dinner, and went to sleep. Alone. In the woods.

I have never felt so safe.

When I woke up there were two young sisters and a Labrador camped nearby, and they seemed as happy as any of us to be spending some time out there.

I hiked all day again and was very, very happy and very very sore and tired.

That night it rained, and then an hour later the wind began to blow. When I woke up the next morning, the temperature was 34 degrees. I was way too cold, but I got up, put away my tent with breaks because my hands started getting numb, and then got moving. The wind didn’t stop gusting all day.

I finally called my husband to bail a day or so early. As I was setting up a ride into the nearby town to wait, it began to HAIL. I took that as a sign that getting out before the fun stops was the right thing to do.

I came home talking about my next hike, and that makes it a success in my mind! It was cold, I was tired, I was sore, the uphills SUCKED, but there’s something about being in a green tunnel with mountain views for miles and miles that’s addictive.

I also came home with a clear head, grateful for my family, grateful for my job that I finished well, and for my warm house. Total success. And now, on to the next adventure! I’m not sure what it is yet, but I’m definitely ready (and I’m bringing gloves this time).





Cleaning out

Letter of callI’m cleaning out my office today.

I’m leaving my beloved call of almost eight years, and I’ve procrastinated on packing up books until almost the last minute. Well, the last minute for ME (I’m not a procrastinator…I’m an obsessive planner). And today I’m packing up my books, pictures of my kids and godson, drawings children have made for me over the years, cards I was given for pastors’ appreciation month, and such.

It’s really hard.

I moved seven times in my first fourteen years, and this is my fourth call, so you would think this would be easy. If not easy, then at least familiar. But there’s nothing familiar about this. I didn’t mean to stay here so long…I didn’t mean to take an associate pastor call…I didn’t mean to love this church and its people.

Why am I leaving? That’s the million dollar question. Since I announced my resignation, I’ve heard all kinds of fun rumors from “she’s getting her doctorate,” (I wish!) to “the synod’s making her do it,” (not at all!) to the all time classic for women, “she’s leaving to spend more time with her family” (ha ha! I love them, but nope!).

The true answer is both more and less complicated than any rumor I’ve heard. The truth is that I feel called away from here, even if I don’t know immediately where I’m going. They have needs in the senior pastor transition that I don’t think I can fill, that I don’t think I have the right energy to fill. I understand now why most pastoral staffs resign at the same time as the senior pastor; everything will change now, no matter how we try to stop it.

So I’m cleaning out my office. People are coming by to say goodbye every day. My last sermon is on First Corinthians 13, the wedding scripture, which I think is pretty appropriate. It talks about everything passing away, but only love remaining, which is how I feel about pretty much life in general right now.

I’ll end my call on May 1, 2016, exactly seven years after the bishop signed my letter of call. Seven is a biblical number, and means completion. I’m going to go with that little sign, and complete my ministry here with great love for this church and these people. That feels like the most huge accomplishment of all. Peace and blessings to Holy Trinity…I wish you the best and will be praying for you always.



My Grandma and the Paschal Candle

As many of you know, my Grandma, Edna Caroline Wiesman Birkholz, died on Sunday morning, January 31, 2016. I wrote this blog about her nearly four years ago, on her 90th birthday, and I wanted to repost it a couple days before her memorial service to remember her (where her paschal candle will be lit). 

So amazing! She was 90 years old in this picture!

This past weekend, we had an event on the calendar in Tennessee that we just could not miss.

My grandma turned 90 years old.

Her party was on Saturday afternoon and many of her friends and family. She wore pink, she had a pink cake and pink cupcakes, and lots of balloons, flowers, and good wishes.

My grandma may be 90, but she had more energy than many of her children and grandchildren on Saturday. She’s also very, very Lutheran.

She was born on a farm in Wisconsin, and was the 7th of 8 children. Her parents spoke German and the first church she remembers attending, German was still spoken for some services. For her wedding to my grandpa, she rode the train by herself down from Wisconsin to Texas, a war bride marrying her husband and then not seeing him for four years.

She sent every single one of her children through confirmation, and that means hardcore catechism classes every Saturday morning (my dad would tell awful stories about having to take three buses to get there). They drove into Knoxville from Loudon, a 40 minute drive then, every Sunday so they could worship at the only Lutheran Church for miles. As far as I know, my grandma hasn’t missed church maybe ever.

For her gift, because what do you give a 90 year old who’s got everything? we gave her a paschal candle for their new little Lutheran church at the lake.

In the words of most people, even Lutherans: “What’s a paschal candle?”

When the candle was unveiled for my grandma, she had no such question. She raised her hands to her face, and cried. She looked like she had won the lottery.

My grandma knew that the candle symbolized baptism. She knew that it would be lit on the day of funerals, and on Easter, and when we celebrate baptisms and Jesus’ baptism. It is a candle of hope, and of life, and it is prominent in our worship life as a symbol of all of those things. And my grandma knew instantly what a beautiful symbol this was and in honor of her own long life.

I’ll never forget her face, crying for only the third time I’ve ever seen her cry, at this great gift that most of the world wouldn’t even understand, and I thought, “These are my people. This is where I come from.” What a blessing.

Indigo Girls and Wild Goose, revisited

A few weeks ago a podcast came through my app for On Being, and it was the very interview and concert that I have pictures of here: Wild Geese

It was Krista Tippett interviewing the Indigo Girls after, as she describes it, a “biblical” thunderstorm. My daughter and I stood under someone’s shelter as the thunder boomed and the rain poured down in sheets, but I would not leave. When it cleared up, we went back and sat in our soaked chairs and listened to this gorgeousness happen. I didn’t remember the whole interview, perhaps because I had a soaked (though interested) 10 year old with me. 

But this morning, it’s exactly what I needed to hear, about singing ourselves into activism, about how we find God in smoky bars and in church hymns, and that there’s a line between secular and sacred but we can’t always draw it where we think. 

Listen, if you want to feel a little hopeful in the midst of the chaos of Advent, and the world we live in today. 

On Being, Indigo Girls

God of Grace and God of Glory

One of the questions for the past few days was about hymns. I was thinking about our hymns yesterday, because our music staff picks hymns WAY in advance, yet it was perfect for yesterday. We talked some about the events in Paris and how our hearts hurt, again.

I worked in Littleton, Colorado, after the Columbine shootings, and we sang this hymn at services where we needed to hear these words. Yesterday, we sang them again, and they’re still a good prayer to pray, I think.

“Cure your children’s warring madness,
Bend our pride to your control
Shame our wanton selfish gladness
Rich in things, but poor in soul.

Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
For the living of these days,
For the living of these days.

This is as applicable to right this minute as it was to Columbine, as it was in the 1930s when Harry Fosdick wrote it. I’m grateful for these old words that have always, always rung true to me and so many others.


I took a couple days off of blogging (to rest! and paint my kitchen a lovely shade of greige!), and was going to return. The blogging prompts are very nice, but nothing can compared to the amazing piece of writing that I finally sat down and read this morning from the Reverend Tiffany Chaney.

I had the honor to meet Pastor Chaney when she was going through candidacy. She is and was a wonderful minister and the committee agreed that she would be up to great things.

PLEASE read her words, all of them.

I have not spoken much on the racism conversation that is happening, because I have wanted to listen carefully as a white person with layers of privilege. And honestly, I didn’t know what I wanted to say.

But what I want to say today is this: LISTEN TO THIS PASTOR, today.