The Year of Jubilee

The poem Pandemic  has been shared with me several times during this Apocalypse, and because of it, I found the poet Lynn Ungar.

She is a Unitarian Universalist minister who lives in California, and not shockingly, has written many more gorgeous theological poems (my term, not hers). If you want to read another one that is about the theology of “doing nothing,” I highly recommend Camas Lilies. 

Today I read about Sabbath, and about the year of Jubilee. Because I’m an Ennegram 7, when I think about a year of Jubilee I think about Travel! Parties! Banquets! Fancy clothes and fruity drinks! JUBILEE!

Jubilee in Hebrew does not mean party, but “ram’s horn,” the shofar from which the year would be proclaimed. Listen below. It’s a call to repentence, not to party.

And biblically, the year of Jubilee sounds more like…um…what’s happening now.  The Hebrew people were not supposed to buy, sell, or work in their fields. They were supposed to only eat what they had, simply because God would provide for them. They were supposed to free any enslaved people or indentured servants, and also to let their land revert back to its original owner. And debts would be forgiven, thus releasing people from a cycle of generational poverty.

This does not sound like a party to me, but it does sound like liberation for the most vulnerable and oppressed. Also, there are guidelines about how to store up food for this jubilee year and they do not include hoarding.

(See also Lynn Unger’s Toilet Paper)

As my family of four (plus a dog and two cats) have cleared out our fridge by eating what we have, by limiting shopping trips and being creative with cooking, I think of the year of Jubilee. It’s less like a party, and more like a determination; a feeling of satisfaction in producing a meal out of nearly nothing…some limp celery, a few freezer burned chicken breasts, canned tomatoes, the spices that live in your cupboard forever can equal soup that even your teenage children (!) compliment.

I am not saying that this current plague is God’s judgment upon us. I am saying that there is a rhythm to things, and we have not been following that rhythm on the earth for quite a long time. Maybe ever.

I am saying that it is not a bad time to look around. To consider the lilies. To try out thinking of it as a Sabbath, a Jubilee, not a party, but ram’s horn, a call to action, a time to use just what you have on hand for the good of the community and the earth.

Covid 19 Pandemic

What if you thought of it
as the Jews consider the Sabbath—
the most sacred of times?
Cease from travel.
Cease from buying and selling.
Give up, just for now,
on trying to make the world
different than it is.
Sing. Pray. Touch only those
to whom you commit your life.
Center down.

And when your body has become still,
reach out with your heart.
Know that we are connected
in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.

Know that our lives
are in one another’s hands.
Do not reach out your hands.
Reach out your heart.
Reach out your words.
Reach out all the tendrils
of compassion that move, invisibly,
where we cannot touch.

Promise this world your love is
for better or for worse,
in sickness and in health,
so long as we all shall live.

–Lynn Ungar 3/11/20

The Spent Dandelion

(Pardon the dust…this blog hasn’t been used in a while!)

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In early 2018, I applied to a Lutheran seminary’s DMin program. I had carefully researched it, looked at costs, and had an Air B and B all picked out so that I could go in June. My family blocked off the time and rearranged a couple things so that I could go do this long-awaited study thing that I was so looking forward to.

In April, I got a letter and an email that the DMin program was being cancelled for the year. There had been no warning and I had even emailed back and forth with the persons at the seminary about housing, billing, and such.

Blessedly (FOR YOU), this is not a story about what’s happening at seminaries these days!

This is what happened next. Honestly, I can’t remember how I booked it (it was a tough year for many reasons) or even making the decision, but I was talking with the Rev. Dr. Anna Madsen on the phone, and she was assuring me that I did, indeed, need to come to Minnesota to the Spent Dandelion. She said something about dogs and staying and talking, and thousands of books, and I was SO IN, baby.

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I drove for two days to get there, and arrived as Grandma’s Marathon was about to happen basically across the highway from the Spent Dandelion. “The Hounds,” as Anna calls her dogs, are a joyful mess of fur and playfulness, and we spent some time getting acquainted. The retreat center itself reminds me of my first apartment in Ohio, as it’s over a garage and super cozy! I got to wander among the books in the main house, and borrowed a few to read over the next few days.

But what made the time so fantastic, other than having a space that is tailor-made for pastors who want to retreat, read, or do nothing at all, was Anna and her people. I say “her people,” because she is surrounded by a village of lovely Minnesotan folks who take care of many things so that she can think theologically, be politically active, be an awesome mama to her kiddos, and take time to talk to clergy like me over a drink about what our lives are like and what’s happening in the world.

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My conversations with Anna were not long, chronologically. But I am still chewing on what we talked about, which was call, and the Church, and thinking theologically about suffering and death.

How rarely do pastors get time to do these things.

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And how blessed a time it was. I also got to hike, do some yoga at a lovely studio in Duluth, eat a gluten free pie at Betty’s Pies, and wander around the Spent Dandelion property. I also got to spend time with Anna’s kids, who are delightful, and her dad, a retired pastor with a long history of activism for justice. We ended with a protest march, because obviously, and I left with hope. And a bottle of Minnesotan Cedar gin.

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People like Anna aren’t just THINKING about the church of the future. They ARE the church of the future. WE are. It will absolutely not look like it always has. It will look like two women, sitting on Anna’s porch, telling the truth about their lives. And then getting up, and following the Call wherever it might lead. Even to Minnesota.

Bible Sisters

Can you imagine…

A devotional book that is based around ALL the women mentioned in the Bible? 

A book that has short devotions that you can read while waiting in car pool (see picture below)?


Devotions that are short yet deep? 

Prayers that use many words to describe God, not just he or him? 

Devotions that aren’t for any specific day, because who knows when you’ll have the time to read one again? 

This book exists, and it’s called Bible Sisters. I was given a copy of it by the awesome Abingdon Press in exchange for my honest review, and my honest review is that it’s pretty great for a person with a busy life who wants an inclusive, female friendly devotional book. 

It’s written by the Rev Dr Gennifer Benjamin Brooks, who is a professor and pastor in the United Methodist Church. Her bio says, “she is committed to supporting women and speaking out in support of their rightful place in the realm of God and in the church.” YES!! 

Would you like a FREE copy of this book? I have a copy to give away so comment here, and I’ll choose someone at random. Or not. Or maybe I’ll just give it to my mom. Either way, I hope you enjoy this book if you decide to pick it up too. 

Missed a couple days but….I listen to this song while I’m running, it occurred to this white lady that rap has a lot in common with daily affirmations. If you repeat yourself over and over, “all I do is win!” That makes you feel better about yourself, and many of us can use a bit more of that. Now for the #rethinkchurchphotoaday DJ Khaled has this great quote about how he always has a lot of pillows around him, to #rest his greatness. As a person who loves resting as much as I love moving, I love this so much, even though I think the guy is a little wacko. So, friends, be #joyful today. Go for a walk or run. And then #RestYourGreatness.

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