Marriage Equality – The Constantly Expanding Love of God


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This post was written in conjunction with the July 2015 Synchroblog on the topic “Gay Marriage.”

Years ago, I expressed my views supporting marriage equality.

My pastor at the time was not supportive of my perspective.  “I could help you change your mind,” he said to me.  I prayed.  I read Scripture.  I listened and read stories of the ever expanding love of God in gay and lesbian relationships.

And then I realized I couldn’t go back.  I couldn’t minimize my view of love.  Or family.  Or marriage.  There were no holy scissors big enough to eliminate the love which abides in lesbian and gay relationships.

I then chose to become a member of a United Church of Christ congregation.  It was a small congregation where everyone knew one another’s name.  When I joined, they hadn’t yet officially taken a vote to become Open and Affirming, but while I was a member, we voted in the affirmative.  The denomination had voted to affirm marriage equality in 2005.

I currently serve a congregation that is not Open and Affirming.  Without their approval, I will not perform a same-gender ceremony in the church’s sanctuary.

However, I will perform a same-gender wedding ceremony anywhere else.  Now that marriage is legal for heterosexual as well as lesbian and gay relationships all over our country, I feel it is in my theology of justice and equality that I offer this blessing to all people.

In fact, I’ve already done one.

In November 2014, I presided over the wedding and was blessed to sign a marriage certificate in Illinois for a wonderful couple, Debbie and Jessica.  I’ve known Debbie since elementary school, and I was honored to be asked to preside over their wedding.  My entire immediate family was on hand to watch me officiate the wedding for these two wonderful women.  Through Debbie and Jessica, just like the other couples whose weddings I’ve also officiated, I see how God is the God of expanding and just-filled love.

Photo of me presiding over Debbie and Jessica's wedding in November 2014.

Photo of me presiding over Debbie and Jessica’s wedding in November 2014.

They’re able to be their most truest selves – loving honestly, living authentically.  Isn’t that what God would want for each of us?

Marriage equality isn’t only a justice issue but also a pastoral issue.  When two people want to combine their lives together and form a covenant with one another in the presence of God and all of creation, the pastoral need calls for us pastors to tend to those whose hearts need care.

There will be many who believe that the Bible abhors same-gender relationships.  Yet relationships during the time when the Bible was written were ones where the men had most of the power, women were secondary human beings, and marriages were not exactly consensual for both parties.

I look at Michal, Saul’s daughter whom David won as a war prize.  Even after he deserted her and she was given in marriage to another man, David reclaimed Michal as property.  Most likely, Bathsheba didn’t have a choice except to marry David after he impregnated her (probably without her consent).  Both Leah and Rachel had to be “earned” by Jacob.  Vashti was banished because she wouldn’t provocatively dance for her husband and his friends.

From these examples we see that mutuality in today’s heterosexual relationships is much different than what we read in Scriptures.  Relationships have changed greatly even since mid-nineteenth or twentieth century Western Civilization.  This can only lead us to the conclusion that relationships continue to evolve and will continue to transform.  As long as two people can make the covenant they desire and both can agree upon, and both people can demonstrate respect for one another, then we, as church leaders, should support their love wherever it stands.

And maybe that’s the way God wants it to be.

From couples of all genders and colors and economic groups and religions and everything else, I continue to see a Divine love that’s always expanding.  I often wonder how relationships will look in fifty years.  Yet if God is the God of constant motion and the architect of love, then God will lead us to welcome love in all forms – even if it’s unfamiliar.

How will we open ourselves to new forms of family, relationships, and love?  How can we embrace what is said in Scriptures but also listen to the still-speaking God in our midst?


The following are other bloggers writing on this topic for the July Synchroblog.  Many of these writers provide views very different than mine.  In a spirit of love and dialogue as covenantal members of the Body of Christ, I still encourage you to read each of these.  May God’s love transcend the differences we hold.  Amen.


Clicking Submit


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imageAs a perfectionist, there is nothing more difficult and terrifying as clicking the submit/publish/send button.

What if I wrote didn’t make sense?

What if they don’t like it?

What if I was wrong?

And the big one…

What if I made a mistake and can’t correct it?

Each day we send e-mails and wonder how responses will be after we click “send.”  When we haven’t heard back in a while, we wonder what must be happening.  When we publish a post we double check if there’s a terrible error or humiliating typo – even after publishing – because… well, we’re perfectionists.

After checking over important e-mails, posts, and documents over and over again, we finally click submit.  We must click submit or life would be unfulfilled and our work would never be complete.  God’s call would never have been answered.  We would be living in purgatory – knowing that life can’t go forward without clicking submit.

Our seminary papers and book proposals and e-mails about future happenings and blog posts would never happen if we didn’t eventually click submit.

So we jump into the cold water of the unknown, waiting for greatness or failure or some life-changing event to take place.  We wade in this frigid lake until some response happens, whether it is negative or positive.

And we hope that the Holy Spirit will take our words and shine whatever light is needed upon them and hope that positivity will endure.

A prayer when clicking the submit button:

Loving God of the future dreams and current realities,
As we click the “submit,” “send,” “publish,” and “click here” buttons, 
As we obsess over what happens when we make that final click,
We turn our filled minds to you.
After weeks of worry and reading the same words over and over,
Hoping everything is as perfect as possible,
We must let this go.

Allow us to release our work into the world.
May our efforts be fruitful,
Our futures filled with hope,
And may we sleep well until we hear the responses from our labors.

May the Holy Spirit light the way for our words and thoughts,
That what we’ve written will impact the world for the better
And we live into your call.  Amen.

Ministry is Not Safe


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This is a post I originally wrote for the RevGalBlogPals blog feature “The Pastoral is Political”.

Ministry often seems like a very placid vocation.  We engage with congregants as they heal from their surgeries.  We attend birthday parties and anniversary celebrations, officiate weddings, and baptize babies and adults.   Even the tedious paperwork, the sermon preparation, and the thousand hours of meetings are calm ways for us to serve God and neighbor.

Occasionally, we will stumble upon experiences which are more sinister and threatening: the times our physical, emotional, and spiritual selves feel like they are in danger.  These are moments when we feel our most vulnerable and questioning the calls we have accepted.

Recently, we’ve seen how fellow clergy in Charleston, South Carolina have been gunned down within their sanctuary during a standard Bible study.  Only days after this horrendous crime, news stories report black churches being torched and 20 women clergy in the African Methodist Episcopal congregations receiving letters threatening their lives and the well-being of their families.

I’ll be honest – if I was them, I’d be running far away from my church, changing my name, and hiding under my bed.   I suppose I’m much like Peter on the day of the crucifixion – ready to cling on to the known of this life rather than stand in the openness of peril that can come with being a pastor.

Through these recent accounts rooted in racism and sexism, we are reminded once again that ministry is not safe.

I don’t necessarily know how we forget this reality.  Jesus himself found that doing justice and showing kindness led him to capital punishment.  Most of his closest followers during the first century CE met the end of their life while practicing extravagant love and grace.

In the 1940’s, Dietrich Bonhoeffer stood against the powers of the Nazi regime.  Instead of staying in the safety of the United States, he returned to be in solidarity with those persecuted in Europe.  Due to the controversial nature of his messages, Bonhoeffer was imprisoned in 1943 and executed in 1945.

Threats against the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. were nothing new during his mid-twentieth century ministry.  Yet even in the face of danger, abiding in the shadow-filled valleys, sitting in jail cells, walking in marches, Dr. King never was intimidated to cease his work.  His life was cut short at the age of 39 by a sniper in Memphis.

As Jesus said in Matthew 10 “Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”  I believe that those who place themselves, their reputations, and their well-beings at risk experience the presence of God in deeper ways than most of us ever will.

If we keep ourselves in the safest places in ministry and church life, we will never grow as clergy.  If we decide to preach on safe subjects week after week, never take part in rallies, or never speak in public or write opinions for newspaper columns, we will never understand the ministry of Christ.

At no point of our ministry are we completely free from hazards, even if we hide under beds, change our names, and move to other cities.  We can only stay safe for so long.  Not only is ministry unsafe physically, but our hearts and souls are in harm’s way as we place our most vulnerable selves on the line.  We love extravagantly, and when our parishioner walks away from the church, we blame ourselves.  When someone walks out of a sermon we’ve preached on a difficult subject, we question following the call of God.  We wonder what we could have done differently if a congregant commits suicide or a crime.  When we open our hearts fully to ministry, we will undoubtedly be hurt time and again when our loved congregants die and we no longer see their bright faces Sunday after Sunday.  We will lose a piece of our lives every time our bodies, minds, hearts, and souls are threatened, but then we will gain something greater in return.  Maybe we will see a glimpse of God’s presence as fear dissipates around us.

As Pastor Mary Rhodes, one of the women receiving a threatening letter said “Nothing is going to stop me from doing what God has called me to do.”  With faith and determination, these pastors continue in the valleys of the shadows of death knowing that God has prepared a table in the presence of their enemies.

Knowing that we can gain a new sense of Christ, ministry, and love, what could we do differently today to risk a part of ourselves for our ministry?  What can we do to stand firmly in faith even in the face of threats?  And in what ways can we support our siblings in ministry as they abide in the great shadows of threats?

For more information and to check out the fantastic writings of other clergy women writers, go to

The Sin of Symbolism


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Program title page, Sixth Veiled Prophet Festival, 1883 produced by the Compton Litho Company via Wikimedia Commons

Confession: As a young adult living in the St. Louis area around 1992, I nixed the idea of changing the name of the fair held during the fourth of July weekend.  Growing up, the festival now called Fair St. Louis was always known as the VP Fair.  Why change the name, I wondered.  IT’S TRADITION!  I cared more about what we’ve always done and less about any symbolism and meaning behind the name VP Fair.

I didn’t realize VP meant more than just the letters V and P…

As time passed, I learned more about the Veiled Prophet Fair and all festivities connected to the twisted tradition.  During their yearly Veiled Prophet Ball, young adult women from prominent families “come out” to society, with the queen nestled next to a veiled prominent older (almost exclusively white) man from the St. Louis area.  When reading about the history of the Ball, one can see the Confederate roots associated with the pomp and pageantry.

In 2014, The Atlantic wrote an excellent piece on the traditions connected to the Veiled Prophet organization, adding to my education of a deeply rooted classist and racist traditions.  Searching more on the organization, I stumbled upon their website.  The Veiled Prophet organization stresses the philanthropic and service work done in their name.  And while, undoubtedly, the organization has done wonderful things for the St. Louis area, the organization is haunted by racist symbolism in every corner – from the parade to the highly exclusive ball.

Whether it was our yearly online reminder of these annual St. Louis festivities, stories of removal of the Confederate flag, or dialogues, marches, and votes on the names of the Cleveland baseball team and District of Columbia football team that we had at UCC General Synod this week, we are examining the potential sins of symbols.  Each of these traditional icons have a history in oppression.  While those who honor the symbols today do not necessarily support or promote a culture of bigotry, implicitly, we are all responsible for the pain they are causing minority groups.

Each of the symbols I’ve mentioned continue to hold up an empire where some people are valued over others.  The icons say that our history was fine just as it was, never mind that some people were considered less than made in God’s image.

This is more than just being “politically correct.”  (I find it interesting how people of privilege always fall back on the hardship of political correctness – as if taking away a beloved symbol is worse than taking away one’s life, physical and economic freedoms, and dignity.)  With black churches burning, black Christians being shot in their sanctuaries, and black women preachers physically being threatened, it’s time for us to all gather together to make sure all people have their dignity intact – whether they are a racial minority, ethnic minority – including our Native Americans, woman or other gender minority, LGBT person, religious minority, or person with a disability.  It’s time for all of us to examine each symbol to make sure that the icon isn’t robbing someone of their worth.  It’s time for us to prioritize people over shallow and destructive emblems, and it’s time for us to seek reconciliation for our narrow-mindedness rooted in tradition.


Being Remembered 


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Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.

For just a little while today, the voice of my grandfather lingered here on the earth.

Bits of his story were heard.  His struggles were uncovered.  His trauma validated.  The hearts of survivors and the souls of the victims were recalled for moments on the United Church of Christ 

Surviving the Armenian Genocide of 1915 remained with my grandfather from the time he was six years old.  Images of death flashed back into his head now and again throughout this life.  In his final two years, he abided in silence, confined to a wheelchair post-stroke.  I often wondered what he relived in his head, haunting him, as he waited to die.

…in everything by thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

So today, I thank my denomination.  For me, this was the most personal resolution brought to General Synod that I can remember.  This is my larger church body affirming what atrocities my grandfather saw and that my kin endured nightmares while awake.
Today, more people learned about this hideous piece of history.   My sisters and brothers tweeted and voted and spoke on a well-buried piece of history.


Maybe my country won’t call this a genocide.  Maybe some people would rather focus on politics than justice.  But today, the people of God stood up and named it for the injustice that it truly was: genocide.

And maybe if we keep calling injustices what they truly are, they will never happen again.  

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

May hope abide.

The Shifting Relationship Between Parents and Kids


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There Dad and Michellereaches a point where you no longer see the dad of your teen years.  The dad who would ground you is gone.  The physically strong father has transformed into something even stronger – maybe not in body but in mind and soul.

And the energy between you and them have shifted.  The nurturer becomes the nurtured.

A few years ago, my father was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease.  While the first few years weren’t too horrible, the last couple have been heartbreaking.

Watching my dad’s health on its roller coaster trajectory has opened my eyes to the reality of this part of life: he’s aging and our time together is limited.  Our interactions are different than the way we interacted twenty years ago.

So much has changed.

Now, knowing how Parkinson’s works, my dad may live with the disease for the next 10 to 15 years – or longer.  It’s not a death sentence.  But the disease won’t regress.  We won’t grow any younger.  Even I don’t have the same energy from twenty or twenty-five years ago.  Our new normal is a middle-aged daughter and an aging dad.

Being a pastor, I see congregants age and fellow Generation X members, not to mention friends, losing parents all of the time.  My heart breaks because I know I’ll lose my parents someday in the future, and that makes me sad.

I try to cherish every hug and “I love you” while I have them around.

So on this Father’s Day, while mom and dad are still around, I want to tell you here, in public, how much I love you both.  Thank you for your love, your guidance, your support and resources – especially when heading into the ministry.  Thank you for all of the trips we took to visit seminaries and for all the trips back to Florida to prepare for ordination.  Thank you for allowing me the two a.m. phone calls when I was worried about something or another.  Thank you for caring for me after my wisdom teeth, colonoscopy and laparoscopic procedures.  Thank you for reading me stories as a child and reading over my writings (for editing) as an adult.  Thank you for teaching me and, occasionally, being open to learning from me.

It wasn’t always smooth sailing between us, and I’m truly sorry for the moodiness at 14 and moments of frustration over the past 42 years.  Overall, I think we survived pretty well.  For the two of you, I’m always grateful and blessed.

me and dad ordination day

The Glorious Exhaustion of Pastoral Care


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Jesus Goes Up Alone onto a Mountain to Pray James Tissot [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

There is nothing greater and, simultaneously, more draining than being in the midst of the squalls of grief that we encounter as clergy.

Recently, we had a few deaths in our congregation.  I loved the people who passed away as I had gotten to know each one of them.  Each death wasn’t sudden but, rather, an intense time of fading away for the dying and their families.

Being that pastoral care is probably in my top three to five passions for ministry, I try as much as I can to spend as much time as possible with the congregant ready to pass and their families.  If I can and they are awake, I bring communion to them one last time.  I’ll pray the “time of dying” litany in the Book of Worship with them and their kin.  Each time I visit them during those last days, I see them moving farther and farther from our world, drifting closer to that side of heaven.

These are some of the most sacred moments I’ve ever experienced.  God is visible as I watch their loved ones stroke their hands and kiss their heads a few final times.  Quite often, it takes everything I have to hold back the tears that are ready to gush forward from my eyes.

As pastors, we want to be as invested as possible in the lives of our congregants.  This means that the remaining hours in our day are weakened by our sapped souls.

Desks seem to pile up with papers and various other items.  Writing slows down.  Blog posts get place on the back burner.  (Usually writing is a energy-generating activity.  This particular season, I was even too tired to engage in writing.)  Maybe I forget a detail or two – names, dates, etc.  A steady stream of binge-watching Netflix becomes the norm because our minds are completely spent from our work.  Naps become the new norm.  Even though I’m an extrovert, I want more alone time to recharge.

Why am I so tired??? I would ask myself.  But I knew I was giving everything I had to my calling and knew I was exactly where God needed me to be.  I was giving life 100% of myself.  The grace of God would have to cover the rest.

Like I said, I feel incredibly blessed to be present for others in the midst of life’s messy moments.  But what I will overlook on occasion is that my self care needs to improve as I’m caring for other people.

As they say on the airplanes, place the oxygen mask on yourself before placing it on the person next to you.  If we’re not breathing, we are no good to anyone else.

Overall, I think I do well with self care.  And I know every great once-in-a-while, a rush of intense pastoral care comes into every pastor and every congregation’s life, and everything gets thrown off balance a bit.  I am blessed to have the example of Jesus, who made sure to get away to pray and rest.  But even with Jesus as model, it takes much for us to regain our spiritual equilibrium after spending our soul reserves quite quickly.

For those of you reading this who are not members of the clergy, at some point you will most likely become a caregiver.  The same rules apply.  Care for yourself as needed so that you can continue to care for your loved one.  Make sure to place the metaphorical oxygen mask on your face before placing one upon the person or persons for which you care.

Through the grace of God, the love of Christ, the energy of the Holy Spirit… and some Netflix binge-watching… spirits will revive once again.

We Have a Sex Problem, Christianity


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Christianity has a sex problem.

When it comes to physically intimate acts, by reputation Christians are known to disallow any acts between anyone except a married heterosexual couple.  Those who are single, co-habitating, and any LGBT person must remain completely and totally chaste.  Many intimate acts, including kissing (in some religious sects), are absolutely wrong in premarital relationships.

So when we hear stories of a fundamentalist Christian teen who molests multiple minor girls, we notice mixed reactions.  Some believe it’s like all other sexual sins – no more or less sinful.  Others name the acts of molestation as a more heinous crime.

The problem comes down to whether we see sex outside of marriage as breaking a legal code or something that has the potential of being a healthy act.  More conserving Christians will note that all sexual acts outside of heterosexual marriage are sinful.  They may even imply that ALL sexual acts not in the confines of marriage are equally sinful.  And they may even mention that everyone is an equal opportunity sinner.

Like many other progressive Christians, I personally don’t think that all sexual acts outside of marriage are considered sinful. Yes, this is absolutely contradictory to what the loudest people in Christianity believe.  But after placing Scripture in conversation with reason, tradition, experience together, I see that sometimes, there are no definite answers to whether someone should engage in sex outside of marriage.  Instead, there are many questions that arise: Is the situation healthy and safe?  Do both people respect one another?  Is anyone being hurt by this encounter?

For a moment, let’s put aside our differences. For those who still may believe that intimacy should not be outside of marriage, we must come together to considered one factor: some sexual acts are more devastating and painful, thus making them more sinful.  And the reason is the lack of consent.

Two consenting people having sex may just be two consenting people having sex. It’s a potentially healthy expression of the way two people like/respect/admire/love one another.  Not everyone will feel it is right to engage in premarital sex before marriage.  People who wait shouldn’t be called names and shamed – just like people who engage in sex before marriage should not be shamed.  Individual choice should be respected – as long as people are being healthy and safe.  We must respect that some people will engage in sex outside of marriage and others will not, and we must be as loving as possible to someone no matter which they choose.

But here’s when we get into a problem.  There is a HUGE difference in how we see God in relation to our sex lives.  Some will see God’s presence and blessing in an intimate consensual relationship prior to marriage.  Others will see God’s condemnation.  Some will pray to God to bless their sexual union.  Others believe God wants nothing to do with our sex lives – especially outside of marriage.

No matter which side of the conversation we fall, most of us can probably agree that sometimes there’s sin involved in sex – especially when one person is using the other, levying their power over their partner, or manipulating another person into sexual acts.  When we hear stories of rape, sexual assault, molestation, drugging a person to have sex, taking advantage of a drunk or drugged person, and touching someone inappropriately, we are listening to non-consensual sexual encounters.  Because these acts damage the relationship between God, neighbor and self, sexual abuse is, undoubtedly, sin.  Additionally some sexual encounters within an unhealthy marriage are sinful as well, notably when one spouse requires the other to become intimate.

I’m extremely tired of hearing “all sin is equal sin.”  No, that’s not the case.  When two people are expressing love or respect to one another, that is not damaging to God and neighbor like when one person is levying power over another person.  These two acts are not even in the same ball park.  I may sound like I’m judging, but when you hear the pain that comes from many women’s experience with sexual abuse, it’s time to change the system.

Just because Deuteronomy 22:38-39 says that a man can rape a woman (as long as he marries her) does not mean he should treat the woman like an object.  Additionally, just because Lot offered his daughters to be raped while they still lived in Sodom doesn’t mean we can look the other way when women’s bodies are used as commodities.  Likewise, it wasn’t right when they had non-consensual sex with their father to get pregnant.  And it wasn’t ethical when King Xerxes banished Vashti when she refused to be objectified.

Just because the epistles mention that women must submit their lives to their husbands (1 Peter 3, 1 Corinthians 7:4) does not mean men have the right to rape their wives.

We must thoroughly research scriptures which require a woman to have sex with her husband each night or when she isn’t in the mood.  If anyone is manipulating their spouse or partner into sex, it isn’t consensual.  When webpages exist that are dedicated to making sure women are required to have sex with their husbands each time he wants it (because it’s God’s will), then we have a sex problem, Christianity.  When people are considered bad when they have sex prior to marriage and then bad when they don’t have sex after marriage, then we have a sex problem, Christianity.  When your sex rules don’t include Leviticus 18:19 but absolutely must include Leviticus 18:22, then we have a sex problem Christianity.  When Christian groups have materials that blame women for being molested and raped based on how they are acting or what they are wearing, then we have a sex problem, Christianity.

When we don’t look at the bigger picture with the Duggars’ situation, we have a problem with sex, Christianity.  Josh was 14 when he sexually abused minor females.  And Jim-Bob decides to swiftly and silently sweep the situation under the rug.  But did anyone ask how these women are?  Do any of the statements given mention the pain, shame, and humiliation that the women experienced?  Did anyone ask if Josh was abused at some point?  (Many abusers have been abused in the past.)  Does anyone wonder if Josh has experienced the help he needs so that he’s not putting other people at risk?  This isn’t just about judging or forgiveness.  It’s stopping unhealthy patterns so that the cycle of abuse stops.  It’s making sure that those who have been hurt can find new life.

Undoubtedly, God will forgive Josh – just like God will forgive all of us.  That’s what unconditional grace is about.  But this doesn’t mean that his actions are far from gone in the lives of five females.  This doesn’t mean that they are ready to forgive him.  This isn’t the time for us to rush to forgiveness.  This is time for us to understand what healthy sexuality is, find ways to have conversations so that more 14 year old children don’t feel compelled to abuse their sibling, and stop parents from sweeping the problem under the rug.  This is time for us to extend our hand of grace to these five girls so that they won’t feel the shame that they probably carry in their hearts.

Christianity, let’s look at what sex, consent, and sin mean.  It’s time for us to change the language of appropriate sex from “good” and “bad” to “unhealthy,” “healthy,” and “consensual.”  God’s ready for our conversation.  Are we?

 The current version of this post has been edited from the original.

The End of an Era… And a Beginning: An Affirmation of Call for Don Draper


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AMC/Mad Men

*Warning: This post contains spoilers*

So that’s how it ends… with a smirk and a Coke ad.

Immediately, dedicated fans went to a cynical place… Mad Men‘s Don Draper sold out… He was just in this for the advertising…

I disagree.

I do not believe Don’s resulting peace from the search for his identity wasn’t short lived.  Quite the opposite.  He found peace in being Don Draper.  He found serenity in the slivers of his identity which remained Dick Whitman.  And through his search, he discovered that in his soul, he was Don.

He was an ad man with a creative spirit at his core.

Much like Romans 14:14 “I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean…” there is nothing sinful or wrong about advertising in itself.  People like to think that Don returning to his passion meant that he abandoned all spiritual growth.  Rather, I believe Don’s future indicated that ads can be used to send positive energies into the world – not just to objectify people and sell products.  Think about the ads on television.  Which ones bring positive memories?  Which ones would you rather never see again?

I remember the Coke ad portrayed in the final scene from the early years of my childhood.  Even though Coca Cola was trying to sell a product, they wanted to capture something positive at the same time, and spread that positive ethos into the world.  The ad left harmonious feelings within me – probably for the remainder of my life.

In a past life, I was in marketing and public relations.  I wrote press releases, created events that would attract people, and found ways to showcase our brand to the world.  This work was thrilling.  Being able to create and promote brought new challenges, unpredictability and the joy of art.

I still do some of this today.  But now that I’m promoting God instead of products, it’s called evangelism.  Like I said – advertising and promotion can be for good.

We like to think  that some professions are the “good” or “clean” professions and others are “bad” or “unclean.”  (Think about Jesus’ time.  Tax collectors were the ultimate unclean job – besides taking care of pigs.)

Clergy, police, military, doctors and teachers are often considered the “clean” professions while advertising agents, lawyers or a plethora of other professions are “unclean.”  Yet clergy and teachers are found in sexual misconduct.  Occasionally, police and military will abuse their power.  Of course, most people in these professions are noble and kind-hearted.  But a profession should never dictate whether or not someone is a decent person.

Likewise, a profession shouldn’t indicate that someone is cynical or selfish.  Lawyers defend innocent people and stand for noble causes all of the time.  And artistic folks invigorated in the thrill of birthing an idea to build a brand use their creative juices to paint a picture and invoke emotions.

That was Don.  But in the evolution of Don Draper, we see a soul continue to struggle and grow.  Even though this growth happened, it doesn’t mean he must give up advertising.  Instead, he uses advertising as a medium to bring the happiness he now has experienced into the world.

Don’s passion for advertising transcended much in his life.  No matter what his personal life entailed, he still had a knack for the creative.  When he felt his creativity became suffocated (in the antepenultimate episode), Don immediately left the meeting with the Miller rep and a room full of fellow ad men.  The last passion he held onto, creativity in advertising, was drifting away from him, deepening his identity crisis.  He needed to wander.

For three episodes, Don searched for who he was.  Was he Don?  Was he Dick?  Was he an ad man, a fraud, a cheat?  What has he done with his life?  Did he give honor to the real Don Draper?

There is admiration in Don’s journey.  He didn’t abandon the retreat when exposing his fallacies, suffering a panic attack and possibly contemplating suicide.  He continued the tough work that was needed to find his true identity and discover whatever peace he needed to be his best self.   While Don always professed “moving forward,” he had to work through some demons before he could truly move forward with his life.

He finally found peace.  And then he found clarity.  And then his creativity came back – in greater and positive ways.

So what if he went back into advertising?  That’s Don at his best.  Being at his healthiest and happiest, he will only produce quality ads – ones that take us to a place of bliss.

And that’s why we always will want to buy the world a Coke and live in harmony.


Just tonight, I discovered this article in which Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner explained the conclusion.  While most of this was written before discovering the article, I am excited to see that my conclusion wasn’t far of from Weiner’s thoughts.

There’s a Woman in the Pulpit (and She’s Human!)


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I remember the weekend of my ordination in March 2011.  My best friend from seminary and I were in Florida for the ceremony, and we decided to head to a local dance club close to the hotel.

I love to dance.  In my mid twenties, I used to go dancing every single weekend – and at this particular establishment.  By the time I was called into ministry and definitely before I was 30, I had tired of frequenting dance clubs.  Maybe once or twice a year I would still like to slip into a dance club or other music venture and dance away.  But now, I was becoming a Reverend, someone holy.

And I questioned how this holy girl should act…

Should I be at a club dancing?  Should I have a drink with my closest friends?  What will people think when I get up to sing Madonna’s “Like a Prayer” during karaoke?  When I date – what will it be like to tell my date that I’m an ordained pastor?  Who will I be now that I’m the Reverend Michelle Torigian?

In the process in accepting a sense of call, I believe there is a part of us that changes, but the core of who we are remains the same.  My goal was to discern which parts of myself were core to who I was.  And that included living as healthy and honestly as possible.

Since becoming a pastor, I’ve been able to speak and write frankly about my challenges with endometriosis and anxiety – – not to mention being single.  Through this level of transparency, I’m living a life that will hopefully give others encouragement as they live in the shadow-filled days of their lives.  I thank my dear clergy friends for their support in encouraging me to be my truest self.

For a bout a year now, I’ve been part of the RevGalBlogPals webring.  Each of us bring own our experiences of joys and struggles in the pulpit and other parts of our lives.  Because of this group of clergy who shares struggles and joys of our personal lives and ministry, we are able to gain the strength we need to be healthy pastors.  I appreciate what my colleague Rev. Julia Seymour says in her There’s a Woman in the Pulpit essay entitled “Of Facebook and Angels”:

The Internet, Facebook, blogs, Twitter – they are not monoliths of anonymous power.  They are potential bridges of hope, healing, and hospitality.

There’s a Woman in the Pulpit encompasses this spirit of clergy community in RevGalBlogPals and explores the themes on which female clergy… sometimes all clergy… focus our attention.  It’s a vocation like no other, and being able to share our deepest thoughts publicly will hopefully help other clergy from feeling alone.  Being that we are female clergy, there tend to be fewer of us, and many of us are still trying to understand our own identities as women in a predominantly male-dominant calling.

I feel extremely blessed to have been part of There’s a Woman in the Pulpit.  Maybe through my essay “Always a Pastor, Never a Bride” (on being a single female clergy performing weddings) as well as my other writings on various subjects, I’ll join other writers to build bridges helping clergy who abide on lonely islands feel less alone.

More posts on the RevGalBlogPals blog tour.

For more information on or to order the book, see Skylight Paths Publishing or Amazon‘s pages.  



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