4th Day of Christmas: Kindreds Podcast

Today’s find is a great podcast that debuted last summer:  Kindreds Podcast.  It’s really an extended, compelling conversation about all things faith, feminism and friendship, hosted by two young southern women:  Ashley Peterson and Katey Zeh.

I connected with Katey when she was working awhile back with the United Methodist Board of Church and Society in the area of reproductive health.  When she announced on Facebook that she and a friend were starting this podcast, I made sure to listen to the premier episode.  I haven’t missed one since.

I listen because Katey and Ashley bring a faith perspective and a breadth of human experience to matters that affect women, work, the church and our culture.  They share from a place of deep friendship, humor and reflection about their lives whose generation and geography are different from my own.  I appreciate the questions they have thought through, like what is “emotional labor,” and why might we reconsider the term “Ole Miss.”  Each episode ends with some book recommendations and other resources that are linked at their web page.  Here’s an example, from one of my favorite episodes, on what it means to be white.  These are such important conversations.

If you’re a young woman, care about young women (or women in general), wonder what young progressive women are thinking about, or wonder what a good, grounded female friendship might sound like, I hope you’ll check out Kindreds.  I think you’ll be glad you did.


Scroll down or click for the first 3 days of Christmas:

Day 3:  Air fryer

Day 2:  Becoming a Patr(e)on

Day 1:  LeVar Burton Reads

3rd Day of Christmas: Air Fryer

From the sublime to the mundane, today’s offering is the air fryer–which we discovered via my Auntie Margaret during a stay with her in Richmond in late October.  Dan ordered one that arrived here the same day we flew home, and we have used it at least daily ever since.

The air fryer essentially operates as a small convection oven that doesn’t take time or energy to pre-heat. The “fryer” part of its name is a little misleading, although it can be used to cook sweet potato fries (my favorite!) or other fried foods that you might previously have prepared in a deep fat fryer.  We are enjoying those foods, without any of the fat content, and they come out crispy, hot and delicious.  It’s great for fish, fries, monkey bread, and other dishes that can be prepared in small quantities.

You do have to think small.  The cooking space is only so big.  It works well when you’re cooking for one or two, but for larger groups we find ourselves turning on the oven. And it takes quite a bit of space on the kitchen counter; we had to do some rearranging to make it work. But for now, at least, it has become a helpful addition to our kitchen!

Here’s a link to the one we have, in case you want to check it out.


My earlier days of Christmas:

2nd Day of Christmas: Being a Patr(e)on

1st Day of Christmas 2017: LeVar Burton Reads

2nd Day of Christmas: Being a Patr(e)on

For the second day of Christmas, I’m sharing a musical resource that has enriched 2017 for me. It combines inspiring music that is useful in my ministry with the opportunity to support a talented, independent, progressive musician–of which there are far too few. I speak of the Patreon site of my friend Richard Bruxvoort Colligan, who creates worship songs for the church.

Through Patreon, you sign up as a “patron,” which allows you to pledge a certain amount for each song Richard releases. Depending on the level of your support, you receive by download some combination of .mp3 recordings, lead sheets, piano scores, chord charts, original art, occasional videos and even online concerts. My pledge (through Women at the Well) is $7 per song, so we get everything we need to use this music in worship. With 2-3 songs issued per month, it’s an affordable way to receive usable, relevant, very singable music that enriches worship.

There’s a lot of information about Richard and his music at the link. What it doesn’t say there is that he and his wife Trish are amazing humans, musicians, leaders, advocates, and encouragers. We became friends seven years ago after I attended a retreat they led on planning worship for Advent and, soon after, a drum-making retreat near their home in Strawberry Point. From that beginning, I have become a fan of so much of their music, including  their Behold CD of Christmas music and Trish’s 2014 solo CD Wild Acre. In recent years, Richard has dived deep into the Psalms, which means his work is wonderfully grounded and amazingly relevant to a broad range of life experiences. Here’s a short video where he explains what he’s about, and a 23-second description of his music. 

I can’t tell you how many times I listen to Richard’s most recent release and find it perfectly fitting for a worship series I am planning, or I look back at past songs and find something that speaks beautifully to a theme that only just emerged. We “wait[ed] full of hope” through Advent, and we “ke[pt] our steps steady” all through the fall as we journeyed with Moses and the Israelites on the way from slavery to the promised land. The somewhat experimental and organic prayer song, “We Pray, We Love,” has become a recurring favorite in our prayer time in worship at the prison, with its deep truth that I have repeated so many times: We pray for what we love, and we love what we pray for. These few examples barely scratch the surface of why I love Richard’s music.

I hope you’ll take a look and consider becoming a patron. Even if you aren’t a worship planner, there is much here that will bless you–not the least that you will know you are supporting the singing of truth and justice in a world that is longing for those melodies. Just think:  Richard BC can be on your list of gifts that enrich 2018!


The rest of the days of Christmas:

1st Day of Christmas 2017: LeVar Burton Reads

1st Day of Christmas 2017: LeVar Burton Reads

I’ve been thinking about some books, podcasts, resources and products that have enriched 2017 for me. Starting a day late, I thought I’d share one for each of the 12 days of Christmas. I’d love to hear from you what would be on YOUR list.

For the 1st day of Christmas, I want to lift up LeVar Burton ReadsIt’s a podcast by the actor you may know from Star Trek, who hosted Reading Rainbow, a PBS children’s show that ran for more than twenty years. This time, Burton reads short stories, aimed at us grown-ups. The podcast debuted in June, with 12 episodes and a couple of bonus episodes so far. The reading is accompanied by understated sound effects that enhance the story. Each episode is 30-60 minutes long, which makes it an easy listen during a commute or two.

I happened on this series at its inception, through a friend’s Facebook page, and have eagerly awaited each installment. My enthusiasm isn’t based on any particular Burton fandom; it is built on my appreciation for his story selection and the quality of each production. The stories come from a range of authors that I mostly did not know, across a range of genres from sci-fi to fantasy to Western, and spanning multiple continents. I find myself thinking about the worlds these stories weave long after the reading ends.

There hasn’t been an episode I didn’t enjoy, but if I had to choose a couple of favorites, I’d mention these two:

Episode 2:  “The Lighthouse Keeper” by Daisy Johnson

Episode 8:  “The Second Bakery Attack” by Haruki Murakami

I’m reluctant to even name those favorites, because that leaves out “Goat” by James McBride–a bonus episode from October–and “The Paper Menagerie” by Ken Liu (Episode 11).  Oh, and I really liked “What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky” by Lesley Nneka Arimah (Episode 5).  You see the problem!  Just go and listen.  I hope you’ll enjoy these as I have.

And watch tomorrow when I’ll share another 2017 favorite.

Unlikely Christmas Caring

Over the next few days, 52 police chiefs in 52 police departments around the nation will receive an envelope from Women at the Well, a church inside the Iowa women’s prison. The envelope contains Christmas cards and a letter from me, the pastor of this amazing church.

The Christmas cards are handmade. Some include hand-drawn trees and figures. Others have images and words cut out of a prior season’s cards and rearranged on a piece of construction paper, cardstock, or scrapbook paper. Most have a handwritten note. Words like “Thank you for your service,” or “My prayers are with you and your families.”

The cards were created during a Christmas Open House that we held on Friday afternoon a week ago at the Sacred Place, the chapel at the prison. This is the third year we’ve hosted such an event, with carols, crafts, warm conversation and card-making. In past years the cards have gone to homeless youth shelters and to domestic abuse/family violence shelters in Iowa. This year, though, Women at the Well’s leaders selected a different recipient. “We’ll need to include a letter that explains why they’re getting them, and where they’re from,” one leader said.

So each envelope contains a letter that begins with these words: “The enclosed Christmas card comes to you and the members of your department from a most unexpected group in a most unlikely place: The residents of the [Iowa women’s prison].” You are receiving this envelope, the letter goes on, because your department lost an officer to gun violence this year.

This experience was brought close to home for us in early November when two officers were shot ambush style in the Des Moines metro area. I awoke to the nightmare of this news, helpfully shared by an alert on my phone, too early that morning. Later that day I called my friend Cindy and could muster nothing more than “WTF?” Thus was Iowa ushered painfully onto the list of nearly 30 states that have suffered these tragedies. In far too many places, we know people who knew those officers, or their families, and their colleagues. Our hearts are broken.

As we got this mailing ready, it seemed clear to me that I needed to sign the letters individually. I pulled out my blue pen, sat down and almost immediately my sight was blurred by tears. The names and places of these losses  made them unbearably tangible, from Auburn, Massachusetts to Palm Springs, Calfornia and from Riverdale, Georgia to Fairbanks, Alaska. Some locales evoked stories I knew from the news: Dallas, Baton Rouge, and Americus, Georgia. Other letters were headed to places that connect with my own life: I’ve been through the very small town of Fairplay, Colorado. I took the bar exam (in my previous career) in Columbus, Ohio. I signed, and wept, and jotted notes of connection and care on those letters and worked my way through the pile, and the year.

We know, said our incarcerated women, through our volunteer Karen Tisinger, who invaluably facilitated this project. We know firsthand how the holidays intensify feelings of loss and separation. We know this season of Christmas will be particularly difficult for officers in these departments who are still mourning the loss of colleagues and friends. We know what it’s like to be stereotyped and be judged unfairly; we have seen that happening to you who wear the badge, and we know—for different reasons—how hard that is.

It’s an amazing witness, from women who could just as likely resent members of law enforcement. For nearly every one of my church members, a police officer is part of the story that brought her to prison. Yet our women said, again and again, please let these officers know of our respect for those who protect and serve.

A note from Michelle on one of the Christmas cards is representative of the sentiment shared by many of our sisters. She writes, knowing this will be sent to a police department somewhere: “Dear Loved Ones, Know that you are in my thoughts on these days and those to come. You are prayed for and loved so very much! You truly are my heroes! You saved my life! Thank you!”

Another woman writes: “Happy Holidays may you have peace. Whoever gets this card I love you and pray that you’re safe always when you walk out the door and back to your family. Merry Christmas from me, an African American young Woman. All lives Matter.”

It is our hope that police chiefs will share these cards, and this story, with the members of their departments. We hope those officers will in turn be encouraged and heartened by this unexpected expression of caring, born of our common humanity, heartfelt compassion and this season when love and hope are born again.