Looking through some old photos last night, it made me really happy to discover a bunch of these:
You will, of course, notice that none of the photos have snow in the background, nor am I wrapped in wool and fleece and down in any of them. We'll leave it at that; I think you know where this is going.
Yesterday was pretty great. I went to church in Peru and I got there with my little posse of cute children a wee bit late, so I sat behind my friends, Courtney and Simone. I didn't realize they were there, in the front row, until it was too late. But sitting behind them, as it turns out, was actually kind of fantastic. Because they're both as gorgeous from behind as they are from the front. One doesn't actually get many opportunities to gaze at one's friends' posteriors for an hour. I forgot how goddamned tall Simone is, and I was in awe of the fact that she was wearing a fabulous frock and cowboy boots on a freezing-cold winter day. And I loved how Courtney kept putting her arm around the woman who was sitting beside her. And, I was amazed by how great their haircuts are. I sat there, half listening to Pastor Margaret and half wallowing in my good fortune for having these sublime female creatures in my life.
Pan to Margaret reading from scripture and...surprise...this morning we have the bit from Luke where Jesus comes out of the desert after forty stinking days of suffering, returns to Nazareth where he grew up and gives one of his first sermons. The one where he basically says...OK, I get it. God wants me to preach and to help the poor and the burdened, all of the folks we'd like to pretend aren't really there in front of us, suffering...fine...I'm fine with this...let's get to work.
I'm pretty sure Margaret didn't choose that reading specifically for me, but, as it turns out, I was in the Peru Church yesterday because that beautiful and meaningful, purposeful and pulsing little house of worship, in the heart of a tiny Vermont village, was officially taking me "into care," to start the journey to ordination. That's how it works in the UCC. A person kind of says, "Well...I'm not really sure what's happening, but I think I'm supposed to become ordained." And then their pastor says, "Wow! That's great! The whole church is going to surround you with love and support and we're going to walk with you during this blessed and weird time." Or something like that. I can't say this was the easiest of decisions, because I love my church community here in Charlotte, but I adore Margaret; she is a role model for me as a woman taking to the pulpit every Sunday, as a leader in her community and as a warm, loving, and magnanimous human. She is everything I wish to be as a pastor, including bold, brave and very funny. We laugh like crazy every time we're together, which is one of the many things that draw me to her time and again. She's real. She's not pretending to have any authority or special knowledge; she's right down in all the mucky muck with the rest of us. Like Madonna, it's easy to forget she has a last name -- she's just Pastor Margaret to everyone. She signs all of her correspondences "PM," and one day I hope to do the same.
There's more to the story, though. My friends, Joy and Courtney and Ellen and Lauren and Simone and sometimes Little and sometimes even Johanna, even though she's Jewish, and Amy, though I don't know her well, but love her just the same, go to the Peru Church. They go to church. I love them so much for that. We can't do this thing without each other. I know I can't do this strange thing alone. The desert of life is hard; I have no idea why God wants me to stand in front of a congregation on Sundays. It doesn't really make any sense; it's actually kind of funny. But if I'm gonna do it, then by golly I'm gonna do it with that crew of brave and smart and gorgeous women around me, and, like Margaret, laughing all the way to the pulpit. And beyond.