Father’s Day


Skip (Daddy) and Sarah (6 months)

My favorite teacher was not a teacher of elementary or secondary school. He didn’t assign Robert Frost’s poetry or genetics.

My favorite teacher taught me measurable things, such as, how to say the alphabet, how to count, and how to tie my shoes. But he also taught me immeasurable things. He taught me to take the untraveled road. He taught me that eye color, hair color, and skin color were just a way to keep name with the people they belonged to. He taught me to listen, not to the “what” of a person, but to the “who.”

Everything he taught me, he taught by example. He sang the alphabet song with me until I could say it without music or his help. We counted my fingers and his fingers until I didn’t need fingers to count on. He taught me to do right and take the untraveled road by taking it himself. He taught me the “what” of a person isn’t important by treating people like people. He taught me to listen to the “who” of a person by listening to me, not as a child but, as a person, and by listening to a quadriplegic, not as someone helpless but, as a person.

My favorite teacher was my father. Because my parents divorced, I only lived with my father on a day-to-day basis for six and one half years. For six years after the divorce, I only saw him for a weekend, at first on a regular schedule, and later the visits were fewer and father apart. When I was twelve, my father moved to California and I only got to talk to him on the phone once in a while, until he died when I was fifteen.

Every school teacher that taught me built onto the foundation that my father laid. I can read and understand Robert Frost because of my father teaching me the alphabet and to take the untraveled road. I can study genetics and know that it makes up the “what” of a person, but be able to hear the “who” because of my father — my favorite teacher.


I found the above essay written for “Into to Education” in a folder of writings I have kept. It is dated Jan 21. I think it had to be 1986. Sister Cornine wrote on it “You write well!”

One of my early memories on one of the weekends with my dad was at Emmanuel Baptist Church way out in the country where my dad was the Music Minister. We often saw deer as we traveled the small twisty road in the early morning as the mist rose. I was standing in the front of the church singing for all I was worth, signing the words my dad had taught me, while he played the piano, and sang counterpoint to “O How He Loves You and Me.” Now when I hear the contemporary “O How He Loves Us” all of that comes flooding back to me.

My dad was also the first gay man I ever knew. He helped shape and form me as the Christian I am today. I know about God’s love, in part, because one of my first examples was watching my dad love his neighbor as himself.

I came back from CTCYM (Central Texas Conference Youth in Mission), where I was pretty much out of touch, to hear fully about what happened in Orlando. We Christians can’t let hate and fear have louder voices than love and grace. To quietly stand by talking about how sad it is for people die like that is not good enough. It is too much like those in the parable of the Good Samaritan who kept walking. There are people in danger! In both metaphorical and literal ways, we must step in and take care of them! We have to tend the wounds and stop the bleeding. We must keep people safe. People are people regardless of anything else. As Christians, we are called to care for one another.

I can’t help but think about my dad’s example on this Father’s Day. My dad knew God’s love. He showed God’s love. I learned about God’s love from watching him treat people as people. O how God loves you and me. We have to use more than our words to show God’s love.

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Prayer of Confession

I wrote and prayed this Prayer of Confession tonight. While I was on mission trip last week Rev. Dr. Andy Mangum, Pastor, First Christian Church, Arlington, Texas called asking me to participate in the prayer vigil. Andy is a dear friend and colleague in ministry, he knows I’ll say “yes” to him if my calendar is open. He’s also the one who gave me the Prayer of Confession. There were 7 ministers and the Mayor of Arlington with a Community Choir and Praise Dancers.

“Rising From the Tragedy” (Churches of Arlington) Prayer Vigil for Mother Emanuel AME Church, June 22, 2015 @ 7:00 pm, College Park Center, University of Texas at Arlington

Prayer of Confession

by Rev. Dr. Sarah E. Howe Miller, Ph. D., Pastor, UMC of the Covenant

O God we confess that we have failed to love you with our whole hearts. We have not done your will. We have been more willing to pray prayers of confession than to love our neighbors as ourselves. We confess that we have not been willing to use our voices and our power to bring about racial justice and equality for our sisters and brothers so all of your children can be safe and valued without regard for their skin color or neighborhood or the building where they worship. We confess that we have jumped to conclusions about mental status or religious upbringing without regard to facts in evidence allowing the media to spin us based on race.

O God, we are praying people but we want to be people who put our prayers into action. Send your Holy Spirit to convict us of our complacency and move us to use the power we do have on behalf of those who need to be heard. Help us raise the voices of those who have been ignored or silenced for too long. We cannot sit by while our sisters and brothers continuously suffer and die. Call us out of our pews and our churches where we pray for peace and make us peacemakers. Put us into action.

O God, let us be the ones who work with You so that “justice rolls like a river, and righteousness like a never-failing stream!” (Amos 5:24) Let us be the bearers of grace and mercy with love written on our hearts. Let us be the healers of suffering and pain with humbleness born of sorrow. Let us be the partners of equality and justice with respect for those weary from the fight.

O God may the call of the prophets for justice so long ago resound within us so we turn toward you working to dismantle systemic racism, working to bring justice, continuing the work you have already begun, joining our voices with those already speaking and shouting. May our tears of grief and our prayers for comfort accompany those of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church and all those affected by the shooting knowing that we are the Body of Christ joined with the great Cloud of Witnesses who have gone before us.

O God, we give you thanks for all the ways you give us strength in our weakness, comfort in our sorrow, and hope in our times of grief and loss. You are our Rock and our Fortress. We do not need to be afraid knowing that you are an ever present help. We lift up this prayer with the assurance of your grace and forgiveness through the gift of your Son and the power of your Holy Spirit. Amen.

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The advantage of waiting to tell a family story until you are back at your home away from the rest of the extended family is you get to tell it your way without their corrections. And those who know me best know that I usually tell stories better my way anyway … so here’s my version of some of the story. I’m sure I’ll come up with more later.

Before we had cameras on our phones, it was always a surprise to see what the pictures would be when they came back. There’s a picture on my Facebook feed from 1979 with Mimi laughing and Grandpa’s look of adoration is priceless. Everyone should be loved with that kind of immeasurable love.

Before Mimi retired, Grandpa would get up, start the coffee, go out and milk the cows, feed the animals in the feed lot, come back in, and bring Mimi her coffee in bed. After she retired, he would ask her if she wanted her coffee in bed or at the kitchen table. Grandpa died in 1989 and she missed him everyday. As someone who has studied grief, I honestly don’t think she had complicated grief. I think she simply had longing. Who wouldn’t when you had someone who brought you coffee in bed and adored you? Grandpa and Mimi had invested in each other and the community in which they lived. Everywhere she went and looked were reminders of him and their shared life and love. She wasn’t refusing to invest in each new day. She did that. She made new friends even at the “retirement” center. And protested God leaving her here because she had done everything she needed to do even while she continued to influence those who cared for her with her faith.

Mimi had the uncanny gift of simultaneously being able to find the cloud in every silver lining and lifting the gifts and blessings of God in life. She knew about suffering all her life since her mother died when she was 12 and she was the oldest. Even though her father moved all of them, her and her brothers and sister to live with her grandmother, she took the responsibility to raise them all very seriously. Mimi had a touch of TB when she was 14. They put her in the attic with the window open and froze it. The snow came in on the quilts and blankets where she slept as they worked to save her. She ended up with two small spots on her lungs for the rest of her 97 years.

Her first husband died of a heart attack when her youngest son was still in high school. She was a book keeper at the Missouri Farmers Association, the local feed store and grocery where Grandpa was the manager. He had compassion for her in her sorrow and struggle. His marriage had been long over many years before the divorce papers were inked but small towns will talk about anything. All of them had known each other for decades. Mimi had been my mother’s 4H leader. My Grandmother had taught Mimi’s daughter in 6th grade and later became a Mentor landing Marie her first teaching position. Oh the scandal!!! But they had been Grandpa and Mimi all my life. It was years before I knew any of that story. What I saw whenever I was on the farm, which was as often as possible, were two people who were as transparent and authentic as they could be. When they were moving cattle and frustrated everyone for 5 miles could hear their frustration yelled across the field! But they never demeaned one another or called each other names. They focused on what was done never attacking the person. And their love for each other was as evident as walking.

They also were the kind of people who made their faith a part of the routine of life. So Jesus and God came up in conversation just like the neighbors and the St Louis Cardinals. You couldn’t have a very long conversation with Mimi without all of those weaving into the conversation. At the funeral someone said, “Oleda was one of those people who knew everyone’s stories.” She sure did. She remembered people and their stories. She saw everyone as a Child of God and people were drawn to her because it. She had a way of speaking plainly and getting by with it because we knew she loved us. She knew us and as much as she could complain and say things we hated to hear her say, she was a truth-teller. I love her so much for the stories and the truth she told when no one else would. It was a rare person who did not know where s/he stood with her.

She couldn’t wait to be with Jesus and everyone else who had gone ahead of her. So while I miss her here, I’m grateful for a profound theology of the Communion of Saints and knowing that she has also drawn closer to me.

I’ve told Grandpa and Mimi stories all of my ministry. I won’t stop now. It will be a while before I can do it without crying because she also was the one who told stories to me. I love you Mimi.

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“There’s a Woman In the Pulpit” Blog Tour

RevGals coverOne of the best things that ever happened for my ministry was to find this group of women who didn’t care whether I was speaking or writing, they heard my story – they listened to my voice – even when I found myself hardly able to speak. A true gift of God for anyone, a treasure beyond measure that we gradually were able to name on that first Big Event (BE) continuing education cruise where it felt like we already knew each other even though we had just met IRL (in real life). We had read each other’s’ blogs and stories and we already knew each other even though we couldn’t pick one another out of a crowd.

For me, it started with a Friday Five when I had a story to tell. If you go look at the entry, you’ll see I only alluded to the story instead of actually telling it. And many times I have found myself saying, “I’m a better speaker than writer. I know how to tell a story. I just don’t write that well.” So how did I get in this blog ring? Because I had to be in this precious community! I was drawn in by the laughter, the knowingness without a huge explanation, a camaraderie that was past “esprit de corp.” They got it! and I had to be part of it, too. The compassion and depth of care that spread instantly across the wires with prayers raised around the world still brings Holy Tears to my eyes as I think of things past, present, and even things to come. The Communion of Saints has a richness it had never had until RevGalBlogPals began to pray for one another and network with each other from Texas Sheet Cake of Solidarity to the TownCar of Justice, the Preacher Party, and jokes that weren’t really that funny but brought just the right note of healing laughter. The Body of Christ became so much more real in the cyberspace-blinking-cursor world where I was connected more deeply to Christian clergywomen, faithful lay women, precious men who valued women and God in ways that are best described as mysteries of faith. I am forever blessed to be a RevGalBlogPal and A Woman in the Pulpit.

The stories in this book are a glimmer of all of those things – the Worst Communion ever! Oh what a story! And how blessed I am to have a bit part in it. Liz and her presence during sacred transitions. I hear her accented voice as I read the story. I will also forever hear angels, archangels, and all the company of heaven sing because of Liz’s voice and clapping during our singing at worship during the first BE she attended. There are some things, once you have heard them, you carry them with you forever. The prayers are Holy Ground on paper bringing a bit of heaven to us here. The pray-ers voices echo in my head as I read, a privilege of liminal space. When I read the stories writen by those I’ve never met, I thought “Oh, yes.” There’s a resonance of knowing in the stories of ministry. Stories of power and grace in the midst of every part of ministry and life. There is breadth and welcome, grace that goes far beyond the “good manners” hospitality when the stories and prayers are shared by RevGalBlogPals. There’s really much more than “A Woman in the Pulpit.” There’s a communion of women saints in the pulpit standing together answering the call of God on their lives doing all they can to support one another as they do what God wants them to do. These particular women paused for a little bit to tell some of stories.

Don’t miss out! It’s so worth hearing the stories. The prayers are numinous. The Communion of Saints and the Body of Christ are all in “There’s a Woman in the Pulpit.” It’s a joy and privilege to be included as a contributor. It’s a Blessing in a Book. #AWOMANINTHEPULPIT

There’s a Woman in the Pulpit: Christian Clergywomen Share Their Hard Days, Holy Moments & the Healing Power of Humor (SkyLight Paths Publishing).

Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

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Contemplation on Holy Week

Last week before Holy Week, I read this article from years ago written by Elizabeth Edwards about Tony Snow. It struck me as I moved into Palm Sunday and Holy Week. I couldn’t figure out how to get it into the sermon. It was one of the things left on the office floor or the computer recycle bin, if you would, after the words that “made it” were fit to print. She remarked “And I thought more about the things on which we agree and the things on which we disagree. And as with my parade companion, I suspect Tony and I agreed on more things that we might have guessed.” And then later, “There will always be fault lines where we just disagree, but can’t we find—maybe in our founding documents—the things on which we do agree and work from there instead of starting always, always perched as soldiers along those fault lines?”

Those words wouldn’t let go of me. They are still under foot like a cat wanting to be fed or a puppy wanting to play ever present not going away just when I think they’ve left me alone there they are sticking a paw under the door that is closed or laying quietly in the hall when I open that closed door. Can’t we just start with what we have in common and work from there?

I keep wondering: What if the Scribes and Pharisees and Sadducees had taken that approach? Where would we be? How would our world work if we started with what we share? Instead of what is different?

Somehow I think that might have something to do with the notion of love and discipleship that Jesus spoke of when he said “This is how everyone will know that you are my disciples, when you love one another. Just as I have loved you. You must love one another.”

Maybe that’s what compelled him to keep going knowing what would happen. Maybe he was so committed to the love we have in common he wouldn’t let any difference stop the love. It is a powerful love that can face evil and betrayal with forgiveness. Maybe he never stopped seeing them as someone like himself.

What if we start with what we have in common?

I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. John 13:34-35 NRSV

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In Memory of Her

We don’t always think we have the power to make any difference. We downplay the power we do have which diminishes the power we have. So our power is lessened. Not by anyone but ourselves. My mentor taught me to use the power I do have. I watched her do it.

She had finally had enough. It was an election year at Annual Conference so there were conversations happening all over the place. There was a constant hum even as the reports were read over the microphone while at the back certain ones went on behalf of a caucus of The Women or The African-Americans to wrangle with the Good ol’ Boys for votes. Smaller groups would try to gain traction with The Women or The African-Americans because they were the only ones with enough votes to try to trade in order to sway the vote. This was a high year for politics with more openings than usual.

I was blown away as she challenged someone who now is in a position of power. He was one of the few that held some sway with the Good ol’ Boys but he wasn’t old. She said, “You keep saying you are for women in ministry but all you do is allow women to be in ministry. That is not being for women in ministry. Allowing ministry to happen while you do nothing is not the same as being for it. You only get to say you are for women in ministry when you push and shove to make room for women and you intentionally lift women up. Until you use your voice and your power on behalf of women in ministry you.are.*not.*for*.women.in.ministry.

While he stood there sputtering, she walked off, and then he chased after her. His behavior changed dramatically from that time forward. He still had his moments as a jerk but he was an equal opportunity jerk. He intentionally watched for quality young women to put on his staff so he could help launch them. He also became more of an advocate for persons of color.

Not everyone listens.
But change won’t come from silence.
Sometimes you have to put on your brass bra and speak up.

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Do you sing Christmas carols during Advent?

I used to refuse to sing Christmas carols during Advent. I used to say things like, “We are Christians who celebrate the Christian year! We are in Advent waiting for the coming of the baby. We can’t just jump to Christmas. The Twelve Days of Christmas begin with the birth of Christ! That’s when we sing Christmas songs!” I’ve relaxed my stance quite a bit. For one thing, the United Methodist Hymnal does not help weary preachers with the Advent struggle! There are all of the wonderful Christmas Carols and Advent just is kind of pitiful. So I always had to figure out how to “ramp up” to Christmas with the two well known Advent hymns “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” and “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus,” the lesser known but acceptable “Lo, How a Rose ‘Ere Blooming,” and “Lift Up Ye Heads” which usually sounded dreadful in most of the churches I served. Michael W. Smith’s “Emmanuel, Emmanuel” became available once “The Faith We Sing” was published which helped spread out the Advent vs. Christmas agony but as a UM pastor the scene and struggle has changed enough that the angst holds through the years. Because just as a new pastor thinks “maybe it will be different with this church.” The church thinks “maybe it will be different with this pastor.” Of course, that usually applies to things other than this topic as well.

After consideration of the changing nature of schools, of folks who don’t come to church so much any more, and of some pastors I respect, I don’t care so much about the Advent hymns vs. the Christmas carols anymore. What I do care a whole lot about is that when someone who hasn’t been in church for awhile does decide to come to church during Advent or what may be for her or him “Christmas time,” there’s music that sounds familiar. I don’t know anyone under the age of 48 who does not at least recognize “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing” as that angel song from “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” They hear Christian Christmas songs on the radio mixed in with Rudolph and Frosty and Jingle Bells because someone in Nashville or Hollywood thought they could make money from it. So be it. But if they wander in, looking for a place to belong during the season that the “gurus” say is the number one time the “nones” and “dones” look if they are going to look, then maybe we should have at least one song they recognize when they are here.

So thank you Linus. You have spoken to so many more than Charlie Brown. Thank you Charles Schultz. You continue to touch me. I love the Peanuts Gang. Charlie Brown was my first favorite but he wasn’t my last favorite. Thank you Mendelssohn for a tune that is so beautiful that angels must sing it. Thank you Charles Wesley for writing songs of faith that must be sung with heads back and mouths open wide. “Glory to the newborn king!”

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