Taking Stalk


When I was a teenager, I was good friends with this guy. He used to ask me out. A lot. After a while, I said yes (I’m not sure why. I think my brother talked me into it…).

We met, I got into the car, and then we drove. Not to a restaurant. Not to the movies. But to a grocery store 24 miles away from my home. I was completely confused, and I was even more bewildered when we went into the store, and he didn’t buy anything. We just sort of wandered the aisles without a cart, then we went outside, until he found what he needed. It was another girl, who was gathering carts in the lot. She was worn-out, and at the end of her shift.

He introduced me to her. And, after a couple of moments of painfully awkward conversation, I realized that she was someone that he had just broken up with, and he wanted to make sure she knew that he had moved on.

Or was he trying to make me feel jealous?

Who knows. It was just one of those weird things that people do when they are in high school. Whatever it was, the ex looked crushed and I thought it was quite cruel that he went out of our way to make sure that she saw me. Not to mention a waste of my night. Clearly, in my mind, any “date” that might have occurred that night was over as quickly as it began.

My friend was not so eager to give it up though. In the midst of that long, miserable “you’re just not the guy for me” month, I found him, late one night, outside of my window, hiding in the shadows, watching me.

I’m not sure how often he did it. That may have been the only time. But, it wasn’t the only time that I was stalked. Usually, it was in the midst of adolescent angst, when we had all of those heightened hormonal emotions and feeling of rejection.

I bring all of this up because I just led a webinar on Social Media Strategies for Alban, and there were questions from a woman who identified herself as single. She had concerns that were particular to her context, and they made me wonder…. Plus, my husband was out of town, and so I found myself less willing to Twitter my every move. I would write down what I did after I was done, but not beforehand.

I guess it made me aware of the vulnerable position we put ourselves in, as women and/or as pastors.

I wonder if we need to think about these things a bit more. Put together a Smart Women’s Social Media Safety Guide or a Clergy Cyber-Stalk Protection Policy. ‘Cause, face it, whether we are women or men, we’ve all had one of those parishioners who takes a little too much interest in what we’re up to.

Maybe that’s going too far, but I guess we could at least talk about the potential dangers. If you feel like you might be cyber-stalked, what do you do? What do you leave out of your updates? Do you have any general guidelines to keep you safe?

photo by O C E A N



The study of theopoetics fascinates me. Scott Kinder-Pyle first introduced me to the word, although as a lover of literature, poetry, and God, the idea has always compelled me.

In exploration of this idea, I am hosting a conversation with two wonderful Poets on God Complex Radio today.

Ted Kooser is a National Poet Laureate, and the winner of the Pulitzer Prize in Literature. My husband knew him before he was famous (or at least before he was famous outside of Lincoln, Nebraska). He was Brian’s poetry professor, and his instruction had a great affect on the way that we preach and write. I owe him a great debt for that.

Nancy Arbuthnot is a poetry professor at the US Naval Academy. Her talent as a writer is matched only by her gifts as a teacher. She teaches poetry at Miriam’s Kitchen and Calvary Women’s Services. She teaches children, teenagers, and adults. And, she is going to teach us some techniques as well.

Join us live, today at noon (EDT) if you can. If you are not able to be there live, you can pick up the download by clicking on the BlogTalkRadio box on the right-hand side of this blog.

Twibal church


I was leading a conference, and I asked a question. The people in the room answered it, and an academic guy twittered the question to his followers.

His wife hit him. Just on the arm. Then, she told him to put the iPhone up because he was being rude.

Academic guy came up to me during a break, and asked if he was being rude. Although I don’t often like taking sides in marital disputes, I had to say. “No.”

I like it when people twitter during conferences, and even worship. This is why…

There is always a bit of tug-of-war going on with me when I’m doing presentations. Especially when they’re short ones. You see, it’s proven that most people don’t really remember things unless they have had a chance to talk. Think about it, the next time you attend a lecture or a workshop. The facts that I always remember the most are the ones that I have engaged with, through discussion or even an argument.

So I try to make sure that there’s a bit of space for people kick certain topics around. Discuss them, explore how they apply to their situations. I usually encourage disagreement.

But then I can get feedback that people did not come to hear the pastor down the road talk, they came to hear the presenter talk. If I don’t get through the material, participants get frustrated and feel cheated.

But, twittering gives people an opportunity to write down what I say, ask me questions, talk to other people, without necessarily disturbing the flow of conversation at the moment. So it’s like we can have the best of both worlds: discussion and the processing of information, as well as a presentation.

Not only that, but many events use hashtags (that’s # plus a code), so anyone who might be interested in the event can read about. I love searching hashtags. When I can’t make it to something, I follow the highlights, find out what people are saying.

But there are plenty who don’t agree with me. They still think it’s rude. In fact, most people who don’t Twitter can’t comprehend why it’s so fascinating. After all, “The one thing you can say for certain about Twitter is that it makes a terrible first impression.”



So, a while back, we were talking about membership on the God Complex, and whether it’s something that we should do away with. I have wonderful friends who think that membership is irrelevant in a 21st Century church. But, I tend to think that we should keep the concept around. I like it.

When I look at things generationally, I realize that I am part of Generation X. On the whole, many of us were not and are not joiners. Just about every social construct, from political parties to church, used to decry the fact that we weren’t engaged enough.

There was a huge drop-off. I think, partly, because people were used to the large number of Boomers, and we are a much smaller generation. So, if organizations grew a lot because young Boomers were joining them, there was going to be a downturn in the numbers when Gen X came of age, because there are simply not as many of us.

And, because, as I mentioned, we’re not joiners. Many of us are pretty cynical. And we’re very innovative. So, often, we would rather start something than join something.

Yet, I see something different happening with the college students I work with. One of them recently asked if we could start a Protestant Club. I tried to stifle my shock when she said it, and I was very enthusiastic in my affirmative response, but in my head I was thinking: Really? A Protestant Club? I would never… I am so out of touch.

The truth is there is a shift with Generation Y, or the Millennials. They like joining things and they are much more politically active.

In our congregation, I cannot help but notice that people are really excited about joining the church. Even people who are my age. It usually takes them a lot longer to decide to join, and it’s more of an internal wrestling match. And I have a lot of conversations with people who “really don’t like organized religion.” And we have even had people who cross their fingers or prepare written statement clarifying what they mean by some of the affirmations of joining. But most really like to do it.

The thing that I would like to change is not whether we have membership or not. I would like to change the requirements of membership. On the radio show, Bruce and I both waxed eloquently about the importance of membership, how it makes us a part of something larger than ourselves. How it affirms our deeper commitment to a community. Etc, etc.

Then, we talked about how our denomination has a per capita (a head tax), and so people tend to meticulously clean the rolls of Presbyterian Churches.

It’s true. If you have not shown up or given money in two years, your head will roll.

But why is that? If we believe all of the beautiful things we say about membership, why not allow people to hang on a bit, after they’ve moved, or if they’re not on good terms with God for a couple of years? I mean, if we believe that this is a deeper covenant, shouldn’t we be okay with paying the $32.50 (or whatever it is) tax to the denomination, even if we don’t get a regular offering from the person? Isn’t that kind of stingy?

I have certainly had years in my life when I couldn’t bear to go to church. Or give money. I was just going through some internal wrestling at the time. I just can’t imagine getting a note from my congregation, saying that they had removed me from the rolls when I was in the midst of it. That would have cut me off for good.

What do you think?

photo by JenniPenni