Lord, hear my prayer, listen to my cry for mercy; in your faithfulness and righteousness come to my relief. Do not bring your servant into judgment, for no one living is righteous before you. The enemy pursues me, he crushes me to the ground; he makes me dwell in the darkness like those long dead…
I shall be like those who go down to the pit…
Psalm 143: 1-3, 7 NRSV
The afterlife of traumatic experience wants us to feel confused, shamed, and guilty. These remains from what happened to us take over every cell in our bodies, settling in for an extended stay while we beg for relief, mercy, safety.
Healing, in the form of trauma recovery, removes this confusion, eradicates our shame, and brings guilt back down to a usable size. Healing reforms our crushed postures into expanded ones. Healing helps us see, feel, and hear God’s mercy.
God, hear my prayer. Listen to my cry for mercy. Relieve my agony. Give me courage to heal. Amen.
Yep, that’s right. The day is finally approaching in which I will be ordained in Word & Sacrament in the ELCA! The story leading up to this day is long, most of my life really. So after decades of waiting on myself and the church, here I am saying “yes”!
The good people of St. John’s Lutheran Church in Rock Island, Illinois called me to be their pastor on January 8, 2023. I began ministry among them immediately (the very next day). This amazing community of Christians is loving and missional. Their tag line is “a place for all people.” And they work at it! They also look outside their walls to see the deep needs of the world. Then they get involved out there in the world, working toward being part of God’s kingdom here on earth.
An Excerpt From Something I’m Writing
I love Jesus who is with God and the Holy Spirit. But not Jesus alone. Not Jesus the metaphor for a godly, dystopian superhero who shows up in Disney-style miracle scenes. Not Jesus the fictionalized character in a story I don’t want to read because it causes me and others harm. Not Jesus the caricature, the gross distortion of who and what God is. Not Jesus allowing human all-knowing-ness of God to obliterate the mystery of God.
My public schedule slows in this season of my life.
Thursdays find me teaching a pastoral care class in listening, caring, and assessing for Wartburg Seminary in Dubuque, Iowa. Teaching like writing is a love of mine and I am grateful for this unexpected return to the classroom.
Spirit fills me each Sunday when leading worship and preaching at St. John’s.
“…What you sow does not come to life unless it dies.” *
Fallow field. Ground still, frozen. Plowed and harrowed for future days. Covered in frost or snow. Waiting for sowing, tending, harvesting.
Dormant, but only to the unobservant. Moisture seeping, trickling down. Absorbed through minute openings in hardened ground. Causing movement beneath. Winter’s soil preparing, ripening. For springtime’s burst. Energy creating improvisations, mistakes, hidden gems, harvest, and a few weeds.
In the beginning, healing is like standing on dormant ground. Cold seeping up through soles. Life numb, standing still. Feeling like a small speck in life’s vastness. Waiting to trust the un-death of dormancy.
Healing Practice: Unseen Seeds of Hope
Keep a list today. On a small piece of paper. One you can fold up. Fit in your pocket. Carry with you for writing on. Perhaps with a stubby pencil recording the moments, even fleeting ones, in which hope settles on your heart for a second as a realization, a discovery, or an opening into what’s possible. Name these moments of unexpected joy, mercy, compassion. Gathered for sowing in future’s field.
God, witness in me this day what I cannot see. Witness the tiny seeds of healing and hope I sow in my own fallowness. Witness in me my life-force still living. Witness in me my surprise in discovering unexpected joys. Receive my thanks for what I do not know will bless me this day and tomorrow and in my own healing. Amen.
As with all liturgies, this confession and litany has a life of its own. The words printed here will shift and changevoicing the needs of each context.If you use this confession and litany in any form I ask that you attribute the work to me even if you add or modify the work. The attribution may look like: “Our Confession and Litany today is based on a litany and confession written by Jennifer Ohman-Rodriguez.”
Please also let me know you are using it. Thank you.
The assembly prays using these or similar words.
We, white bodied, white raised, and whiteness perpetuating women confess to God, ourselves, and to all others.
We confess we have social privileges and advantages other women do not have.
We confess we ignore other women do not have what we have.
We confess we take for granted the gifts of these advantages.
We confess we unconsciously and consciously think we deserve what we have over what other women do not have.
We confess we buy into the view that what we have is scarce and cannot feed all women.
We confess we hoard life’s bounty and in doing so allow others to suffer.
We confess there is so much we do not know and do not see.
We confess all that we leave undone each day for the unity of all human beings.
We confess we partake in communal sins of omission.
We confess to you, God ,and to all women and in doing so ask to be released from these evils imploding within us and out into the world so that we take only what we need. Making sure all are fed. Joining in the work of bringing your love-in-action into reality for all women.
We, white bodied, white raised, and whiteness perpetuating women lament to God.
We cry out and in doing so our tears follow the tears of women kept down, aside, and under in an ongoing parade of lament before God.
We wail and in doing so tell the world we create ourselves and all others in God’s image. Not in man’s. Not others’ gender norms. Not from others’ perceptions of beauty. Not in human-made values of class structure. Not in empire’s power. Not in colonialism’s tyranny. Not in racism, genderism, or faith-ism. We lament, cry, and wail and in doing so imagine who we can be and are not yet.
We lament and in doing so ask for courage and tenacity in bringing your kingdom to earth. We feel weak in the face of this work. We lament this untruth of our weakness allowing this lie to dissipate and disappear into the atmosphere. We seek then through you O, God, to manifest your goodness and love which can only be fully revealed when all of creation and all of creation’s people are seen, heard, valued, and healed.
We, white bodied, white raised, and whiteness perpetuating women feel.
We feel the pings, pinches, and punches of our battered bodies.
We feel the words we have not been allowed to say screaming from our souls out into the world.
We feel compassion for ourselves and for what we have not been allowed to reveal.
We feel and embrace the heroic and lifesaving ways of our bodies.
We feel what we know, do not know, do not want to know.
We feel, holding hope for all women to heal.
We feel understanding all bodies are one. One in God.
We, white bodied, white raised, and whiteness perpetuating women begin and continue healing.
We heal, transforming our pain, the pain perpetuating damage onto other women, into goodness.
We heal as a continuation of life itself.
We heal, health giving new birth to new life.
We heal, tending all new life as if raising our own beloved children.
We heal, each one of us healing so that healing becomes greater than hurting.
We heal, healing becoming a way of life, one eradicating the wounding of hiding, avoiding, and blinding the hurt of hurting.
We, white bodied, white raised, and whiteness perpetuating women act.
We act by refusing to accept the story told to us from birth that we are somehow different and better than other women.
We act in ways of public compassion first feeling the sorrows and joys of all women everywhere while no longer remaining silent or still.
We act, learning day by day how to bring God’s kingdom to earth.
We act, each of us becoming justice in words, deeds, marches, votes, public service, and answering yes to where we are called to serve.
We act in prayer. Never stopping. Never ceasing. Always praying. Until all women are whole. All girls are never torn apart.
We act as love. Building love out of healing, compassion, respect, and willingness.
Together, we white bodied, white raised, and whiteness perpetuating women lift up these prayers to you O, God. Trusting in your infinite mercy, grace, and spirit-filled direction. Breathing in your transformative power. Allowing its infusion to build our courage for the work to be done in us, among us, and around us. Amen.
On Sunday, the 8th of January, the good people of St. John’s Lutheran Church in Rock Island, Illinois called me as their pastor! At this writing (the day after) I am in a wild whirling of joy, anticipation, and active packing! This congregation, for me, is answered longing, answered visioning, and answered prayer. A community in Christ working both outside and inside church walls spreading, planting, growing the love of God over the waters, under the bridges, and into the cracks in the concrete.
January 25: Book talk at Oaknoll East Retirement Living, Iowa City, Iowa.
February 9 – May 18: Pastoral care instructor at Wartburg Seminary, Dubuque, Iowa.
February 25: Ordination at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, Iowa City, Iowa.
July 17-20 : Workshop presenter at the ELCA’s Rostered Ministers Gathering, Phoenix, Arizona.
INVITE JENNIFER TO SPEAK
If your organization, church, podcast, conference, library, or literary festival is interested in inviting me to speak, preach, or lead a workshop, please click here: Invite Jennifer to Speak.
WHAT I AM READING
Many therapists working with people in recovery from traumatic events as well as these expert authors of Why God Won’t Go Away speak of healing as being sacred, holy, and spiritual. I agree because it’s my own experience with the beautiful mysteries of true wellness. I first learned about this book exploring the “biology of belief” by reading Peter A Levine’s In An Unspoken Voice a few years ago (a book sitting on my late husband’s bookshelf). While much has been discovered about the human brain since these authors wrote Why God Won’t Go Away, the information and accompanying thinking is still valid and educational.
FROM AN EARLY DRAFT
Last Spring one of my sons spent a few days at Disney theme parks with his marching band. After picking him up and between adolescent grunts and mouths full of food, my son shared with me that he spent a lot of time on roller coasters while in Florida. Because…he is fifteen. And not sleeping very much because…he is fifteen. And coming home sick because…he is fifteen.
I spend my days on a rollercoaster as well, an internal ride called grief. Sudden grief seems to be exactly like those theme park rides. It plummets unwilling riders straight down at some undefinable speed. Only to come up for air when it feels like it in a momentary lull convincing us that the ride is now quiet, pleasant. Only we all know, those of us on this ride, that more looms on the horizon. The calm before the really scary parts only lull us into a false and temporary sense of peace.
My older son and I stopped by the cemetery the other day. It was an impromptu trip. We were in the neighborhood. While he danced around the neighboring graves planning what to plant around Tony’s stone, I descended internally. Triggered because someone else had lain a flower at Tony’s grave. Not me. “I feel like I’m falling down on my job,” I said.
Later though and back home I felt a sense of peace. Maybe it was spending a few hours with my son. Maybe is was also that glimmering moment of courage when I told my son he and his brother will heal. They will live good lives. I will heal and live a good life. Because we can. We can heal. And Tony wants that for us, demands it of us.
Written in 2017
THE VALUE OF REVIEWS
Being an author, especially a spiritual author, means also being my own marketing director. And I admit I have all sorts of feelings about being tied to the social media self-promotion cycle. Yet there has always been a business side to writing. So here’s what publishers, book sellers, and writers know about getting books into readers hands, eyes, and hearts:
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