Recovering engineer. Spiritual trail guide. Budding activist.
I’m glad my younger-me couldn’t see ahead to what was coming, because she would have freaked out. Graduating from Purdue as an electrical engineer after internships with NASA and Eastman Kodak launched me into a career of clinical research focused on the big nasties: heart disease and cancer. It was exciting, meaningful work. As a defibrillator implant specialist, I literally helped raise the dead. What could be better?
But while I was proud of my promotions and certainly enjoyed my comfy paycheck, I was also exhausted, anxious, frenetic, and haunted by niggling fears. How long could I keep carrying more responsibilities, and more pressure? Wasn’t it a red flag that rock climbing was the only thing intense enough to take my mind off my job for more than a few moments? Didn’t I claim that God and my marriage were what I cherished most, yet my time spent with either had shriveled to occasional scraps. Even after trying to reduce my project load, I couldn’t reduce the thunder in my head enough to ponder any of those questions, let alone hear God’s voice about them. So I did the unthinkable:
I left. Cold turkey. No next job lined up. It was terrifying. And the best decision I ever made.
While the medical world will always hold fascination for me, the deeper thread is healing. If I could choose a super power, it would be to cure people of any sickness. My growing realization is that while physical health is vital, it is not the central disease in our world. That is much broader, complex, ubiquitous, and mystical: it is our disconnection from ourselves, from each other, from the earth, from God. It is primarily a spiritual wound. So instead of medical school, I went to seminary and pursued education in healing the soul. My passion to cure is now focused on broken hearts, depleted faith communities, and our toxic political system.
It became increasingly clear that my work was not going to fit under the traditional church structure. But finding a fit outside those doors was difficult. I had grown pretty discouraged, when I stopped by my neighborhood coffee shop. I shamelessly eavesdropped on a juicy conversation about new ways of doing “church”, neighborhood engagement, spiritual formation, creative leadership– except for chocolate and wine, they were discussing all my favorite things! The lead dude happened to live just up my street from me, and introduced me to the wacky organization he worked for called Church Resource Ministries (CRM). The rest, as they say, is history. I had discovered my tribe! In CRM I met so many others who were passionate about healing the world and had not quite given up on the church as an important player. But oh there was work to do.
Now: I just moved to San Diego from St. Paul, MN as part of the ReNew team within CRM. ReNew realizes that ministry leaders are often exhausted and isolated– they pour heart and soul into those they serve, yet often don’t receive the same level of care. Their training, good as it is, has not fully prepared them to navigate the rapids of pressures that come with ministry in our fluctuating culture.
How can faith leaders carry the wounded around them if they are running on empty themselves?
“Put on your own oxygen mask first” makes sense but where do you find a mask? ReNew serves up nourishing soul food to spiritual leaders hungry for replenishment. We help them tend to their own souls first so they can lead with courage and compassion. So many confide in us that they need someone to help them stay connected to God, just as they do for others. And when they are guided back to that intimate divine healing space, they recover their entrepreneurial passion for healing their broken communities.
Why San Diego? Yeah, nobody asks that. It’s obvious. But really, for years I have felt drawn, and then compelled, to live near the US-Mexico border. I crave immersion in another culture because I know how transforming it can be. My faith path has become what Richard Rohr calls “the spiritual descent” where solidarity with those on the margins reveals God like nothing else can. It’s the home address Jesus gave us. I want to meet Jesus in the undocumented immigrant, the homeless, the trafficked. Life at the border will certainly challenge me, teach me, change me, and very likely break my heart wide open. But I happen to know someone in the healing business…
Education and Training
BS Electrical Engineering, Purdue University 1988
Contemplative Leadership Certification, Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation 2004
Master of Divinity/MFT, Bethel Seminary, 2007
Spiritual Direction Certification, North Park Seminary, 2013
Enneagram Coach Certification, Olive Branchways, 2015