One Good Phrase: Erin Lane (Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom)

I met Erin Lane and her husband a month into our first stint in San Francisco. We lived in the same area for far too short a time but that time was sweet. I love how friendships look when they stick. One of her husband's paintings hangs in our hallway and her quick wit, sharp writing, and deep theological framework makes her blog one I'm always challenged by. I'm so happy to welcome her here.

We were not a Scripture-memorizing home. There were no flashcards that smelled like chubby markers, no pop quizzes or Bible school. I was Catholic, after all. I could say the Hail Mary and Our Father by the time I was six, and that seemed pleasing enough to the adults. Later, I could recite the Mass in my head as the priest prepared the Eucharist. When it came time for my part, I knelt dutifully and repeated aloud week after week, “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you but only say the word and I shall be healed.”

It was my mom, a Presbyterian turned born-again who converted to Catholicism in marriage, who quoted Scripture to me from the front seat of our mini-van. The Word was inseparable from her. It was printed on the license frame around her plate: “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” It inspired the slogan on her teal sweatshirt from ACE Hardware: “Live and let God.” It was personified on her poster from the Christian bookstore in the hallway: “Won by One.” It was my mother who spoke over me, “Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom.”

When I was anxious over leaving home to visit my dad for the weekend, “Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom.” When I was angry over the exclusion of my female body from the Catholic priesthood, “Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom.” When I doubted my gender-bending instincts to ask a boy out, “Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom.” This was the good news in our home. And if my over-analytic guilt persisted, it was followed-up with, “There is no condemnation in Christ Jesus.”

I didn’t take her words to mean that I was free to do as I please. She was clear about “not sassing” your parents, looking adults in the eye when you met them, telling the truth to your teachers, forgiving your enemy (or older brother), writing thank-you notes, and welcoming the stranger into your basement apartment. Freedom flourished within bounds.

Rather, I learned from her example that the Spirit of the Lord freed us from worrying over our limitations. It was okay to be anxious; pray for peace. It was okay to be angry; stand for justice. It was okay to doubt yourself; trust that God works through you still.

It is a strange heritage, this charismatic Catholicism. I have often worried if my God is too permissive, a sort of pipe-smoking, free-love, hippy who pads my self-esteem and assuages my ego. Guilt has tailed me into adulthood. But so too has the unbridled belief that we are free to try and fail and stretch and break and move as the Spirit leads. And when it comes time for my part, I can kneel and say, “Lord, I am now worthy to receive you for only through your Word have I been healed.”


Erin Lane, M.T.S., is a communication strategist for faith-based authors and organizations. Her latest work with Quaker author Parker J. Palmer and the non-profit Center for Courage & Renewal combines her background in book publicity with broader marketing consultation and program development for clergy and congregational leaders. She is the co-editor of the upcoming anthology Talking Taboo: American Christian Women Get Frank about Faith (White Cloud Press, Oct 2013) and an active board member of the Resource Center for Women and Ministry in the South. Confirmed Catholic, raised Charismatic, and married to a Methodist, she blogs about the intersection of her faith and feminism at .

But if you want to do your best on the sat, you got to hunker down