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January 22, 2018

#27 | Episcopal Priest on Spirituality, Religion & Anti-resolutions with Josephine Robertson

About This Episode

Ever heard of a church where same-sex marriage is allowed, gay and transgender people are welcomed, and women have equal opportunities to reaching all orders of the ministry? Josephine Robertson is a priest in one such church and also a writer on her blog on spirituality helping passionate people find their spiritual mojo, identify their values, make choices they can be proud of, and build an authentic and wholehearted life they love.

“We all have a calling. And mine just happened to be that of helping people connect to their Divine.”

On this episode we talk about Jo’s journey into the priesthood, why is it that if you put 10 Episcopalians in the room and ask them a question, you’ll get 15 answers back and what is the difference between religion and spirituality. Jo shares some of the funniest as well as hardest moments during her priesthood having to lead religious ceremonies such as funerals and weddings. She also shares with us her formula for coming up with a different kind of resolutions that are not based on guilt, shame or anger and a tool she uses daily to prioritize things that matter most to her, which you can download from her website for free.

The Journey to Priesthood

Jo was raised in a conservative environment with no acceptance of the idea that a woman can be a priest. While in college she saw a female priest on stage and had that special spark inside of her calling her in. However, she didn’t trust that inner voice yet. During the next ten years, Jo studied and worked in the field of software engineering.

“The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”
— Frederick Buechner

So when a female mentor asked, “When the hell are you going to seminary?”  Jo knew that this it is. She had quit her well-paid job, moved across the country to embark on getting a masters degree in Theology and eventually being ordained to the priesthood. Today jo gets paid to be a religion nerd. As a religious leader, she spends a lot of time in meetings, processions, weddings, funerals and all kinds of other activities.

Spirituality vs. Religion

Jo explains religion as the beliefs and practices shared by a group of people. Spirituality molds these beliefs and practices into an individual choice. Oppressiveness and constructiveness are not a must of the religious world if one doesn’t want them; it is a choice of the group you chose to surround yourself with.

When in a community you get more support in your beliefs and practices, and you come together as a community when times are comfortable as well as hard. That is the main advantage of belonging to a religious group. In her blog, Jo is trying to bring the best of the two worlds together: spirituality and religion. Being a priest in the Episcopal church, she belongs to a relatively liberal and open-minded religious group where gay  and transgender people and same-sex marriages are accepted as well as women in ministry positions (something that is prohibited in more traditional churches.)

Jo shares with us the funniest, most bizarre stories during her priesthood career which, unexpectedly, have to do with funerals. The most stressful times for a priest are, surprisingly, during weddings. The responsibility of being a religious leader is not an easy one. Jo talks about some of the hardest moments in her career and places she finds peace and has a chance to recharge.

She spends daily quality time with her horse that her husband gave her as a gift. It’s been a joy to discover the magic qualities this animal has. Jo says her horse is very intuitive, like as a barometer who mirrors her mood states and feelings. “It can hear me think,” Jo says.

“Femininity is creative power. It’s the part of us that is the closest to the Divine.”

Anti-resolutions for 2018

According to Jo, most of us are making a huge mistake while setting New Year resolutions because we start from a negative space of mostly guilt or shame. “I need to get rid of these extra pounds,” “I’m not good at that,” “I am doing this the wrong way.” After setting such goals at the beginning of the year, we’re already off-track by the end of January/February. And then we start feeling guilty about not sticking to our goals.

Jo shares with us an exercise that we can all do that will help us set positive goals and make sure we stick to them.

Take a piece of paper and separate it into three columns: month, week and day. Ask yourself what should happen in a month for you to feel happy? How do I make space for this? Where in this month can I make time for people I would love to meet, take care of myself, do an exercise I enjoy (don’t pick a sport you hate). Tell yourself: “I have permission to cancel one event so that I can: ___________ (fill the blank)”

Think of what brings you joy. Whatever it is, prioritize it in your planner. That will trigger your excitement to start implementing your goals. Afterall, all that we do is to be happy.

You can get this checklist here for FREE and start using it immediately.

Tools & Resources Mentioned


  • Scrivener for iOS and macOS – Scrivener is the go-to app for writers of all kinds, used every day by best-selling novelists, screenwriters, non-fiction writers, students, academics, lawyers, journalists, translators and more. Scrivener won’t tell you how to write—it simply provides everything you need to start writing and keep writing.
  • LightroomCreate incredible photos anywhere with the all-new Lightroom CC. Use any browser to access your photos uploaded from Lightroom CC on your computer, mobile phone, or tablet, and edit them in full-resolution. Find and organize your photos with searchable keywords that are automatically applied without the hassle of tagging. Also, easily share and showcase your photos in fun ways.
  • Google Drive – Get access to files anywhere through secure cloud storage and file backup for your photos, videos, files and more.

People/Blogs to Follow

  • The Bloggess by Jenny Lawson – Known for her sardonic wit and her hysterically skewed outlook on life, Jenny Lawson has made millions of people question their own sanity, as they found themselves admitting that they, too, often wondered why Jesus wasn’t classified as a zombie, or laughed to the point of bladder failure when she accidentally forgot that she mailed herself a cobra. Her blog is award-winning and extremely popular.
  • The Everywhereist by Geraldine DeRuiter – An acclaimed author, world-renowned public speaker, and the voice behind the award-winning Everywhereist blog. She finds it very difficult to be self-promotional, so she hopes that you understand how hard that last sentence was for her to write.

Recommended Books

  • Works by Brene Brown – She is a research professor at the University of Houston, has spent the past sixteen years studying courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy and is the author of four #1 New York Times bestsellers.
  • “Braving the wilderness” by Brene Brown – Brown argues that we’re experiencing a spiritual crisis of disconnection, and introduces four practices of true belonging that challenge everything we believe about ourselves and each other. She writes, “True belonging requires us to believe in and belong to ourselves so fully that we can find sacredness both in being a part of something and in standing alone when necessary. But in a culture that’s rife with perfectionism and pleasing, and with the erosion of civility, it’s easy to stay quiet, hide in our ideological bunkers, or fit in rather than show up as our true selves and brave the wilderness of uncertainty and criticism. But true belonging is not something we negotiate or accomplish with others; it’s a daily practice that demands integrity and authenticity. It’s a personal commitment that we carry in our hearts.” Brown offers us the clarity and courage we need to find our way back to ourselves and to each other. And that path cuts right through the wilderness. Brown writes, “The wilderness is an untamed, unpredictable place of solitude and searching. It is a place as dangerous as it is breathtaking, a place as sought after as it is feared. But it turns out to be the place of true belonging, and it’s the bravest and most sacred place you will ever stand.”
  • “The Book of Joy” by Dalai Lama & Desmond Tutu –  Archbishop Tutu traveled to the Dalai Lama’s home in Dharamsala, India, to celebrate His Holiness’s eightieth birthday and to create what they hoped would be a gift for others. They looked back on their long lives to answer a single burning question: How do we find joy in the face of life’s inevitable suffering? They traded intimate stories, teased each other continually, and shared their spiritual practices. By the end of a week filled with laughter and punctuated with tears, these two global heroes had stared into the abyss and despair of our time and revealed how to live a life brimming with joy.
  • “The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms (The Inheritance Trilogy)” by N. K. Jemisin – Yeine Darr is an outcast from the barbarian north. But when her mother dies under mysterious circumstances, she is summoned to the majestic city of Sky. There, to her shock, Yeine is named an heiress to the king. But the throne of the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is not easily won, and Yeine is thrust into a vicious power struggle with cousins she never knew she had. As she fights for her life, she draws ever closer to the secrets of her mother’s death and her family’s bloody history.
  • Broken Earth Trilogy N. K. Jemisin – This is the Stillness, a land long familiar with catastrophe, where the power of the earth is wielded as a weapon. And where there is no mercy.


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