Friday, November 2, 2007

Nurturing the Soul

Lately the most powerful messages I feel I am hearing in my life is the need for tending the soul. Not just a general tending of the soul, but a developing of practices for tending the soul. Within congregations we tend to program ourselves to death - spiritual death - because we don't build in spiritual practices. I have been at a week long class on intentional interim ministry and the most powerful part of the week for me has been the morning Bible study experience in small group. I've learned a lot of head knowledge, and have had good interactions with colleagues during the week, but the deepest experience has been the focus on listening to the Word of God. The simple reading of scripture deliberately together, and allowing time to process and then to share. My energy - natural tendencies - are intellectual and interactive, so I have to be deliberate about tending to soul care. And as a pastor, it has become clearer to me over the years that parishioners are not having deep soul tending experiences other than possibly at worship if it is done well. I'm thinking that during Advent I will offer four weeks of "Deepening our Spirituality through Prayer: Waiting on God" based on a lectio divina model, using candlelight, music, scripture, and silence. My desire as theologically trained and interested in spiritual depth seems many times in conflict with what is expected of me as parish pastor or interim pastor. I have the skills to do those things well, but my experience has been that most people seeking spirituality are outside the church and those inside the church aren't as interested in spirituality. Is there something wrong with that? It helped to understand some history that I learned in my conference last week about the establishment of church as we know it and how it needs to change as we head into the future of "post-Christian" society. For me, discerning what God is up to in my life and how I live out my call to serve will be the focus of my own Advent "waiting on God."

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Planting the Word

I have been attending a class all week which begins each day in small group Bible study at 8:15 a.m. Now, I have to tell you I am not a morning person - so I've really resisted this time, but I have dutifully risen each morning to attend. Our study is a focused model (African Bible Study) which is similar to lectio divina. I am part of a small table group of six who interact throughout this week together and our relationships deepen throughout the week. My experience is that most of the deepening for all of us happens at this Bible study. What I am always struck with is the way Scripture speaks to each of us where we are - in the midst of our lives and in the midst of what is on our hearts. A Scripture passage is read three times with reflection between readings - and sharing according to specific questions at the end of periods of silence. The whole process takes 45 minutes. Yet, the depth and breadth of the sharing is amazing. The way Scripture informs all of us is varied and wide ranging, and yet as each person shares the connections and understanding deepens and the Word is alive in a new way for all of us. At the end of the sharing time, each of us in the group prays for the person on our right based on the sharing and we end with the Lord's prayer. Wouldn't this be a wonderful model for faith communities? I'd love to give up preaching and break everyone into small groups in order to deepen the community involvement in scripture and in sharing at a deeper level with one another. Obviously, I can't do this, but I am thinking of setting up two different times (during the day and during the evening) during the season of Advent to practice this type of Bible Study together. Don't know how many people might be interested, but it would be a worthy practice to implement. I'd also like to find a small group of folks to meet together with and do this on a regular basis. This study has far and away been the best part of this week!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

I Blinked Again!

I did indeed take a vacation - but oh my, where did it go? It was a busy vacation even though it was great!! But, we came home on October 3rd, and it's now the 14th and this is the first chance I have to sit down and write in the blog. Something is definitely wrong with that! One of the main things I feel I need to focus on as I go forward in this interim is balance. I put in many hours in these first six months, and now my goal is to back out of things a little and let the lay ministry fill the gaps. There are so many gifted individuals in this congregation, and it's time for them to step up a little. The more I can let go and back off, the more able they are to see their own capability. We're heading into stewardship this next month, and the committee that has been selected for that is doing such a great job - I am more a consultant to them than a committee member. That's really how church ministry should be. Pastors, in my opinion, spend far too much time in meetings! One of the areas I hope to spend more time is visiting folks in their homes - especially those who don't get to church regularly. It's difficult when I am the only pastor in such a large congregation, but I think pastors need to spend time with the folks who aren't the most obvious. One of the struggles I have with ministry is that as a pastor I want to preach, teach and provide pastoral care. In reality, I spend most of my time in meetings, and in administration of the church. This congregation is taking a good look at what tasks need to be done, and the committee looking at this will make recommendations for future staffing. It's an interesting process and I think a really good one that hopefully will provide some direction for this congregation. I am supposed to have my job description read and revamped by tomorrow so I guess I'd better get to it! Besides that, I don't have my sermon fully thought through. I don't write out sermons any longer, but I do feel I need to think them through completely. It's a challenging and yet growth producing process.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

I blinked!

Okay - where did the last week go, I must have blinked because it seemed to just fly by! We leave for vacation tomorrow and it feels like everything is in order for me to be gone from church for ten days. The assistant to the bishop is preaching next Sunday, there is an assistant lector, someone doing the children's sermon, bulletin is ready, and everything seems to be in its place. Of course, what isn't will be tended to by those who are here. Since I'm the only pastor right now and this congregation is used to two there is a bit of angst. But, I'm feeling great!! I have one more meeting in about fifteen minutes with one of the confirmants and then I will head home to have dinner, pack, get a good nights sleep and head to my sister's in the morning where we'll leave our car and she'll take us to the airport. What a gift a vacation is!! My husband has been scanning tour books for best drives in the northeast, best leaf colors on the internet, and getting his camera equipment ready. I'm taking my laptop and trying to decide which books I want to take with me for my reading pleasure! No dress up clothes - just casual, we'll slip into some church unnoticed next Sunday. We're looking forward to just spending some relaxing time together exploring God's beautiful creation. We love to do this, and used to do it often before I returned to parish ministry. It will be nurturing to our soul's since we are both pretty connected to our spirituality through nature. I have to admit I have those "motherly/grandmotherly" feelings of leaving behind my parish for the first time. Remember when you left the kids for the first time in someone else's care? How funny it is that we get so protective, not only of our children, but of our congregations! At least I feel some of that - I wonder if other ministers feel the same way? It's not about controlling them, I don't think. It's more that I want them to do well while I'm away, and I want things to run smoothly for them. I'm also not a worrier - and I know when I leave here after my meeting I will be able to leave it behind and let go of whatever happens because it's not up to me right now. I'm taking my time away, I have someone in place in case of emergency, and I plan to enjoy myself and not think about work! I've even got the bulletin ready for Oct. 7th so I don't need to worry about that!! Isn't life grand?!!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Vacation is on the way....

A week from today begins our vacation - my husband and I will be traveling out east and will be gone for about ten days. I am really looking forward to this trip, to spending quality time with my husband, and to spending time in God's incredible creation enjoying the natural world. It is Monday today, another one of those days when I wish I took Monday's off! Yesterday was LONG - 15 hours away from home starting with worship in the morning, meetings in the afternoon, then a long drive for a hospital visit before getting home at about 10:30 p.m. These things can't be helped and there are always choices to be made. I planned for the long day and figured I'd be home by around 6 p.m. The hospital visit wasn't planned, as of course they cannot be. But, a parishoner with a stroke was air lifted to a major hospital and in intensive care - as pastor you can choose not to go and call on the hospital to provide a chaplain. I choose to go because it is my commitment to serving my congregation. It just makes those days very long indeed. And those times don't happen often, though depending on the size of the congregation and the ages of the members, it can happen more or less frequently. I find that ministry waxes and wanes, and that at times the flow is much too heavy and time demanding while at other times I get a little bit of a breather. I also notice lately that I need to be more intentional about nurturing myself. (I just turned on some soothing music and my lavendar diffuser in my office.) Just little things can make a big difference, and sometimes I just don't tend to the details that can be so helpful in calming and soothing my own soul. I find even writing this blog helps me because it focuses me to think about what I might want to say, what's happening in my life, and what I am grateful for. Our women of the ELCA group is beginning the Bible Study on the Beatitudes and the writer of the study encourages us all to focus on the blessings of our lives during this study. It's a good reminder to think about gratitude, and the reality that everything we are and everything we have comes from God.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The blessings of the natural world

Today for lunch I went with a couple of women from church for a picnic on the river in town. Because I don't live here I don't know all of these areas, and the woman who invited us did this to introduce us to the trails there. She provided the picnic lunch as well. What a gift! There are beautiful trails along the Crow River and it was a cool, sunny, breezy day to be out there. This is the kind of day where it feels like worship to be in the natural environment. I like church, but I experience God myself most deeply in the natural world. Maybe it's because I'm always responsible for church - preaching, worship, etc. I do feel God's presence in all of it, but it is in the quiet moments of beauty and reflection that my soul is nurtured most. Nature, with all of its intricacies and variety, provides endless moments of soul tending. From the sound of the wind in the trees, the birds, the wildflowers, the flowing river and the noises of branches dropping, fish jumping. God's creation is one of the most extraordinary and awesome things in life to experience. What I wonder about is how I can get so caught up in life and work that I don't take the time to experience it more often? So, for today I am thankful for that hour along the river. I am thankful for a God who created such an amazing world. I am thankful for the way my soul and spirit feel lighter and more bouyant. I am thankful that my soul was nourished with the experience, the way my body was nourished with the food, and the way I was nourished with the gift of fellow human beings to share the experience with.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Monday morning blues

Well, it's Monday morning and today I was thinking how much more clearly I see why some pastors take Monday off! I choose to take Friday off because it affords the opportunity to do some things on Fri. and Sat. that I want to be involved in - such as the spiritual direction training program I am part of. But, it is also costly at times. Yesterday I had a full day from 7 a.m. until 9:30 pm. with an hour and a half break to have lunch and take a drive with my husband. It was a good day and I feel good about the meetings and planning that took place. But, I had an early call to be at the hospital for a parishoner who is having surgery and now at 10 a.m. I am feeling kind of weary. Thankfully, there is an ebb and flow to these times - sometimes too busy and then sometimes reprieve. Parish ministry can never really be called a "job" because it is more a way of life where flexibility is required. Understanding and flexibility on the part of my husband and family is crucial for me to be able to fully commit myself to parish ministry and for the most part I have that. They are flexible, just at times disappointed that I cannot be available for them sometimes when my schedule doesn't permit. Today I have other visits to make and another evening meeting so it will be a longer day than I would like. I live about 35 minutes drive from church so going home for lunch or dinner makes for much too much driving in this day of costly fuel. Within the next month we will begin housesitting about 5 minutes away from the church and we are looking forward to that because I can realistically join my husband for dinner almost every night! It will be a welcome change from being away for dinner at least three nights a week. So, as ministry continues God's blessings are evident and I am grateful. Even when I am tired and Monday morning feels more like the end of the week than the beginning!

Saturday, September 8, 2007

When the Honeymoon is Over

I always think the beginning of parish ministry referred to as "the honeymoon" period is interesting. It certainly holds true in my experience - when you first arrive at a parish it's exciting, people usually like you, and as long as you don't rock the boat things go along smoothly. This beginning infatuation period can last up to a year or more, but unfortunately for me it usually never lasts even six months! I think partly it's because when you are an interim you aren't as careful as you are in a settled call. I also know I get the lay of the land - or understanding of the system and dynamics pretty quickly - so I begin to work on these things sooner. At any rate, it feels to me that the honeymoon period in my current call is over. And, I've been there not quite six months. Partly, I haven't worked with the confirmation program before and I'm making a few changes. I'm quickly learning that the parents of the teenagers in my current congregation aren't the easiest to work with. And, as happens in every congregation, when one gets wind of change and starts spreading the news - interpreting it the way they perceive it - things can go amuck quite quickly. This is also the time of a call where I begin asking myself the question, "why do I do this?" There is no other line of work where you are so consistently evaluated (by everyone all the time) and no matter what you do you are often criticized. I often wonder if I really have the kind of personality that can take the parish. I care deeply about the people, but often end up scratching my head when instead of coming to seek me out and talk to me, I get wind that someone's unhappy - from somebody else who's trying to caretake the someone who is unhappy. It is really like living in a large family system with all the dynamics and roles that you see played out in families. One writer in the field of church systems believes that everyone in the church is living out the roles they played in their families - and that is what makes for difficult and unhealthy dynamics when those folks have not grown up, differentiated, and learned to be healthy adults. This makes sense to me based on my experience. It also helps me to remember that it is just as much "them" as it is "me" when conflict begins to arise. So this week, my goal is to pray. Then try to love and nurture the people I work with, remembering my call is to nurture young people in the faith and relationship with one another as I try to deal with parents whose expectations I can never fully meet.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Something's Gotta Give

This morning I attended the local ministerial group I am part of. This was the first meeting for the new year because we take the summer off. It was a good meeting, but a small one. It's time consuming and isn't exactly my idea of fun, but I think it's crucial if we're ever going to get over denominationalism and understand that we serve the One God the Apostle Paul always pointed us toward. But, we do love our traditions! We were talking about the 150th anniversary of the city and the request for the churches to do something - an ecumenical service, of course. One proposal was to cancel all church services on Sunday morning and have one service out at the high school - enough space for all. Immediately the Catholic church priest said it wasn't possible for him to do that. He's interested in doing the ecumenical service, he just isn't willing to cancel his services - he says he can't. Given the current position of the Vatican, I'm sure he feels that pressure. They are, by recent communication, after all, the only "true church". So - okay, we've dealt with that plenty over the years, doesn't mean the rest of us can't go ahead. I suggested a lunch followed by a worship service on Sunday morning which would allow the Catholic church to do their thing and still be involved. People, after all, come out to eat and a community picnic seems to me to be a way to do food, worship and fellowship! The conversation went on for some time and basically went round in circles. Bottom line is that it's a good idea, but I didn't sense a great deal of flexibility. Are we pastors all like this? Do we stake our ground and refuse to give on issues because our denominational polity or our theology is 'best'? I'd like to think we're not, but am I deluding myself? I am Lutheran because of the theology of grace and I wouldn't have it any other way. I won't allow other theology to be promoted from my pulpit if I have any say over it. So - I'm a bit unwilling to bend myself, aren't I? And yet, it is because of grace that I have a deep, rich, full and fulfilling life. It is because I understand at the core of my being that it is God's action toward me that saves me and not anything I do that makes me Lutheran. I buy the theology. I don't want my salvation to depend on me because I know I'd blow it! But, I also know that everyone needs to work out their own faith and understanding, so I don't want to speak for the masses. So, if we ministers can't come to some kind of common ground how are those who we serve ever going to get there? Seems to me something's gotta give - and I wonder if we'll ever get there.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Wonderful Day Off

Labor Day weekend and that means I had today off - a rare and pleasant occasion! I just putzed around the house this morning and didn't really even get dressed until about lunch time. Made lunch for my hubby and I and then headed out to do some errands. First place, of course, was to Starbucks for a frappacino light! Went to Party America and got bubbles for Rally Sunday. Went to World Market and bought two baskets for the living room bookcases so we could store our CD's in them. And then I went to Jade Nails and had a pedicure and manicure - what a wonderful luxury. Do you know how good it feels to have your feet soaked in a jacuzzi like tub while you sit in a chair that gives you a massage? And then someone trims your toenails, massages your feet, and does all the things that are needed to make your feet look great? All the while you just sit in a massage chair! I had never had a pedicure until this year because I could never really afford it. And even though it's an incredibly unnecessary luxury I really love it! I had a manicure as well and then I went grocery shopping. Got that all done, came home and made dinner and ate with my hubby - which these days is also a luxury because I'm usually gone at least three nights a week. Then, I made a huge pot of chili to freeze in small containers so he and I can have 'pre-made' lunches during the week. All in all it was a productive day! And, it was also relaxing. I seldom get to do any shopping and I took my time and enjoyed the day. What a wonderful gift a day off is, and I really enjoyed it!

Sunday, September 2, 2007


Today I preached on the Luke text from Chapter 14 and it was focused on humility and hospitality. Sometimes the teachings of Jesus seem so simple to me - if I always look at them from the perspective of relational theology. Every time we extend ourselves for the sake of others we do something for them - and something happens to us. We grow spiritually, we deepen in faith and we become more like God created us to be. Relationship is always reciprocal, so it's never a one way interaction. Giving to another isn't just about what I am doing for them, but it's as much what I need to do for ME. It's strange that for years I didn't get this. What I learned mostly was what I needed to do for those "less fortunate" than me. That's an arrogant approach. There is poverty of the rich, just as there is poverty of the poor. There is also arrogance of the poor, just as there is arrogance of the rich. What I know now is that God's call to serve is based on relationship; with God, with others, and with all creation. And relationship is always interactive, and it is always reciprocal. I am not better than anyone else, and no one else is better than me - God's love is equal for all that he created. God doesn't play favorites - I am not special somehow because I live in the United States and I'm a middle class white woman. God loves me - but doesn't love me MORE or LESS than anyone! If you read the gospels you see this everywhere - Jesus is always leveling the ground between social class, race, gender. He's always ushering in the new kingdom where everyone is invited, everyone is loved and everyone is equal. When I see this I wonder why we have such a need to exclude. I wonder why we fight over who is "in" and who is "out" based on anything!! Can you imagine if we simply opened the doors, invited everyone to join, invited everyone to participate, and lived with joy as if God really does love us what an amazing faith community we would be?!

Saturday, September 1, 2007

The Great Minnesota Get Together!

Yesterday I went to the State Fair with my daughter and three granddaughters and we had a delightful day. It was in the 80's - almost too warm, but it was still beautiful. One of my favorite things about the State Fair is the food - and we ate our way from one end of the grounds to the other! Because there were four of us (Anya, the almost 7 week old obviously wasn't sharing our food!) we would get something and each try a few bites - that way we got to sample more stuff! So we had: pronto pups, mini donuts, french fries, roasted corn on the cob, Luigi's fries (breadsticks with cheese and marinara dip), Italian Ice, caramel apples and popcorn. Now, you would think with a combination like that at least one of us would get sick!! I talked to the girls today and we all did just fine. And even with all the walking we feel good today. It makes me thankful that I lost all the weight I have - I had no problems walking and even piggybacked Jayden (the five year old) about half the time we were at the fair. Two years ago I wouldn't have been able to handle the walking!! The other thing I find amazing about the State Fair is that I have lived in the Twin Cities area a huge portion of my adult life, and yet there are thousands of people and I never see anyone I know! My daughter ran into her chiropractor and they both live in Buffalo outside the Twin Cities - go figure! Because we had the baby with us we didn't go into any of the buildings, barns, etc. We did go to the Kiddie ride area and did some rides with the girls. I went on the first one with Jayden and it turns out the ride stopped halfway through and went backward - I was fine until then! I didn't think I'd go on any more, but after sitting for awhile we decided to ride the ferris wheel. Keyara wanted to and Jayden wasn't sure. But, we talked Jayden into it and the three of us rode. Jayden liked it so much we came back later and rode it again! The girls were both having fun, mom and I enjoyed it and even little Anya was as good as gold - so it was a good day. I love my family and I so much treasure the times we can do things like this together. Life is good.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Grace Happens

Everyday I see in life ways that God's presence is evident. I remember when I was younger "looking for God in all the wrong places" - or in other words, trying to figure out where God was and working hard to ensure I was doing the "right" things to let others know God was surely in MY life! Thankfully I have grown enough in my faith to understand that God is never missing - that it isn't my action that determines anything, but that God is ever present in our lives and in our world drawing all of us to reconcilliation. God is always drawing us toward the good for ourselves and all creation - and if we just clear our eyes we begin to see it. I saw it this morning in a two hour conversation with a woman who is hurting. God is in the midst working within and around her for reconcilliation in marriage and relationship. I saw it this afternoon in conversation with a new assisting minister and in his life and journey of recovery. Life is full of God - if we just let go of our need to put God in our boxes and allow ourselves to be open to his presence. It's a relief too, because we can let go of our perfectionistic need to 'do the right thing' or 'be the right way'. We can let go of our judgment of others because we understand that God loves everyone - we have no higher status because we're "Christian". God desires reconcilliation with all creation - God works in the lives of all people, everywhere, at all time. How? Can't really tell you - I just know it's true! God's way are beyond our ways. Whatever God chooses to accomplish will happen - I trust that and I see the reality of God's love most clearly in relationship. Even when relationships are fragile and fragmented, God is always drawing us toward possibility. When we read scripture we see evidence that God never gives up on creation - and sometimes I wonder why. We've certainly made a mess of things! But it is God's nature to love, to forgive, to extend mercy.... even when, NO ESPECIALLY when, we least deserve it. Grace is amazing. It is extended to us and it is a gift.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007


I have a few minutes in my day to write and I wanted to update this blog. I wish that I had time every day, but most days go by in a flurry of activity and there are so few moments to sit down and gather my thoughts. Today is different. It's Wednesday and the September newsletter is out (all my articles written), the bulletin is done for Sunday, the prayers are written, I have a good grasp of Sunday's lectionary text for my sermon, my house is cleaned and I am actually feeling a little bit settled and good about all that I have done. In the back of my mind I keep thinking, "what am I forgetting?" In pastoral ministry nothing is ever "done" because there is always the next thing.... bulletin, sermon, pastoral care visit, death, birth, wedding, funeral, meeting, meeting, meeting...... And yet, I love it. Even when I feel irritated at the many interruptions, I realize I love what I am doing right now at this time of my life. I also realize I am fortunate to be able to enjoy this. I am doing interim ministry and I am in the "honeymoon" period of grace in the church. People like me and I'm able to be pretty direct because that's my job as interim. My preaching has been going well and I've been preaching without notes for the first time as parish pastor. So far I haven't blanked on a sermon yet!! I used to type out the manuscript, and now for the last few Sunday's have not even typed it out. Part of my desire is to do the study, do the reading and thinking and praying on the Scirpture, and then to trust what I know and the Holy Spirit to guide me. I will make mistakes. Both Sunday services end up with different sermons because I don't follow a manuscript, though they are similiar in content. But part of the reason things are going so well for me at this time of my life is that I have the love and support of a generous and caring husband. A man who loves me, supports me and values me as a person. He is the model of unconditional love in my life - because he accepts me fully as I am. I think it's a challenge to live with such a busy person, with the kind of stress associated with my job, and with my personality of high expectations and perfection. He spends a lot of the time during the week alone and we have dinner together maybe two nights a week. Often I am not home before 9:30 p.m., and then because I am "peopled" out all day long I just want to veg in front of the computer for a scrabble game where I don't have to interact with anyone in person. He loves me and allows me to be me. He isn't demanding and he is always forgiving and accepting. Sometimes I wonder what planet he came from!! But, it is indeed a blessing because he gives me what I need to continue to effectively minister to a busy congregation. He gives me what I need to feel I am a good life partner. He gives me what I need to know that life is too short to be in relationship that isn't lifegiving. Today I am grateful for all the blessings of my life and the goodness of God.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007


My husband has been working for several days on hundreds of pictures that need to be sorted and then about 150 selected for a slide show. These pictures are from the mission trip I took with our youth from the church to Wisconsin. They're great pictures. My husband has the patience of Job with this project and I have the patience of a gnat! I honestly don't know how he can spend so much time and be so patient. It is a time consuming process. I get impatient just trying to look at them and decide which should go into the slide show. Because the pictures came from four or five different cameras his job is more difficult - with just our camera he can sort the pictures by what day they were taken and they are in order. Because of adding other pictures, he has to painstakingly sort them and place them manually. Technology is great, but I am not so good with using it. I love my laptop and I'd be lost without a computer - I don't handwrite anything - but I don't do well with projects like that one. I did create my first powerpoint presentation a few weeks back and that went well - but it was a simple one with just typed text and no fancy additions. Some day maybe I'll learn - right now I think it's because time is at a minimum with all I have to do, that I just get impatient with the tasks that take a long time. Thank God I have such a wonderful, patient husband who is willing to help with the painstaking tasks! How fortunate am I?

Tuesday, July 24, 2007


It seems I hardly ever get to this blog anymore because of the busy job I have. I could make time, I know, but it doesn't seem high priority on my list. Which, is kind of sad because it is a place to put down thoughts and to let others know what's happening in my life. To that end I want to talk about how grateful I am today for my life and all the wonderful things that are in it. I have a husband who loves and supports me, and my ministry, which at this time of my life is pure gift. We will celebrate our third year of marriage in December and it has been a very good three years! I am so grateful for family - and especially the addition of a new little granddaughter, Anya Genevieve, who was born on the 12th of August. She is beautiful!! My other grandchildren (all three are her siblings) are wonderful and healthy as well. My daughter and son-in-law are blessed, and I feel blessed to be "Nana" and to share in this family's life and activity. What a great and wonderful blessing to me at this time of life. I could go on and on because I feel that life is so good right now. I am also a realist and know that life can have difficulties as well. However, I choose to live each day in the reality that relationship with God and with others is most important and I believe I will have faith enough when times aren't so good. I have certainly had hard times in my life and God has been with me through them all, which has led me to a deep and abiding faith in the presence of God in my life and in the world. Just wanted to take a moment to share how thankful I am that life is good.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


I was at a study the last two days at Luther Seminary on the Beatitudes which was taught by Prof. Martha Stortz from Pacific Lutheran Seminary. It was really good - and very interesting. I liked the way she wove stories together and the idea she presented of looking at Biblical story from a sort of 'theatre in the round' perspective. We often focus on one character in a Biblical story - take for instance the prodigal son. She suggests we read the story from each character's perspective and ask questions we wish they would have asked. She invited us to place ourselves into the story, to act out or imagine the stories, to experience the living Word that the Bible was meant to be. It was interesting to see the direction she went with each of the Beatitudes - one each week will be focused on in the Women of the ELCA Bible Study from the Lutheran Women Today magazine. I look forward to leading this study. The women's Bible studies for the last couple of years have been really good. One of the things that I love is the relational aspect that keeps coming through. There has been a big shift theologically since I was trained at the seminary. I remember being told that experience wasn't valid - we know what we know from the Word. I also remember very strongly stating "when I read the Bible I read about a whole bunch of experiences!" Process or relational theology seems to be growing and bringing some refreshing changes to the materials published and used by the ELCA. We were created to be in relationship with God, with one another, and with all creation. It's refreshing to see more focus on relationship! I was also struck by what she said about Baptism - and our radical acceptance by God. It seems to me that radical acceptance in our Baptism should eliminate any discussion about sexuality - God accepts us as we are created and we do not put exception clauses on the radical acceptance of God! Refreshing to experience this study and to think about the changes that are happening churchwide.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Gotta love your neighbors

This weekend I attended my annual synod assembly, and it was much like all the other synod assemblies I have attended over the years. Long, sometimes very boring, and yet a good time to connect with colleagues and for me, to meet my new colleagues in this synod. But there are some things that just never change. This synod assembly had two resolutions brought by two very conservative churches. The first? A resolution that effectively says that we as pastors cannot create same-sex blessing of union services. I was offended by this resolution - since we have a national body that decided on "living together faithfully" where there were no absolutes about what we could or could not create. I find these types of resolutions to be just mean-spirited and arrogant, but what breaks my heart is that it passed!! It was a strange experience. The first vote looked like it was defeated - the bishop stated that it was defeated, and then someone called for a vote. When the voting took place, the resolution passed. I was a bit confused by it as well, because it looked to me from my vantage point in the back that more people voted the second time to pass the resolution. I am very curious about that. The first vote was quick and not much time was spent - the second vote required us all to keep our cards in the air until we were counted - a much more time consuming process. I wonder about why some changed their votes - is there pressure to do so? Are pastors afraid of what others will think? Did pastors not want their parishioners to know - it's a small world in the Lutheran church and if people had the time to look around they would know who was voting which way. It was confusing and I have no idea what really happened. What I do know is that the writer of the resolution got to speak to it and then they had someone placed strategically to immediately call the question - there was no debate allowed in this process. I get so weary of this, and it breaks my heart for those who are ostracized by this decision - by those who are wonderful people in committed relationships and are repeatedly told by the church they are hopelessly flawed. In my opinion the church is hopelessly flawed, all of us are, and I cannot and will not ever understand why we single out one group to exert control over and rejection toward. It saddens me deeply. The second resolution presented? A call for the bishop to petition the national church to end full communion with the Episcopal Church and the Reformed churches because they believe we aren't in common confession based on statements made by the Episcopal bishop. This resolution was defeated easily - but the fact that it was even presented leaves me scratching my head and wondering what in the world is going on in my church. Oh yeah, there was one more resolution - brought by the same church. That one? To continue positive relationships with our Lutheran brothers and sisters in other Lutheran traditions. Oh yeah - the traditions that will not join in full communion with us - and absolutely exclude us!! So, after all this was over and the assembly was almost done one of my colleagues told me the church that brought all this to the floor is a church that is in both the ELCA and one of the other Lutheran bodies and has been told to choose - they cannot be both. I was really angry after hearing this - we were simply bullied by a group of ultra conservatives! So, tonight I am reflecting on what it means to love your neighbor - when your neighbor isn't very lovable, when your neighbor treats others with disdain and judgment, and when your neighbor easily casts aside people because they deem them unsuitable. I really need God's help to understand what it means to love such a neighbor - I can easily let them have their beliefs, I can easily bless their desire to live any way they would like, but I cannot easily let them push their agenda onto me and then make it policy that I am forced to live by. And yet they are my neighbor - how do I find a way to live peacefully with them?

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Another snow storm

Another snow storm for St. Cloud today - and west of us, so I didn't drive to Paynesville for work. That's okay - this is Holy Week and the end of the week will be so busy that I'll easily make up the hours. It's a dark, overcast day that's good for staying in and maybe even taking a nap! I talked to my daughter today and she's just 45 minutes south of me, but they aren't getting any snow. Weather patterns are interesting! This morning we had a television repair man out for an appointment we had made last week. He came from the west and said the roads were terrible. It's interesting, because when I was younger, and even until about five years ago, I would have gone out and driven to work. I felt it was so important that I be there. Now, with a little age and wisdom, I realize what's most important is safety. I trust my driving, but not everyone else's! And so, I rearranged a church meeting tonight so that no one has to be out and driving. It seems to me to be sensible to reschedule things instead of risking accidents and injuries. I wonder about why I didn't reach this place sooner - where wisdom rules over an overactive sense of responsibility to follow through with things planned. Nothing is hurt by making a change. Nobody suffers, and in fact, everybody has the freedom to stay put in a warm, dry home. I used to think that older folks were just silly and cautious - and now I feel humbled by the fact that they really were just wiser. Maybe there is hope for me to live a life of wisdom yet!!

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Palm Sunday

Some of the familiar stories from Scripture are included in Palm Sunday. Today we did a dramatic reading from the gospel of Luke. I was the narrator, so the teller of the story. My colleague was Jesus, and some folks from the parish were Pilate, Peter, theives, etc. What was a bit of a surprise to me was the emotion I felt as we read through this story. No preaching, just reading (re-telling) the story of Jesus entering Jerusalem, then on through the Passover, the trial, and his death. I have struggled over the years with who Jesus is - savior, sage, wisdom? But even in the midst of those struggles, there has always been something that has drawn me to Jesus. Maybe it's the radical acceptance of those most unacceptable in the society of his time. Maybe it's the way he spoke with integrity and honesty when challenged by the powers of his time. Surely, his healing and power that is apparent in scripture. As I think of Thomas needing to see Jesus' hands and feel his scars to believe, I think I have some of Thomas in me. I don't know that I'll ever answer all my questions about Jesus and who he really is, but in the radical acceptance that Christ meets Thomas - I believe he meets me. And so I ponder all these things in my heart as I go through my days. I know that I feel very grounded and connected in God's love and that Christ is an integral part of that grounding.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Good Intentions

My intention to post daily certainly hasn't panned out, but I do like posting when I can. I spent the day in my spiritual direction program, and that always leaves me pondering everything that was discussed. First of all, there are about thirty of us and when we meet the first day of our monthly weekend session we check in. I often wish we could do this to begin a worship service each week. It wouldn't leave much time for preaching, but just hearing people's stories and sharing prayers for them is a wonderful way to "worship." It is connecting in the reality of God's love for all of us and sharing our concerns and joys with each other. I am always struck by how connected I feel after this check in. When people share their lives at a deep level, it's very difficult to stay disconnected. Each of us has about two minutes of "check in" to talk about whatever it is we want to talk about, but it's usually sharing from our lives. And the sharing is honest and deep; joys, new happenings in our lives, concerns, loss, relationships and all in a 'sacred' circle of sharing. There is something about sitting together in a circle, without desks or pews, that promotes this type of sharing. No matter how I feel when I arrive for the weekend, after the check in I feel connected and the depth of the weekend together is refreshing. We share, we sing, we study, we practice spiritual direction with each other - which takes us to deeper levels still. It is a wonderful program and I'm glad to be involved. Next month is our four day retreat and I'm looking forward to it. We spend one day in silence, and I love that! A day not to have to speak, answer, talk, respond or acknowledge anyone verbally - it's a treasured break. I love people, but it is in silence that I have learned my need for quiet and meditation. We spent some time in our theological reflection small groups talking about the concept of "manifesting" - or believing in what we want and the power we have to determine our lives. I have some serious problems with this concept, as did others, and it produced some lively discussion. For me it's too "abundance" oriented - that God wants us to have abundance (money, home, clothes, car, boat, etc. ad infinum) and I think the Biblical concept of abundance is not material. Hard to put down the jest of the discussion, but it was really good. There is a popular book called "The Secret" that's focused on this concept - and though I haven't read it, I do have some reservations about the idea. I believe how we focus our energy is important - but I believe it's always for the good of all creation, and not just what I think I need for my life.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Under the Weather

It's been awhile, but things have been busy and I either have terrible allergies or a terrible cold and I can't decide which it is! I began work on Sunday the 25th and worked again today. But, it's not a good way to start when you feel like your head is full of cotton and barbed wire. It was pleasant to assist on Sunday, and to meet many of the congregation. The senior pastor is friendly and very talented - he has a wonderful singing voice. It's one thing I don't have as a minister and always feel sad I'm not more musically inclined. I have a large office that's pretty empty. Since I'll be there only six months I don't want to fill it, but I also don't want to leave it empty! Over the next week I'll be deciding what to take in. I have more than enough books to fill two offices - most of them are in boxes in the garage. So, it might be a good thing to take the pertinent books with me. As I have been making these changes in work I have been thinking about taking a permanent call again. I love interim ministry, but already I can see that the changes happen at a more rapid pace than I'd like. Also, my ability to change and adapt seems to slow down as I get older. I have about ten more years to work and I think maybe a permanent call would serve my needs and the needs of a congregation well. I talked with the assistant to the bishop of SW Mn last week about keeping me in mind for permanent positions as they become available in this area - within a reasonable distance. Part of this decision for me is the connections I make within congregations, and the difficulty in leaving and saying good-bye. I really liked the folks at Gloria Dei and felt I was beginning to belong there. I liked the folks at Holy Cross. I like the folks at ULCE where we've been attending in St. Cloud, and now I am meeting another new group of folks. Don goes happily with me as I make these changes, but I'm thinking that a settled call might be the best way to get to know folks and build community over a longer period of time. It would give us a community to belong to for the next years, and then when I retire there would be just one more change to make back to a community where I haven't served as pastor.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Ain't technology grand?

I am writing my blog this evening on my new laptop computer - it's a beauty! But, there are some things to get used to. Like - no mouse - that's odd since I rely on one so heavily. I will eventually get one to plug in when I'm at home, but right now I'm doing without. We bought a Toshiba, which is highly rated, but we bought one that is discontinuing and still has XP because my husband didn't want the new VISTA. I'm not sure I have a preference, but it's nice we have all the same software since my laptop is networked with his computer. My computer is also wireless, so it will be fun to take it to a coffee shop sometime to try some writing. I'm convinced the combination of coffee and new computer will improve my writing tremendously! I thought the keyboard might be a little difficult to get used to, but I seem to be able to type about as fast as I can on a regular keyboard, so that's nice. The keys have a nice touch and the typing is fairly quiet even though I have a pretty strong keystroke. I think I could use this in a meeting without annoying everyone in the room. Have you experienced the computer user in the meeting who types so loudly that people just want to grab the thing away and close it up? I don't think that's going to happen with this one. I like having my own computer again because often both my husband and I want to use the computer and one of us has to wait. It makes it really hard when I want to play a game of Scrabble (on and can't because there are other more important things that need to be done!! Anyway, I think I'm going to like this. I went to TJ Maxx and bought a computer bag that doesn't look like a computer bag at all. And, it was really cheap! So, I think I'm ready to venture into the world with my new technology and enjoy coffee - maybe tomorrow between meetings! You'll recognize when I get to the coffee shop by the sharp improvement in my blog.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Working again

Beginning Sunday the 25th, I will be serving as associate pastor in a congregation about 35 minutes from home. It has been ages since I have served in an associate pastor position, and I'm looking forward to it. My focus areas will be mission, small groups, and pastoral care, which are all areas I've had some experience in and look forward to focusing on. The senior pastor is a male around my age, or possibly a bit older. He struck me as an honest man with integrity, and I look forward to working together with him. It will be odd, though, to serve in this capacity since I haven't done it in so long! I've had both very good and very bad experience as associate pastor. The contract I have is for six months with potential for renewal, but also a 30 day opt out for me or the congregation if it's clear this isn't a good match. That makes it very attractive. However, my "gut" feel is that this is a good fit and I look forward to getting on board. Life will change quite a bit though, because it's also been almost two years since I've worked full time. Seems like an odd time of the year for me to begin working full time, just when the weather is getting nice and we could be taking short trips to the north shore. We'll find a way to do that anyway! But for now I look forward to community, worship, working together with this congregation to help them discern for the future, and using the gifts I have for ministry. We'll see what the future holds. As one of my very good friends and I always used to remind each other, "All will be revealed."

Monday, March 19, 2007


Even though the first day of spring doesn't officially come until Wednesday, I know that spring is truly here. How, you might ask? I went for a walk on Saturday in Mandan, ND, where we were visiting my husband's former in-laws. It was a beautiful day - the temperature reached 68 degrees that day and it was a lovely walk. Warm, sunny and with a slight breeze. The air felt and smelled wonderful. There were many birds chirping, and the folks we visited had a tree out front of their house which was filled with cedar waxwings. Busy little birds eating the dried crab apples left on the tree branches. I saw many other cedar waxwings as I was walking - the town seemed to be filled with them. But, the reason I know spring is here is because of the other birds I saw - robins!! Every year, this is my "true" sign of spring. When the robins come back I know it's really here. I greeted the first robin I saw with delight and surprise. I actually didn't expect to see any robins and I definitely wasn't looking for them. It was a feeling of pure pleasure to experience seeing not only one robin, but six of them by the time my walk was finished. They were bobbing around on the ground, searching I'm sure for nesting material, and their bright orange chests announcing their presence. I smiled for a long time after sighting the first one. So now, no matter what the weather brings, like the snow flurries we drove through on the way home today, I know that spring is here and winter is behind us. I can't wait for the greening of the earth, the buds, the blossoms, the animals and birds; the richness of life to spring forth!

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Favorite things

I was thinking today about some of the things I like most in life - like the simple pleasure of hugging. My grandchildren are good at this, hugging, squeezing, and cuddling. I was with the kids on Thursday and Friday, and whenever I'm sitting anywhere one of them (or more) are always sitting on my lap, sitting beside me cuddling under my arm, or as close to me as possible. Now that there are three it gets a little tricky for the lap when they all want to be with Nana at the same time! Other favorite things are having a meal together with friends. That's always been one of my favorites - and I miss some of my friends in other places because the opportunity for a meal together becomes more difficult. The meals are usually good, but in my mind it's the conversation; the laughter, the serious, the difficult, the funny - all of it makes it a social occasion that is different than any other. It brings people together and creates community. Other favorite things: walking outdoors, especially in a natural setting where there are trees, rocks, water, wind; music - soothing, relaxing, beautiful; drinking hot tea on a really cold day sitting near the fireplace; reading a good novel; the touch of a beloved; the smell of a baby; holding the hand of the dying; the taste of really good food...... I just realized that this list is going to get very large! It's fun to begin thinking about favorite things - I realize now that Maria's song from "Sound of Music" called favorite things is true. Just listing these things has created a sense of happiness and peace within me. I think I will try this when I'm feeling down!! Oh, that's another favorite thing - a really good movie!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Seeds of change

Yesterday in hospice orientation we talked about the last hours of life. Talking about the final hours brought back recollections of the many people who I had the privilege to know during their dying process, and whose last hours and moments I shared. These have been holy and sacred experiences. We so often think of death as final, or as some step to a "final reward" as Christians. Since working with the dying, my perspective has broadened and my theology has changed. Death is really a transition to something we cannot imagine. God is surely there on the "other side" - and I believe that many who have been judged unworthy will be there as well. The lesson from Isaiah this past Sunday told us that "God's ways are above our ways." To me, that means we really limit God with our limited imaginations. We develop theology and rules, then stamp them with God's approval and begin to believe that we have clearly named God. Yet - God's ways are above our ways, and we cannot begin to fathom the mystery of that!! So, I like to believe that death is similar to the death we see every year in the earth cycle. I took this picture of the milkweed pod last fall. It's dead, but look at those seeds!! Those seeds represent life and will breed more milkweed pods in the spring. Our death has to be something like that - our physical bodies have died, but there's so much more to who we are. And, in the love and mystery of God - I believe that even though something ends, something new begins. None of us knows for sure what that something new is, but I believe from my work with the dying that there truly is something more that defies logic and brings peace and hope to those who are dying.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Art and Spirituality

The St. Cloud camera club had an open house and photography show focused on spirituality at the Spirit of Life Art Gallery. The Spirit of Life Church is one of the Unitarian Universalist congregations in St. Cloud. The photography show was an interesting display, with a variety of images. Some of my favorites: the very wrinkled, knobby hands of an old woman; the baptism of a dark haired baby by a white haired pastor; a rustic carved Madonna from South America; an abandoned gas station/convenience store with the sign "Are you ready for Jesus?"; a field of wild daisies with a fire line burning behind them; a very rustic old cement stoop with a door partway open titled "always open" and the graffiti on the remaining cement bridge abutments of an old bridge. There were more images though it was a small gallery show. What struck me was the varied images and then the written words of the photographers talking about their concept of spirituality. Spirituality was evident in relationships, nature and inanimate objects. And that came through in the photography. It renewed my interest in photography and reminded me of the project "Befriending Winter" that I did a few years ago, which consisted of photography and prose/poetry. I posted awhile back with the title "Contemplation" where I shared "Inward Journey". Today my husband downloaded and added the picture that I took that went with the writing. I think this year is a good year for me to focus on photography and spirituality, so I will be posting more pictures as the year progresses. I'll also share more of my poetry/prose writing, which I haven't really done in a public forum before.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Spring is in the air!

Now that we've had our two major storms for this part of the year, it seems clear that spring is in the air! It was 46 degrees today and in the 40's yesterday. Will be again tomorrow and to 50 by Monday. But, it's more than just the temperatures - you can almost feel and smell spring in the air. I went for a 2.4 mile walk today and the air has that fresh quality that comes in the spring. The snowdrifts are melting fast and I'm sure we'll be in the rainy season in no time. Why is it that spring makes me feel alive again? I have a body that really slows down and becomes lethargic through the winter, but when spring comes it is as if my body is awakening along with all the rest of the earth. I'm convinced of evolution because my body still votes for hibernation! I've been aware of these body sensations for years - the sense of something awakening in me when the signs of spring appear. Even as a child I was aware of how my body changed and adapted to the seasons. The winter always seemed dark and long to me, and I always felt that lethargy. Spring was like coming alive and I loved summer. Fall was my favorite season, but I always feel a sense of melancholy. It's so beautiful, but I know winter isn't far behind and it is bittersweet. I love the cool, crisp days of fall with the beautiful colors in nature and the vivid blue of the skies. But, I long for it to stay and I resist the move to winter. I've been trying to make peace with winter these last few years, and I believe I am doing better with the cold and dark. But, I love this time of year and my spirit seems lighter and there is an underlying excitement because the days are longer, the sun is shining more and I can't wait for the greening of the earth. I don't hear many people talk about these same feelings, but I'm convinced that many people share this sense of change that is evident in our bodies and our spirits as we go through the year's cycle.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

What is it they say about death and taxes?

It seems to me there is some line concerning the only two things in life that are certain - death and taxes. Well, sometimes it seems like taxes are going to be the death of me!! We've actually now gotten everything lined up for our "Tax Lady" and should get that sent off tomorrow - yippee!! My poor husband has really done the lion's share of the work, but with clergy taxes there's a fair amount I needed to get together too. I keep telling myself I should devise a better system for keeping track of things during the year - and then I don't devise that system. Hmmmm.......... It does really feel good when we get it all together and have some sense of being finished, allowing our tax lady to do her magic and get it all sent off and taken care of. Of course, we hope there isn't more to pay! I keep telling myself I'm going to devise all sorts of plans for things; keeping records, cataloging recipes, photo albums, organizing closets just to name a few. But there are always so many other interesting things to do that I never seem to get around to those tasks. Even when I'm not working, we seem to be busy and then when I do have time I'd much rather read, watch a movie, play scrabble or visit with my children or grandchildren. Guess that means those tasks are really not high on my priority list. They are just things I'd like to get done 'someday.' I think because of working with dying patients and their families, I've developed a sense that life is vulnerable and we should enjoy it as much as we can while we are here. For me family is always a priority - if I have something I need to do I will usually drop it when my daughter asks me to come watch the grandkids. I can always do tasks, but I don't ever get enough time to just play with the grandchildren. It's so much fun to be a part of their lives. I grew up without grandparents for the most part. My dad's dad lived about ten miles from us, but I only saw him a few times in my life and they never came to visit. The few times I did see them it was clear we were not held in very high esteem because of my father's alcoholism and our resulting poverty. It's sad because I love the stories of 'beloved grandparents' that I have heard over the years and I think how much better my life might have been if I had that unconditional love. But rather than live with regret, I choose to commit to being the favorite "Nana" of my grandchildren and giving them all the love I possibly can as often as I can!

Wednesday, March 7, 2007


I've started exercising in the last few weeks and I'm finding I enjoy it. I love to walk outside as soon as the weather gets nice, but mostly in the winter I don't do much as far as exercise is concerned. That's just not healthy! So, I did buy a rebounder (small trampoline) and I bought some walking videos - and I walk on my rebounder. I actually tried the walking videos without the rebounder and my legs hurt so badly during the night I kept getting cramps and waking up! With the rebounder my legs don't ache at all. But, I wonder about why I'm so unmotivated to exercise. It's strange, because when I force myself to do it I actually enjoy it and feel so much better. I also notice that I eat less and have more energy. So why is it such a chore? It's not at all a chore when I can be out in the fresh air and walk - that's always been one of the greatest pleasures of my life. Especially when I lived in Duluth and could walk by Lake Superior. I am a nature person, and it seems that's where I do my best meditation - and usually when I'm walking. Indoors, of course, isn't as interesting - and certainly not as nice as having the fresh air outside. But the benefits of feeling good, eating less and having more energy should certainly all be motivators, so why aren't they? I have wondered about this many times over my life. I am not lazy, but I do have to force myself to exercise. So, if any of you blog readers out there have any wisdom on this one - let me know!

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Winter blahs?

Sorry about missing a post yesterday, my dear hubby is on the computer doing taxes with Turbo Tax and I went to bed before he finished up!

Well, I'm not sure but I think the winter blahs have gotten ahold of me again. After a few days of sunshine and walking outside I thought I might have gotten past them. But, with the two major snowstorms and being inside most of the time I realize that they are still with me. I wish I could understand what causes them or why they seem to drain my spirit. I have no energy and no passion about anything. I struggled with writing a sermon, I struggle to make myself exercise, and I do my housework as if I am in slow motion. I know I have felt this to some degree every winter, but I wonder if it's worse for me when I'm not working. When I work, I tend to throw myself into work 150% and I seem to get energy at the same time I expend it. I have been enjoying being home, and I've been thrilled to have the time to read. But I tend to get so absorbed in my reading that seems compounded by my lethargy and I do even less than I should around the house! I know that this is often referred to as seasonal affective disorder, but I truly love what an astrologer I know has to say. She said it's really perfectly normal for our bodies to do this, that for thousands of years people lived in climates like ours and slowed down and stopped working during the winter. People gathered and grew food, prepared and stored it, and then hunkered down for the winter. They ate more dense food and tended to gain weight for winter. Our bodies are used to that for thousands of years - it's only been in the last couple of hundred years that we don't slow down and stop like before. We keep going no matter what and our "seasonal affective disorder" is labeled. She says that we're perfectly normal and our bodies are just working according to a very long tradition of resting in the dark time of winter. I liked her explanation and it made perfect sense to me. We don't stop. We wear ourselves out and don't get into the dormant period of winter that people's did for thousands of years. We push and push and push. No wonder we lack energy, no wonder we feel blue, no wonder we get depressed - we keep expecting ourselves to act like we always do when in reality winter is a time for hunkering down, going into the darkness and finding the gifts that are there for us. Course, when we get a taste of spring - it's difficult to go back into the darkness and hunker down!!

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Amazing Grace

My husband and I went to the movie "Amazing Grace" this afternoon. It was a really good movie - we both liked it. It was based on the history of the slave trade and the efforts to abolish slave trading in England during the late 1700's, early 1800's. The main character William Wilberforce, an abolitionist, was interesting - the way he totally gave himself to this cause. Albert Finney played John Newton, the preacher and former slave trader, who wrote the song Amazing Grace. I didn't know much of this history, but found it fascinating. I think if history could be taught in the form of really good films, more students would enjoy it! I would recommend the film to everyone. Most of the actors in this film are not well known, which makes it even more interesting. A good film without big name actors (except Finney, of course!). It was a good afternoon activity for us.

I preached and presided at worship at the small Lutheran church we attend this morning, and I really didn't feel good about how it went. Many people commented positively and appreciated it, but I didn't feel I did as well as I could and that is always difficult. I struggled with writing a sermon for the Luke 13 text from the beginning, and I just didn't feel like I was capturing what I wanted to. Oh well, sometimes it just doesn't work out as well as I'd like - I just don't like to be preaching in someone else's pulpit when it happens! I led the "Tree of Life" service by Marty Haugen, and I've not presided at that service before. It was kind of a challenge. I will say though, I think it's a lovely service. The music is quite singable - Marty Haugen always does good music!!

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Being Nana....

Today was one of those wonderful days when I get to spend the day with my grandchildren. My son-in-law was out of town and my daughter needed to work, so the three kids and I spent the day together. Being a Nana is so much different than being a parent, and I love the ability to just focus on the kids and enter their world. As a mom, I always had so much on my plate that I didn't really have that much time to just focus on the kids and be with them in their world. So today, the kids and I cleaned their playroom in the basement to begin with. It was a mess!! It wasn't my idea - that would have been more what I would have done in my mothering days - it was my nine year old granddaughters idea because her room is in the lower level and she's the one a big mess most effects. So, at her suggestion we picked up everything and sorted, and put things in their place. My grandson, who is three, watched a movie while we cleaned - actually, my five year old granddaughter spent more time watching the movie than cleaning too! We finished this task at around lunchtime, and I made lunch for my grandson and put him down for his nap and gave the girls a snack because our lunch wouldn't come until around two. My youngest daughter was bringing lunch for the girls and I, so we went down and started putting up our Polly Pocket houses and getting ready to "play Polly's" as the girls put it. We had gotten all set up and were playing when our lunch arrived around 2 p.m. It's fun to play dolls with the girls, because I learn a good deal about them in their play. The five year old will get really silly sometimes and we laugh alot! After my daughter came and we had lunch, we decided to color together. This is one of the girl's favorite things to do together - we have a huge set of markers and coloring books (Nana has this at her house too!) and we choose pictures then spend time coloring. It's really fun - we give the pictures to each other when we're done. At any time you can come to Nana's house and find pictures done by the girls on Nana's fridge! We also watched a movie later too - for a little relaxing time to snuggle together. Mom came home and she, my youngest daughter and the two girls decided to go to a movie so I stayed with my grandson until dad came home about fifteen minutes later. Then I headed for home. It was a good day - I love just hanging with the kids. No pressures, nothing that has to get done, just enjoying their company and doing the things they love to do. We talked about summer and going swimming together, we talked about the next time they come for an overnight to Nana's house, and we had a good day. I love those children - and did you know I have a fourth grandchild on the way? These three will have a little brother or sister in July - and Nana can't wait to spoil that one too!!

Friday, March 2, 2007


Inward Journey (3-17-04)

The road less traveled.
The journey inward,
Is the most difficult to make.
It is like entering a deep, dark forest
We are afraid of what we will encounter.
There may be bears or wolves,
Maybe a mountain lion lurks there.
Or possibly a gingerbread house
With a witch that feeds on children.

The soul journey can feel treacherous,
The path unknown and uncharted,
Can leave us feeling helpless and vulnerable
To the reality of our truths.

Winter calls us to this journey like no other season.
To risk this unknown path
Whether slippery, steep or boulder strewn.
To tread on with courage and adventure
To face our fears as we go deep in
Trusting the end of the path will come.
For the promise of the season assures us,
Out of dormancy new life will grow again.
This journey helps us die to the old
To emerge in our lives anew,
And winter is her siren.

I was thinking about why I get so contemplative during cold, dark days and I came across this writing I did a few years ago. I think when we settle down, settle in, we begin to go inward because all the distractions are gone for awhile. Winter is the best time for this, because we tend to stay in more - and sometimes we HAVE to stay in. I wrote this when I was doing a creative project for a class, which included photographs and poetry. I called the project "Befriending Winter" because I really don't much like winter! Since then I have been learning to appreciate winter for what it is and to value the change in seasons. Of course, this winter has been so very mild until now it hasn't been hard to appreciate! This was one of the poems I wrote back then, and I wish I knew how to post the picture that went with it. (Tall evergreens covered with snow and with steps to a path leading inward.) I really enjoyed that creative project and would like to do something like that again soon. But for now I spend a good deal of time in winter just letting my thoughts wander and contemplating life as it is. Today, after about a fourteen inch snowfall, I am feeling a little cabin fever again. Even getting out and shoveling takes the edge off the feeling of "stuckness" I get. Funny, I can stay home a week at a time and it never bothers me. What bothers me is the feeling I can't get out!! It seems to me that lent is a wonderful time for the inward journey - the ability to go into oneself with love and compassion and be honest about who we are, where we've been, and where we hope to go.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Another winter storm

I'm starting to feel a little cabin fever - with two storms in a week! It's been snowing and blowing all day and I haven't even opened a door to look outside! At one point I thought I might go out to shovel the front walk, but then decided to get my exercise indoors on my rebounder. Way less cold! But there is bad weather everywhere it seems - snow in the north, tornadoes in the south. I spent the day reading - finished a book called "Jesus Land" which is a memoir. When I read things like this I cannot believe the things that people do in the name of God. I've read other things that detail abuse, but when it's done because of some strange religious beliefs it simply baffles me. The book is written from the teenage perspective of the woman writing it. It's the story of her family life, her adopted black brothers, their abuse, her abuse, and the parents finally sending one of her brothers and her to basically a Christian (and I use that term lightly!) "boot camp" in the Dominican Republic where more abuse is doled out in the name of Jesus. Do the people in charge really believe what they say and do, thinking that severe conditions and punishment are what God would require? How can parents pretend to be so pious when they treat their children in this way? It was a difficult book to read - and even more difficult when you realize this "boot camp" still exists and people pay LOTS of money to send their children there!! This is the book for next month's reading group we belong to at our church. It will certainly prompt an interesting discussion! This is a horrible, but important book if you have the stomach for it.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Lenten Practices

I've been thinking about lent and the practice traditionally of "giving something up for lent." I don't really know where this originated, and I don't know how much people do this anymore. I know it was once popular, but I'm not really sure why. The lenten season is for self-reflection, traditionally focused on repentance and baptism. But, it's interesting because I've been thinking about lent - journeying through Christ's last days on earth and what that means. I don't suppose Jesus ever imagined millions of people retelling this story over and over again, and looking into their own lives to think about the ways they have failed and need to repent. It seems like we spend a lot of time on things like that in the church. Jesus' life and journey were what they were because he was convinced of what he was doing, compelled in some way to make his journey and face the powers that be, which he knew would bring his demise. But, I don't imagine he really wanted his followers to sit around thinking about what they hadn't done right, or to focus on the ways they had failed. I imagine he would want his followers to go forward and live our lives in love as he commanded. So, why do we spend so much time thinking about these things? Why is it that most people of faith still feel like they somehow have to earn God's love and grace, or do something to be worthy of it, or self-denigrate because....why? I've been thinking about the movie "Pay It Forward" and the simple idea of the young boy in the movie to do three things to help people. His idea would be that instead of paying him back they would then help three others, who would help three others, and on and on. If I remember the movie, he helps folks but then he gets too tied up into how successful his help was, and he feels defeated. Of course, as the movie goes on we see it all works out - his efforts pan out and the movement he began spreads in ways he couldn't imagine. In fact, in reality did you know there is a "pay it forward foundation" with a website - google it and you'll see! So, I wonder if Jesus might have a message to us during this time that's more like "pay it forward" and don't worry about the outcome?! I don't think Jesus ever felt that the road he took was something that people would have to "pay him back" for. If he indeed saved the world, he did it as gift and not as something expecting reward or whatever it is we call what we do. I imagine he would say give love and grace away, my gift has been given and I don't need to be paid back. Pay it forward - give it away, love the people I created, and the world I created, in every way you can. But don't be discouraged by the response - you can't be tied up to the outcome. I think the movie also shows another reality in the death of the young boy at the end. If you think being good or having faith will save you from difficulty or even death - it won't. Life is life and even bad things happen to good people. But - real faith - it seems to be isn't about "paying it back", but giving away God's gift of love and grace and reaching out in whatever small or large ways we can to "pay it forward."

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Quantum Theology

I've been reading a book titled "Quantum Theology" as an assignment for my spiritual direction training. I've loved quantum theory for a long time, I just don't always understand it as well as I'd like. This is the field that "Process Theology" evolved from. In what I've read so far, I see process theology in what I'm reading about quantum theology. It's very complex, but basic in some ways. If you look at it from the scientific view, you can see radical changes in how we think. In classical science everything is sort of black and white. You recognize the terms; cause and effect, deterministic, reductionistic, rational and objective. The classical worldview was (and continues to be) neat, efficient and easy to comprehend. Quantum theory terms aren't easy; transcends external objectivity, energy flow is the primary essence of reality, wave-particle duality, collapse of the wave function, nonlocality, and practical usefulness. Quantum theory dramatically alters the way we look at the world - it isn't as black and white as traditional science suggested. Scientists are making the switch and new things are learned everyday. In fact, the potential for learning is unlimited and it is impacted by our interaction. There is no such thing as objectivity. Everything is in relationship and everything is connected! In process theology the past always impacts the present with God in the midst creating new possibilities for the future - for the good of all creation. Wow - imagine a theology based in relationship!! One of my struggles as a pastor is embracing a theory that is post-modern and being excited about the new, while dealing with leading congregations that are stuck with old paradigms. The church is always lagging behind what is happening in the world - there is huge resistance to changing because there is so much fear surrounding change. But change is what must happen, not for the sake of declining memberships or rejuvenating churches. Change must happen in order for us to understand ourselves in relationship to God (however the Divine is named), to others, and to all that God created. Our scientific, objective, cause and effect classical science has so impacted our faith traditions that it will be difficult to break out of those constraints. We like things that are solid, black and white, easy to follow and understand. Do this and you'll get that. Faith and relationship simply do not work that way - and yet that paradigm has been around for so long it's deeply ingrained. How do I lead a congregation to the new? How do I counter what has been taught and accepted for so many years? People who are hungry for the new are seeking it outside of the church, they are going elsewhere to find their spirituality. How do I create change? For the sake of the world, and the created order, and for the sake of relationship, we must indeed change.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Remember that you are dust....reprise

Last night the news reported that the young man found frozen in the snow in Chaska had died. This story tugs at my heart in many ways. It reminds me of Ash Wednesday and the reality that death can come to any of us at any time, in ways we don't often imagine. "Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return." But more than that it tugs at my mother's heart. This young man was only nineteen years old and no one knows for sure why he died. A snow plow driver found him early in the morning and he was unconscious and partially frozen. The news story said the injuries they found were consistent with a fall. I hear lots of sad news, but for some reason this young man's story tugs at my heart. I don't really know why. It's odd that I heard the story after taking my walk in the storm. Thinking about it, I could easily have fallen, I've fallen before walking on snow and ice. And when I have fallen I haven't been hurt in the past. What an odd thing - a fall possibly having knocked him unconscious from an injury to his head. What time of night/early morning was he out walking? Why was he out walking? Did he argue with a friend or girlfriend, or a family member and leave his house angry? Had he been partying close to home and decided to walk home? Why would a young man be away from home wearing a watch and ring (which they showed hoping to identify him) and no wallet or identification? So many questions that will never be answered. Yet this young man lingers in my heart and mind. Maybe it's because I have children. I raised three girls, so I never experienced nurturing a boy. But I have a grandson now, who is three, and I cannot imagine the heartbreak of losing him at any time of his life. He is so different than my daughters, and his two sisters, and he has been teaching me many things about what it means to be male and I am so grateful to have him in my life. I cannot imagine the pain this young man's family feels because this tragic death seems to have no meaning, no resolve, no answers. No one saw him and no one knows what really happened. I've held him in my heart and prayers, as well as his family. But I am struck again by the vulnerability of life and how little control over death that any of us have. Maybe that's what troubles me most, my helplessness in the face of the reality of death. This young man's death tells me there is nothing I could do to stop death should it choose to visit my life and any member of my family. That's a truth that I have a difficult time embracing, while at the same time I know it's validity. My lenten journey has surely been deepened by this young man, and I pray that he is engulfed by the love and grace of the One who created him. And I pray that his family might find peace.

Sunday, February 25, 2007


I just finished reading another good novel by Gail Godwin today entitled "Queen of the Underworld." I liked the title which is why I bought the book, but I've read others by Godwin and I like her writing; her characters, attention to detail and ability to spin a story. Actually, this is the fourth book I've read by her and I liked the other three better. Whenever I read a book I feel like I enter the story so completely that at times I feel trapped in two different realities; the one I live and the reality of the life of the story - often the life of the main character of the book. In this case, the main character is a writer with a vivid imagination! As I read this book, and many others in the past, I am always struck by the question "what does it take to write like this?" Certainly it is part imagination, intuition, free floating associations, but there is also some work to it which includes history, research, geography to name a few. My issue doesn't seem to be lack of ideas alive in my imagination, I have plenty of them. My problem is that even though I can "think" a story, I have a hard time writing the story. I imagine I've created hundreds of book titles over the years, and ideas of what the story would be about, but I haven't put them on paper and so they are like asteroids traveling in outer space; they fly by and burn themselves out as they travel along. I truly wonder what is the secret of being a writer? In the novel I just read the main character talks about freezing up and her thoughts not flowing. That's what happens to me when I sit down to write - no matter how fluent I am in my mind and how detailed and interesting the story - I simply lose the ability to allow the story to flow from my mind onto paper. I suspect part of my problem is how I have learned to write for education and preaching - I am constantly editing in my head so I have dulled my ability to just allow things to flow when I sit down and attempt to write out my thoughts. My "internal editor" is so active it contributes to my freezing up. So, this simple task of blogging is an attempt to sit down every day and write something - no matter how trivial or uninteresting. It reminds me of writing "morning pages" with a difference - I know I am allowing others to read what I'm writing, and I'm consciously writing on some topic rather than free flowing. I'm trying to develop the ability to allow my mind to flow with a story. And I'm trying to listen less to the internal critic. So far I'm meeting with limited success, but I hope as time goes on that I will just sit down and write what comes forth rather than having to "think" about something to write and then "try" to make it sound interesting.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Walking in a storm....

Today I spent most of the day reading a good novel. But by this afternoon I felt lethargic and decided to take a walk. I don't know what it is about being in the elements, but I always feel much better after taking a walk. It had been snowing for awhile and we already had about three inches. However, out in the open the snow blows around, so in some places there was one inch and in others there were six! It made walking a little more difficult. We live on the edge of town, and my normal 2.4 mile route is away from the town and toward the country. It was great, not too cold and the wind wasn't too bad until I turned around and headed back. Guess I should pay more attention to the direction of the wind! As I was walking into the wind I wondered what had possessed me to go walking out in a storm. It certainly wasn't bad enough that I'd get lost. Visibility was good. But as the wet snow hit me in the face it stung a bit, so I ducked my head and watched my feet, looking up only once in a while to see if there were any oncoming vehicles. And then I started thinking again about the nostalgia I felt in anticipation of the storm. Maybe that's where it began, the desire to be outside in the snow. I haven't walked in the snow for years. If you know me then you know that my idea of a good time in winter is sitting in front of the fireplace reading a good novel. But there was something about the memories that were stirred, as I wrote about the approaching storm yesterday, that created a desire to relive something, or renew my acquaintance with winter. When I was a kid we'd play outside for hours after a big storm, my brothers and sisters and I. We'd climb onto the garage using the walnut tree next to it as a ladder. Then we'd jump from the roof of the garage into the 12-15 foot snow drifts. Over and over again we'd climb and jump until we tired of the game or got too cold and went inside to warm up. There was always something exciting and refreshing about the new snow. I felt that freshness as I walked today. Everything coated freshly in white and all the drab, dark, dirty snow covered. The whiteness so brilliant it lightens everything. Then there are the bodily feelings I was aware of. The feel of the snow under my boots, with sometimes the awareness of the slippery ice coat from the rain in the beginning. The cold against my cheeks, and the wet snow on my face. Most of the time it was fine, but when I walked into the wind it stung. I was aware of the warmth from the exercise of walking, and my upper body felt warm the entire time. However, I felt the sting of cold on my legs under my jeans, especially when the wind was blowing strong toward me. I kept thinking about running a warm bath, putting on some soothing music, and lying in the tub to warm myself up. In fact I didn't do that, but shoveled the front walk when I reached home then made myself a cup of hot tea. It's still snowing and will snow throughout the day tomorrow. I'll probably stay inside.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Waiting for a storm....

Funny, isn't it, how much anticipation one feels when waiting for a storm? For the last several days the predictions have been coming in. Of course they keep changing. And, according to the last time I heard any of the weather reports the oncoming storm seems to lessen in severity. It hasn't started snowing yet, but the wind has picked up. It reminds me of the good old-fashioned blizzards we had down in the snow belt of southwestern Minnesota when I was a kid growing up. It wasn't uncommon to have a snowfall of over a foot several times during January. And I remember the howling of the wind. The house we lived in was over a hundred years old and certainly not the most well-built, it was cold and drafty and the wind seemed to rattle not only the windows but the entire house on it's foundation. There were times after a storm that our neighbor had to come shovel out to the front door so we could get out of the house. The house was obviously built before two exits were required. We could have been stuck inside all winter if not for the kindness of our neighbor! In bed at night trying not to move to retain the heat my body had generated in the small space I occupied, I would listen to the howling of the wind. It wasn't frightening to me, but more mysterious and exciting. Who knows what could happen in a wind like that? And I was safe inside the house, away from the sting of the snow blowing around. I was also aware there would likely be no school the next day, which was always a reprieve not to have to get up and go out into the freezing temperatures. I'd spend the day sitting as close to the furnace as possible, and if the storm hadn't subsided, listening to the howling of the wind as the storm railed on. Somehow when you're inside and warm you lose touch with the reality that a storm like that can easily take lives. Listening to the sound of the wind, which I always found pleasant, never brought fear to my mind. But, I don't suspect the storm that is coming will be that kind of storm. The last time I remember a good storm was the Halloween blizzard that hit Minneapolis and dumped over 30 inches. At any rate, we're hunkering down and waiting for the storm. No need to go out all weekend, we have everything we need. Who knows how much snow we'll get and how bad the wind will be. One thing is for sure, I am thankful for the warmth of a home and the ability to stay put when there is a storm threatening. But it does make me think about all those who are homeless in the Midwest and where they might go to be safe from a storm?

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Remember that you are dust.....

"Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return." Having worked with the dying over the last several years, I am deeply moved in the moments when the minister makes the sign of the cross on my forehead with ashes and speaks the words. No matter how much I try and convince myself that life will be full and I will live long, these words speak truth. Life is temporal and we all will die. To live in the light of that reality is to embrace the spiritual quest of living. The "dying to self" that we undertake during the Lenten season isn't a bodily death, it is a time spiritually to die to the things that just aren't important. I reflect during this season on what I have focused on as important in my own life. How easy it is for the unimportant to invade our lives. It begins simply, then grows daily. My journey this Lent will be on focusing again on what is important. At the heart of what's important is faith and compassion. Faith without compassion, it seems to me is empty. And so I seek to grow in compassion, in love, in acceptance and to lose my tendency toward judgment and arrogance.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Stalking Spring

Today the temperature was 45 degrees when I decided to take a two mile walk. It was wonderful - air was fresh, breeze was cool, and the sun kept trying to lose the clouds. This is the kind of day that makes me feel as if I am stalking spring. You know, just making myself obvious to her, wooing her, trying to persuade her to stay around and warm my life. I know of course that it's futile. It is, after all, Minnesota on the 21st of February and it is not realistic to think it will remain warm. There is snow in the forecast for the weekend, and the temps are going down. But, oh, how much I long for spring to be here to stay. To usher my sluggish body into awareness and out of the deeply ingrained desire to hibernate! I loved the feeling of exercising my body outside in the fresh air, absorbing the sights and sounds of the neighborhood as I internally process thoughts on varied subjects, letting my mind roam where it will while my body roams the streets. I'll go forward with hope, knowing that sooner or later spring will be forced to stay with me, at least for awhile. Until then I'll take whatever opportunity to stalk her that I can - hoping to somehow convince her to stay.