Monday, September 29, 2014

Day #271

September 28, 2014

You know the old saying, out of the mouths of babes…, well he said a mouthful today. First one of the young ones said, “Bye, I will miss you next year.” He got a hug for that one. Then later he told me, “I hope you’re good in your next job.” My reply was, “Me, too!”

Which caused me to start wondering: can I remember all that I have learned from the folks I have been serving the last six years: will I listen twice as much as talk; will I hold in confidence their stories, their pain, their expectations, their questions and their assurances; will I be faithful in preaching the word, teaching the scriptures, encouraging the faith?

Perhaps those seem like crazy questions, or ones that make this “job” all about me. I imagine some of it comes from the unknown of starting something new. And a tad nervousness.

There is a strong reminder, and a line I will soon be asserting, “I will, and I ask God to help and guide me,” that reminds me this “job,” this calling, this privilege and honor, is NOT all about me. This is God’s call to all of us - “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” and “Love your neighbor as yourself” (NET, Matthew 22.38-39). That’s really the bottom line to being “good” in the “job,” any job. So, ok God, here we go…


Day #270

September 27, 2014

Amazing, isn’t it?! How the little things can sometimes get the best of us?! Today it was a window screen clip. You know, the little things that hold the screen against the window. I worked and worked to get one, just one, to work properly. How can one little bit of plastic require so much time and effort to get to work?!

Confession - I can’t really see God at work in that silly little clip. I can’t see God at work in dirty windows OR cleaning them. Perhaps the lesson I want to remember is to not fret so deeply over the little stuff or let it eat so much time when there are more important things to do.

Like eating with friends! Sure am thankful I didn’t let the clip prevent that from happening.


Saturday, September 27, 2014

Day #269

September 26, 2014

Some deep questions regarding church came across in my reading for this upcoming Sunday. They stem from the passage of scripture in Philippians, chapter 2, verses 1-13. In those words, the apostle Paul writes, “look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.” This is a difficult thing to do. This is virtually impossible to do on our own. We want what we want, at least I know I do. Why can’t I get what I want? Why can’t things be the way I want them? After all, this is MY church, MY space. But is it?

So in the reading I was doing (from Sundays and Seasons of Augsburg Press, ELCA), these words struck home to me and I share them for us all to consider:
Too often and too easily when people in the church talk about growth they are secretly, or not so secretly, hoping for more people in the pews on Sunday morning and more money in the offering plate. [Invite] folks to consider these sorts of questions. What does your church mean to you? How have you experienced Jesus through this group of Christians? How has your faith changed after being part of the congregation? How have you been blessed? Then remind folks that these are reasons to invite people to their church, so others can share in these sorts of beautiful experiences.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Day #268

September 25, 2014

Another holy moment “coincidence” for this week. Today was my turn to lead devotions at the local Lutheran Retirement Home. I misunderstood an email and thought the hymns had been selected, so I did not get in touch with the activities director to let her know my choice. When I arrived, she had "arbitrarily" picked two great hymns that fit perfectly what I was planning to talk about. But the third fit “just because.” The hymn we finished with was, God Be With You Till We Meet Again (

Many of these folks have been coming to devotions for the entire time I have been leading them (twice a year). I know their faces if not their names and stories. I watch them sing and nod and sometimes sleep. :-)

Certainly I will miss them, but I know God will be with them until we meet again - I am so thankful!!


Day #267

September 24, 2014

You know how sometimes the very thing you need to be reminded of comes across your desk/inbox/phone? That perfect reminder that you are not alone, that someone cares - especially God - and marks a holy moment!? Well, D365 (see Day #184) this week has been that very thing. The “pause” section for this week is:
Today is a busy day. It is full of things that must get done and people that must be seen. With the help of God, I can be peace in every encounter. With the help of God I can be a holy presence in every conversation.  With the help of God I can place the thumbprint of the divine on every assignment. With God’s help I will be the best version of myself today. 
Offer space in a busy day for the God who has already gone before you into it, and trust in the help that will come.
If that just doesn’t describe my life right now, I don’t know what does. And just what I need to be reminded of - that God is with me, God is guiding me, and God will take care of those I am meeting with to be in holy conversation.

God truly is amazing - just have to stop long enough to pay attention!!


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Day #266

September 23, 2014

Prayer can be holy ground. Being invited to pray for folks in their hour of gloom, fear, frustration, pain, sickness….you name it….is humbling and honoring. It’s worth every effort, I believe, to maintain confidentiality and even risk ridicule for not being willing to share information freely, just to have folks trust me with their heartfelt and heart-close suffering.

Over these years I have made an observation. It may not ring true in every case, but it seems to often: the folks who are most frustrated with my lack of telling information that is not really mine to share are the same ones who, when they want information kept confidential, are quick to trust me with it.

What prompts this need to tell all we know about others? Where do we get the notion that a person’s story is free-game for all to share? And what is really behind our deep-seeded need to tell all about another person's life?


Day #265

September 22, 2014

It is not something I am proud of, but it sometimes happens. Most days I’m fairly even tempered, with maybe a slight lean to the absolutely content and satisfied. But sometimes that temperament is challenged, and when it is, my dear husband usually gets caught in the fray.

Today was one of those days, and I was just “a fussin” when I talked to my patient, tolerant, loving husband. Now, I'm not proud of it, but I let him have it with both barrels. He listened quietly, letting me vent, which made me immediately sorry for being so hateful. And I apologized. What did my husband do? He accepted my apology.

What a gift - to be forgiven! I am so thankful - and very, very fortunate! What an example of loving kindness you are to me. Love you, sweetheart!


Day #264

September 21, 2014

The Gospel reading from today was the parable of Jesus and the workers in the vineyard. It is the one about the laborers who were hired for only a couple of hours receiving the same pay as those who toiled in the hot sun ALL DAY. It’s just NOT FAIR! Why does one receive more than, or at least equal to, another? Why does one sibling feel left out of the equality of a parent’s love and attention? Why do those who seem to just coast through life end up getting more stuff, more love, more recognition? It’s just NOT FAIR!

How do you talk about fairness with a group of children? It’s not like they don’t understand things not being fair, but it’s more trying to help them understand our sense of fairness isn’t the same as God’s. So what happened was when the one who came forward toward the last quickly sat down beside me I asked him to trade places with the one who had come quickly but sat far away. It wasn’t fair, after all, that the last child to come forward ended up sitting next to me. However, I wasn’t too surprised when I looked around to find the boy who had been asked to move sitting as far away as possible. With his arms crossed in defiance, he was without doubt an unhappy boy and you could almost hear his mind processing: this just isn’t fair!!

So I went on to remind them that the one thing that IS most certainly fair is the love God has for us. It is fair because it is equal. God loves all of us the same amount. Thanks be to God!!


Day #263

September 20, 2014

It was a great event tonight - Music and Mission.

The all Lutheran Clergy band in the area called Rev It Up provided the music. They seemed to have a fun time!
Then we heard a great presentation by Rev. Lail about mission and specifically his work with Real Love Ministries International in the country of Haiti. Very informative and inspiring.
Hard to miss the intersection in these two wonderful ways of sharing God's love and ministry. Thank you to all who were able to come and help make the event happen.


Day #262

September 19, 2014

Several years ago I worked with someone who told me his humorous story about going to the DMV to have the address changed on his driver’s license. It went like this: you know how it takes forever at the DMV and the employees are seemingly unhappy people? Well, today was no exception. It took me a couple hours to finally get to the head of the line and when I finished giving the employee my address change, she went to take my picture for the new license but, of course, the camera wouldn’t work. The frustrated, now very grumpy employee looked at me, and with a straight face said, “I hate my job!! This equipment don’t never work!!”

“This equipment don’t never work” has become a sort of byline for me, if you will, when things don’t go according to plan with equipment of any kind. Today I went by the church to prepare a PhoneTree message about an event at the church tomorrow. After spending about forty-five minutes making sure all was ready to send it, I then discovered the machine wasn’t working. There was nothing more I could do, except go home and grumble about the waste of time and the frustration of not being able to get the reminder out to folks.

Oh well, what are you going to do when “the equipment don’t never work!?” Keep smiling, I guess!


Day #261

September 18, 2014

Four words and two pictures that are worth a thousand more.

Mountain majesty:

 Elk Excitement:


Day #260

September 17, 2014

The Convocation ended today and Rev. Peter Marty’s last teaching was this morning. He talked about love, specifically love for a congregation. His words spoke to my heart as he quoted one of my favorite lines - people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. People respond to a desire to love that manifests in wanting to know them, truly listening to them, and having compassion for them. Then he said that a congregation is a group of people to fall in love with.

What a great image. What an inspiring reminder. And what a role model we have for loving in our Lord and Savior who loves us unconditionally, forever.

Now it’s time for a couple of days of R&R with my husband! Woohoo! But this has sure been a wonderful time of learning and a great end to my attending Convocations in NC. :-)


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Day #259

September 16, 2014

Day two of Convocation and Rev. Peter Marty's talk was about developing a deeper, more abiding faith, or nurturing our inner holiness. To be a better preacher, he said, spend time feeding and working on our inner holiness.

He shared one question people ask consistently about preaching: is it true? Not true as in factual, but true as in the purpose of a plumb line or how the spokes of a bicycle wheel must be exactly equal in length to allow the wheel to turn without wobbling. True - as in does what the preacher say match with what the preacher lives? Wow!

Then he went on to say that people often ask, what should I do? How should I make a decision about something? Rev. Peter Marty quoted, “If you know who you are, you will know what to do.” The inner holiness is also a guide.

This is not really new stuff. This is not radical. This is not cutting edge. It is time-tested and God-honored, perhaps just packaged in a new way of understanding. Give God the time needed to honor the relationship and build the connection and God will not, ever, let us down or leave us alone. It just doesn’t happen overnight, or quickly, or in a couple of years. It happens over life, in life, and through life. And, it does not mean a life of ease or wealth or health, but a life of joy and peace. Amen!!!


Day #258

September 15, 2014

It is Convocation time. Call it continuing education, connecting with colleagues, time away, whatever, but certainly call it learning. Rev. Peter Marty, pastor, theologian, writer and dynamic speaker is the Keynote for the meeting. Today he talked about welcoming, hospitality, and sharing space with others.

He shared that a saying hung in his boyhood home: Let all who enter here be welcomed as Christ. This saying, he told us, helped to form his life. So he asked, how do we, or how would we, welcome Christ (and his focus was mostly on welcoming in a congregation)?

For one thing, he suggested to eliminate the use of the word “visitor.” Think of how we treat the visitor, of say, the football team. For one thing, the visiting team gets the worst seats in the stadium, at least according to what I noticed last Friday night at the football game honoring Coach (see #255). They know they are not a part of the community to which they have arrived and, just in case they do not know, they are usually reminded fairly quickly.

Thing is, Christ is not a visitor; Christ is the host and should be welcomed as such. He is not an outsider of the family, because not only is he a part of the family, he IS the family and makes us a part of the family with and through him.

How do we welcome the “unfamiliar with our space?” Do we open many doors of welcome (not literally, but figuratively with different events and opportunities for gathering); do we meet folks at the threshold or go out into the parking lot (and neighborhood) and direct them in? Or do we wait for them to make that meager knock on the door and hope they will be brave enough to open it and come in on their own?


Day #257

September 14, 2014

It snowed in Montana. Seems a tad early for the year, but the weather (wherever we are) is about as predictable - and controllable - as the sleep pattern of a newborn baby. :-)

Sure, it is most likely going to be very cold where I will soon be headed. And probably very snowy. Yet, something came to my mind that seems important to remember: a place is about more than just the weather.

If that were not true, there would be many places in the world where folks might not choose to live. Some like it really hot; some do not. Some like it really cold; some do not. Some do not mind living with the possibility of dangerous tornadoes, earthquakes, hurricanes, tsunamis, etc.; some cannot imagine those kinds of risks.

Certainly weather plays a part in our lives. It affects how easily we can come and go, it may change our indoor or outdoor plans for the day (the homecoming meal had to be enjoyed inside today due to rainy weather earlier), and it impacts our overall comfort. But isn’t a place about the people and the calling more than it is the weather?

Realizing time is getting shorter and shorter, I know I will miss the weather where I currently live. It is nice having long summer days and cool spring nights, an extended season of not needing a coat or gloves or hat, and enjoying the colors of fall.

Yet, instead of the weather, it will be the people I will miss most. The folks where I am leaving have become a part of me. Their lives, their stories, their experiences, the joys and sorrows they have shared with me have become dear to me. There will certainly be a time of grieving, of adjustment, and of sadness.

Yet, there are new things on the horizon for all of us. God knows who and what they are, and just as God’s creation experiences the weather, we all will experience the new things one day at a time. And all will be well.


Day #256

September 13, 2014

The above saying was shared by a colleague (thanks, Jerry!) and it made me stop and think - deeply!

Some questions that came to mind:
  • What are the things that I pray about?
  • Who is at the center of many of my prayers?
  • Am I faithful to prayer being conversation, or do I speak to God mostly in a “laundry-list” sort of way - please heal …., please grant …, etc?
  • Do I trust that prayer can change the world, or just my little corner of it?
  • And perhaps most importantly: What work needs to be done in my prayer life?
How about you?


Day #255

September 12, 2014

My husband and I went to a High School Football Game tonight. Maybe that is not unusual for a Friday night, except this was a special evening. The football coach my husband and many others had was being honored. Twenty-five years after his retirement, the field at my husband’s High School Alma Mater was being dedicated to Coach Henderson and the name of the field changed.

The picture shows “Coach” (light jacket to the left of the photo) on the field at half-time, along with many of his former players. Having not attended this particular school, I had not heard of “Coach,” except through stories my husband had long ago shared, many of which really never quite stuck. But tonight he, and others, shared memories that made me instantly like this man.

For example, it was pointed out that the young player on the current team with the number 1 on his back would never have been allowed to wear that jersey back in Coach’s day. There was no “number 1” on the team, all were equal. In Coach’s own words, “All are the same - there is no one more important than the others.” He also said to the students and team of today, “Try hard and never, ever, give up.”

Pretty awesome! Great advice! Congratulations Coach - glad you were able to see this honor bestowed upon you! Seems you deserve it!


Thursday, September 11, 2014

Day #254

September 11, 2014

How can it be September 11 and it not be a day of remembering. Thirteen years ago this morning I hit my knees in the sanctuary of the church where I was working and prayed. It was the only response I knew to being shocked and afraid. It was Who I knew to go to, especially since I was alone in the building (I was the secretary at the time and the pastor was with a woman whose husband had died that morning after a long illness).

After spending a long time in prayer, what I wanted to do next was run to my own husband and hold him tight. And I wanted to be with my mother, the one who had first called to tell me what was going on (I thought she was kidding or watching some crazy movie on television). And I couldn’t help but think of all those people who would never hold their loved ones again - all because...

It was hard to believe this had happened. It was frightening to think what might be next. It was heartbreaking that hate had prompted this response.

The congregation where I was worshiping gathered that evening for a worship/prayer service. We prayed, we cried, we heard the promise of God in scripture, but mostly we came together just to be together. There wasn’t much we could do, for the events had taken place a long way away. But we could be in community with people we knew and trusted and loved.

Now, thirteen years later, there is a whole generation of folks living who were not even born when this horrible day happened. They do not know what life was like before 9/11, nor what it was like on that particular day. It’s like those that came after Pearl Harbor, the stock market crash, the Civil War, etc. I cannot imagine what people were feeling then - the angst, the fear, the seeking answers and hope.

Will we never learn from the pain of history how to live with and love one another?! I suppose we will, one day, when God’s perfect timing comes!


Day #253

September 10, 2014

It’s a double Wednesday. Two things today brought into focus the “intersection.” The first has to do with hiring folks to do odd jobs around the house. It is something I do not like to do. Not because I think I can do it all myself (although I like to try - haha), but because you just never know how it will turn out. Will the person do the work you expect? Will they be fair in price? Will they be dependable in showing up and finishing on time? You know, all those things that are hard to determine by just picking someone out of a list online.

But that is what I did yesterday. And I am soooo pleased. Avex Building Maintenance Solutions came today (yep, a one-day turn around from estimate to doing the job!) and completed a task inside I just did not think I could manage, and will be back tomorrow to finish one outside. They get my 100% approval rating. It’s like I made a new friend, too, besides finding a very dependable, conscientious, hardworking business owner.

The second - and perhaps the most important - today would have been my in-laws 71st wedding anniversary. I am so thankful they met and fell in love; grateful they had that son of theirs; appreciate the way they raised him to be the man he is; and was very fortunate to become one of their family, for they were very good to me.

So Happy Anniversary! You are remembered with love!


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Day #252

September 9, 2014

Bible Study day - always a Daily Intersection! Matthew chapter 5. The Beatitudes and Jesus' comments about the commandments. As we talked in the circle about God, Jesus, and the Law, the observation was made that God changed from the Old Testament to the New; that God evolved.

It is understandable where that thought comes from - the God described in the Old Testament seems full of anger, vengeance, and an either for me or against me attitude - I suppose you would say a God of LAW! Then came Jesus, and God seems to have mellowed and grace abounds.

My response was to counterpoint saying that God has not changed. It comes from God being the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. Maybe I just don’t like to think of worshiping a God who can be swayed by humans or history or current events or good arguments. I prefer to think of worshiping a God who is way bigger than any of that.

What I didn’t think to say at the time of Bible Study was that the God described in the Old Testament basically used only the Law and the Prophets to reveal to humankind who God is. In other words, God was shown to humans in a sort of one- or maybe two-dimensional view: the Law said this is how you should act and obey God; the prophets said what was going to happen if you didn’t; and the sacrifices and rituals were meant to restore the relationship that was broken.

However, in God’s good time, Jesus was sent to earth to show us a fuller view of God: love, grace, forgiveness and the way for everlasting life. Jesus revealed to us in a broader way who God truly is. Now we know God through meeting, knowing and learning about Jesus - Who reveals grace; Who reveals forgiveness; Who is the fulfillment of the law - which is about relationship and community with God and with one another.

Therefore, perhaps God has not changed at all, but a whole new dimension of God has been and is revealed in Jesus. And we haven’t even mentioned learning about God through the coming of the Holy Spirit and how that happens on a daily basis.

Wow!! Lots to ponder!


Day #251

September 8, 2014

Someone told me today I should begin to make a list of the things that people say to me in this process. That way I can take them out when I want to and hold them like I would a cherished photo. I’m not sure about this. Some are too precious to put in writing, but will remain forever in my memory.

So I suppose the word for today is cherish. The people (I surely do), the memories (so thankful for them), the tears (God’s way of spilling out the heart), the laughter (nothing like a hearty laugh to bond folks together), the worship (celebrating in and with the family of God - receiving Jesus), the work (made easier by sharing), and so much more. Each cherished fully!


Day #250

September 7, 2014

You say it’s your birthday.... go Beatles!

Yep, another year has gone by. One thing is for sure, social media has opened up a way to receive well-wishes from folks from all over. How fun!!

Yet no social media is quite able to make a birthday as special as face-to-face contact. And having a whole assembly stand and sing Happy Birthday is about as special as it gets!!!! It filled my heart and came leaking out my eyes!!!

To all the folks who sent electronic messages, who sent/gave cards, who called, and who stood to sing...A GREAT BIG, HUGE THANK YOU! You have made getting another year older FUN!

The greatest joy, though, will always be spending another year with my wonderful husband!!! It’s been quite a few now we have spent together (spans several decades), and each one is more special than the last. Love you, sweetheart!!


Day #249

September 6, 2014 - The Daily Intersection - Day #249

So here is the downside in all these changes - the house needs to be readied for selling. Painting to be done, furniture to sell/give away, boxes to pack, clutter to shed, yard to be groomed, etc., etc. The list is long - and somewhat overwhelming.

How does so much to do get generated in six short years?! How have we accumulated so much stuff?! How did the house begin to age in such a short amount of time?! How quickly can we get all this done?! How much energy do I really have?! (My body is six years older since we did this last time!!)

Okay, so we eat this elephant one bite, one box, one corner at a time. And keep smiling!

Day #248

September 5, 2014

As the news begins to spread of my impending leave, I am humbled by the words and emotions people are sharing with me. It truly feels as though one chapter is closing, yet opening another looms on the horizon.

It is similar for the folks in the congregation. This is not the first time a pastor has moved on, and will not be the last, but change is change and not something we easily embrace (we are Lutherans, after all - haha).

What a blessing to have this time to share memories, stories, laughs, even tears as we prepare to transition. I am so grateful for the time I have had with these folks. They truly will always be in my heart!


Friday, September 5, 2014

Day #247

September 4, 2014

It is official and the news can now be publicly shared. God has called me to a new place. My last Sunday at the congregation I currently serve will be October 5th and I begin a new call in a new state in mid-November.

Yes, I am excited. Yes, I am sad. Yes, I believe this truly is God’s call. Yes, I will continue to pray for the congregation I am leaving and the one where I will be going to serve. Yes, there is lots to do (including getting a house sold!). Yes, I am nervous. Yes, my anxiety is high.

And God says, be at peace. Have trust. Take in the positive and thresh out the negative. Allow time for sharing of feelings and emotions. And all will be well.


Day #246

September 3, 2014

The gospel we will be using for this coming Sunday is from Matthew 16 where Jesus tells the disciples that to be his follower they must take up their cross and follow him. There is much to ponder about those words and the whole passage of verses 21-28, but perhaps the part that weighs on my mind today is how ministry is not about me - it is about Jesus and Jesus' cross. Yet, it also is about me and how I respond to his call to take up his cross. And, also, that ministry can sometimes be a burden.

There was news to share today; news that meant change, sadness, even fear. I’ve carried the burden of this possible news for a while. The burden has been heavy. It can hurt to change; yet it can also be freeing. It can cause anger to change; yet it can also bring deep joy.

God has been leading and guiding in this journey I have been on. God led tonight while I was telling the news. And God will lead and guide all of us into the future.

Whatever the weight is of the next steps, the burden has been shared. One cross has been taken up and another has been laid down. God is leading, and carrying, the journey.


Day #245

September 2, 2014

Another day filled with time in the car. LOTS of time.

It began with a long walk in the early morning. Good thing, considering we later SAT for hours.

There is much to be thankful for from these last days: safety in traveling; memories made that will last a lifetime; hugs received and given; time with family; talking and listening.

Thanks be to God!


Day #244

September 1, 2014

Today found us making our way toward Gettysburg. We toured the battlefield some and then met up with our godson and his family. Here is the latest picture of the bundle of energy.

Always on the move. He’s growing into a handsome, loving, smart young man. We are so proud!!

Of course, no trip to Gettysburg would be complete without some Mr. G’s ice cream. Yep, life is good!!!!

Truly two of God’s sweetest gifts!


Day #243

August 31, 2014

With the fun comes the bittersweet moments of visiting folks who no longer can make the party. The last surviving aunt on my mother-in-law’s side of the family lives in assisted living. She’s quite the lady! Has listened to me on more than one occasion. Laughed with me at more than one family antic. Been a rock and a mentor and an encourager.

We went to visit and she took my husband’s cap right off his head. She kept it, too. We laughed.
As we got ready to go, she stopped me. She had more to say and we had more tears to shed. We prayed together, even sang a song together. And shed some more tears.

Then we all went back to the party - day 2 - and laughed and talked and ate. Yet the remnants of that morning’s visit were never too far away. How grateful I am to be connected with our aunt in love, in memories and in God.


Day #242

August 30, 2014

Family get-togethers. What fun they are! Great to get hugs and catch up and be with folks who just love you.

Each year my husband’s cousin and wife have this HUGE party in their field. Tents, food, drink, conversation, laughter, more food, more drink, more fun - more than can fit into this blog.

Here is our niece and her mother (my husband’s sister) enjoying some of the fun.

Have to say - it was well-worth the drive!!! And there’s more to come!


Thursday, September 4, 2014

Day #241

August 29, 2014

My husband, sister-in-law, niece and I began the excellent traveling adventure today. We are headed “up home” for a family reunion and some reconnecting with friends and relatives. But it means hours in the car. :-(

Yet, I’m sure all the riding and driving will be well worth the time we get to spend together! And we’re off…..


Day #240

August 28, 2014

Today my thoughts are about being grateful. Sometimes simply being led to the right person is evidence of God's love and grace. For me, today, that right person is my doctor.

It was time for my annual check-up and not only the doctor, but the nurse, are ones who make you feel as comfortable as possible in a very uncomfortable situation.

Thanks be to God for the gifts of folks like them!


Day #239

August 27, 2014

The discussion in the study group I meet with on Wednesday mornings took a reflective turn today. As many Christians tend to do, we began discussing the decline of faith in today’s world. There are less and less attending worship regularly, fewer who claim to be believers of God, and in general, at least mainline denominational congregations are shrinking in numbers and members. What is happening? What do we do? How do we remain faithful and hopeful?

As many do, we sometimes wring our hands and lament. People want to hear all will be okay, and that there is a simple solution. Many will try to tell us what to do. Many will claim to have the correct way. Just do this or that, act in this or that way, and all will be well.

One of the things I embrace about the Lutheran denomination is the encouragement to discover the Spirit’s will and way on our own. What I mean is that we are encouraged to learn and read and pray and seek on our own. It is important that we help others learn how to discover for themselves about God, encouraging and empowering them to do so, instead of spoon-feeding or leading by rote.

Certainly there is a rich Lutheran tradition of liturgy and routine, yet at the core is God’s love, grace and mercy. And that cannot be easily contained or boxed in or taught in black and white. God’s love, grace and mercy is transforming and challenging, somewhat tailored, in a way, for each person. In other words, there is much grey area and much less black and white do’s and don’ts. Which sometimes makes things hard, yet ultimately freeing.

Lutherans thrive in a world of tensions. Sinner and saint. Bound and free. Law and gospel. Many times when asked a question that has a choice of answers between this and that, my answer is yes to both. It can seem wishy-washy and indecisive, yet it also means dependence on God and God’s grace instead of my own determination of right or wrong, sin or not, good or bad.

Does that mean I make mistakes? Certainly. Yet, that is where God’s forgiveness and grace abound, and let me say I rely on that deeply. Because, in the end, it’s all about God and what God did for me and you through Jesus Christ. That is what really matters. Thanks be to God.