Saturday, March 28, 2015

Day #451

March 27, 2015

As I sat in my office at the church working on a project on the computer, I listened to the noises of preparation coming from the kitchen. Dishes rattled. Pots clanged. It was a busy time getting ready for a big fundraising event for a local food relief program call FISH. Two times for serving a meal, a silent auction for many items, a raffle - the works. And many folks from the community anticipated as guests.

It was work. A LOT of work to pull off such an event. Hats off to those who helped and those who came. And prayers for God's blessing to turn the offerings into help/food for the hungry.

But there is something else. It is perhaps the most important part and what warmed my heart about the whole event. No, it wasn’t the amount of money raised, or even the way it will help others (while that is an integral part of the event, don’t get me wrong). What warmed my heart as I listened to those noises of work, were the peels of laughter that rang out in the midst of it. People enjoying what they were doing. Enjoying being with one another in community, and service.

Laughter - JOY - in the midst of serving! What more can we hope for? What more would God ask for?


Day #450

March 26, 2015

Perhaps one of the hardest topics to understand, and to have conversation about, is suffering. Why do bad things happen to good people? Why do some people seem to suffer so much, while others seem to just skate through life? Why?! It’s a question without an acceptable answer, and yet one that seems hardest to avoid asking.

In a Bible Study used this week, the statement was written something like: we wonder why there is suffering, but if suffering is inevitable, we would certainly like to know there is some meaning found in it. In other words, we want there to be something good that comes from the suffering. Often there can be. We have heard stories of those who have suffered becoming champions for turning other people’s lives around by creating something positive out of it. An example is Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

Yet, often there seems to be no meaning to the suffering. Then, for me, perhaps the positive that has come is in what I have learned.

Basically, I have come to realize that asking why IS impossible to have answered. But learning to trust God in the midst of whatever it is, and that God is in the midst of it, and that God will help me through the midst of it, is the bottom line. It is not saying that it is easy to trust, or that trusting makes the suffering understandable, but that is what has been helpful for me. Along with being able to look back and see that nothing ever stays the same, even though it seems at the time like things will never change. And that often something amazing is just around the corner that will help ease the suffering. That is what gives me hope for tomorrow. And hope does not disappoint!


Thursday, March 26, 2015

Day #449

March 25, 2015

Many times it has been said that the Lutheran world is very small. When you meet someone new, it is almost certain they know someone you already know. As I sat at the soup supper table in another congregation talking with a new friend, I mentioned where I went to seminary. “That’s where my son went,” she said. “Really? What is his name,” I asked. When she told me, turns out he was in the class two years under mine. Thousands of miles away from where I went to school and here I meet the mother of a classmate. What are the odds?

Just goes to show that the community God created as the church is a closely connected one. Must say, I like that!


Day #448

March 24, 2015

This may sound crazy, but it sure is good to have my old fashioned, hard copy books out of storage and on shelves. Yep, I’ve missed them. They not only help with Bible Study, Sermon Preparation, and general “church” items, but many were accumulated for the years of study in seminary. While those years were often difficult and very challenging, they were also good ones. Many of these books remind me of the joy of learning, and of being in a community unlike any other I have experienced, or probably ever will.

So, hello, some (not all of them, by a long-shot) of my old friends. Glad you’re here!


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Day #447

March 23, 2015

Wow! As I read Rev. David Lose’s Blog, In the Meantime, for March 23, his words struck quite a chord. He writes:
Have you ever noticed how difficult it is to imagine a future all that different from the past? We somehow get stuck in patterns of behavior and eventually come to believe that our past performance isn’t simply a predictor of our future behavior but rather its guarantee. And so the older we grow the less open the future seems and the more ominous the past looms in our lives.
That struck the first chord. Do we get stuck thinking things will never change? Often. Do we give others the benefit of the doubt, believing they can change their ways? Sometimes. No wonder things at times can seem so bleak, especially if our present is far from what we wished it was. We can get mired up thinking that, based on today, we cannot expect tomorrow to be much better.

Well, Rev. Lose continues:
The key to all of this, recent psychological research tells us, is story. Because the past isn’t simply the past, it’s the interpreted past. The past, in short, is the story we’ve told ourselves about the past.
Can you hear the crescendo to the chord that was struck? I’ve been wondering lately if perhaps you read this blog and think, wow, she has a Pollyanna outlook. Or, does her life just always go well? Doesn’t she ever struggle?

Trust me, there are struggles, which I do include when appropriate. But, I think this idea of story, or interpretation, is right on the mark. It’s hopefully the interpretation of what happens in daily life that sticks with me.

Sometimes it would be easier to focus on the negative, the struggle, the pain, the need, but through the process of blogging, I have interpreted that for at least 447 days thus far, there has been something EVERY day that speaks to God’s presence. It may simply be the beginning of spring, or some extra time to unpack, but it’s something that I choose to interpret as God’s blessing, God’s intersection of faith in my life.

Notice, however, that often it is something someone else does that I notice as an indicator of God’s presence. It’s important to remember we are all in this great story of life together. How are you telling your story of the life you have been given?


Day #446

March 22, 2015

What a sweet moment before worship! I went to pray with Choir and as I did so, I closed my eyes and clasped my hands together. When I finished praying and opened my eyes, standing just in front of me was one of the little ones. It was so sweet to see that she, too, had her hands clasped together, looking up at me with her sweet face.

What a moment! And a reminder that the little ones really do watch what we do, and learn from it. Humbling!


Day #445

March 21, 2015

I promised I would put the gift of time to good use – and we sure did. Boxes are slowly disappearing. Not at the rate I would hope, but they are going away! Things are getting put away, finding a new home in our new home. Yes, choices (see Day #441) are being made and things are coming together. The chaos is finding order, and the stress lessening.

Hey, we just might survive! Thanks be to God!


Day #444

March 20, 2015

Ahhh….the beginning of spring! My favorite time of the year, watching as trees, flowers, and what seems like the whole world, wake up and start fresh. It’s the time when hope “springs” eternal.

And to celebrate, it’s a BEAUTIFUL day! Just glorious!


Day #443

March 19, 2015

Thankful! That is the word. Thankful...for time. I was given a gift today, take Saturday and spend as I need, without worry of meetings or other activities. A thoughtful gift, to be sure. And believe me, I plan to use it wisely.

Truly, I appreciate the thoughtfulness of this gift to me!


Day #442

March 18, 2015

In preparation for Sunday’s sermon, I have been thinking about “acts of love.” The scripture chosen for March 22 is John 13:1-17 and 34-35 about Jesus washing the disciples’ feet during his final meal with them. Afterwards, he gives his commandment to do to/for others as he has done for the disciples - the doing of a loving servant act.

I asked the Bible Study group to share an act of love someone had done for them. We all had at least one example to share. However, I got the feeling that all of us would prefer to do acts of love, rather than be the recipient of them. It can be hard to accept those acts of love, selfless moments when someone else cares for us, expecting nothing in return.

Hmmm..what does that say about our “accepting” of, or reluctance to accept, God’s grace through Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection? Just a thought.


Day #441

March 17, 2015

Julie Wilson began “God Pause” from Luther Seminary for March 17 with: “I recently read an article that said the average adult may make up to 35,000 choices each day.” Just reading that statistic made me weary. Do you ever get tired of making decisions? What should I wear? What will I eat for lunch? Should I make a phone call or write an article?

Perhaps I’m especially conscious of making choices right now due to being in the process of unpacking. Where should we put this? Which box is better to open? Where would that piece of furniture fit best?

Lest we not forget, however, there are also choices we make every day about our faith. Things like, is it important to pray every day? How often should I worship? Will they really miss me at that meeting, or class, or event, or can I do what I want to instead? Is scripture really the Word of God? Will I speak up about my faith in conversations with my boss, coworker, friend, colleague, teammate, etc.?

But I suppose the most difficult choice of all is … how do I make all these choices? :-)


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Day #440

March 16, 2015

What a treat we had at our monthly Young at Heart event. Several folks who toured the Holy Land and Greece last fall shared their experience, including a slide show one has prepared. What a great way to spend a little time “seeing” the places we hear about in scripture and putting pictures to things those of us who haven’t been can only imagine.

Maybe one day…


Day #439

March 15, 2015

The think portion of the D365 Devotion for March 15th referencing Ephesians 2:8-10 is definitely something to think about. Thank you Becky Ullom Naugle for these words:
It may be tough on our brains to figure out what it means that salvation is a God-given gift that we cannot earn or acquire through effort. We can’t boast about it because we didn’t do anything to deserve it. “Instead, we are God’s accomplishment, created in Christ Jesus to do good things,” says the writer of Ephesians. Stop and think about that for minute. If you considered yourself “God’s accomplishment,” what affect would that have on your life?

Day #438

March 14, 2015

We had tickets to enjoy a Fly-Fishing Movie Tour. When we got them, it seemed like a great idea. Spending a little time away from boxes, cleaning, and unpacking to watch some gorgeous videos sounded really wonderful. But, the longer we sat there waiting, the more we fidgeted and the less of a good idea it seemed. Let’s just go HOME, we finally agreed. So we did.

Isn’t that a lovely word – HOME!

I must say, along with my prayers lately of thanksgiving, I have been including more fervently those who are without that special place of home.


Day #437

March 13, 2015

We’re in the new and out of the old.

What a Godsend it has been to spend the last four months (almost to the day) in someone’s home while they have been away. It worked out perfectly - was affordable, convenient, comfortable and we are very thankful to folks we have never met but feel like we know well from living in their space. But it’s time to re-acquaint with our own things and settle into our own space.

Besides, we only had a little time there left, so we’re getting this done without much to spare. Must say, things have worked out better than we could have imagined. Thanks be to God!


Day #436

March 12, 2015

Okay, I wasn’t kidding about how to celebrate our anniversary. Yep, we’re on the move – AGAIN! Time to make this latest cross-country transition a little more permanent by moving into our own home. One last trip to our storage units four hours away (long story), a few hours with five strong moving guys from United Van Lines (highly recommend them) making trip after trip to the truck, and we’re off. WOOHOO!!!


Day #435

March 11, 2015

Happy 26th Wedding Anniversary to my wonderful husband!

Let’s see, how should we celebrate?! I know. How about let’s move into a new house?!


Day #434

March 10, 2015

Read an interesting statistic that began with a question: “If you had to guess right now which is the most churched state in the Union, what would you guess?”

The answer: Utah. Apparently more than 50% of the residents of Utah said in a recent gallop poll that they attend worship every week. Hmm…seems the other forty-nine states have lots to do to catch up! And lots of Good News to share!!


Day #433

March 9, 2015

I was taken aback by a recent comment someone from another congregation shared with me. It was about a negative statement someone from our congregation made concerning a ministry at our congregation. It saddened me to hear negativity has been spread outside the walls, although I am not naive enough to think only positive things are shared with others.

However, the part that unsettled me was how adamant the person was in saying to me: once I heard that from your congregation, I put a stop to any negative type comments going out from ours. Really?! Well, if that is the case, I wish you would tell me how you managed to do it, because I’ll be sure to put your policy into place from now on (this is what I would have liked to have said, but didn't).

The thing is, I tend to fall on the positive side of most things, especially when it comes to sharing comments with others (unless I’m fairly certain it won’t spread in a destructive way). Therefore, if I can’t seem to inspire the spread of positivity, especially about the church, then I’m befuddled as to how to do so. Any ideas?


Day #432

March 8, 2015

Perhaps the only thing better than celebrating Holy Communion, either as presider or as recipient, is talking with folks about the Lord’s meal. What joy to gather around a table with four young folks, and their parent(s), who are preparing to celebrate their first meal on Maundy Thursday. What holy ground to try and articulate what it means to hear the words “the body of Christ given for you” and “the blood of Christ shed for you.” Needless to say, I am very excited for them and this step in their life of faith.


Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Day #431

March 7, 2015

Church Council Retreat. While I was pondering over what to say about our time together and its relation to the intersection of faith and life, I landed on the word retreat. Interesting word choice for spending some intentional time with a church council. After all, isn’t retreat what one does to get away from some danger?

With that question in mind, I looked it up. One definition of the verb retreat is just that, to withdraw from enemy forces or to remove oneself from a difficult or uncomfortable situation. Another is to withdraw to a quiet or secluded place. Ah, that seems a better focus. But then there is also to become smaller in size, or to change one’s decisions as a result of criticism, or to decline in value (think shares of stock). Then there is the noun definition of retreat. The one that resonated for me: a period of seclusion for the purposes of prayer and meditation.

Ok, maybe retreat is what we did, in a positive way. For we spent our extended time together dreaming, talking, sharing, getting to know one another better, and planning ahead. And we did pray.

It proved to be a fruitful time. Three areas of focus bubbled-up for us to be intentional about for the rest of our year of working together, so I am excited to discover where and how God will lead us from here. All in all, it was a good time of retreat!


Saturday, March 7, 2015

Day #430

March 6, 2015

During Lent, I have been receiving Luther Seminary’s “God Pause” emails. Just had to share the one from today:
The last time I was in New York City, I visited the Sept. 11 memorial for the first time. The memorial has a peaceful yet commanding presence. It serves as both an aching reminder of what stood there before and an overwhelming tribute to those who lost their lives on that day. One of the things that struck me most at the memorial was the Survivor Tree. The tree was discovered about a month after the attacks, severely damaged with snapped roots and burned and broken branches. Today it stands with multiple ties stabilizing it and a barrier around it so it is not disturbed as it heals. As one of the only living things to survive at Ground Zero, it is a beautiful reminder that life can (and indeed does) come out of death. You may not look quite the same as you did going in, but alas, life, hope and faith can find you again. Thanks be to God for that! 
Healing God, build us up out of the brokenness of sin and death and remind us of the hope of the resurrection in our times of darkness. Amen. 
Elizabeth Pedersen
Director of Senior High Ministry, Lord of Life Lutheran Church, Maple Grove, Minn.
Master of Arts, 2009
For all who may be struggling in any way (and isn’t that all of us), grace, peace and hope. God knows and God is with you!


Day #429

March 5, 2015

Just one word - perfect! That’s how the man I am married to is for me - perfect! Not that either one of us is a perfect person (certainly not me by a long-shot), but I do believe he’s the perfect match for me.

And I am grateful that when life becomes overwhelming, he listens. Thank you, sweetheart! You knew I needed it!


Day #428

March 4, 2015

Have you ever mulled over what you wish you had said, only to come up with perhaps the “perfect” response DAYS later? My husband and I were having dinner a couple of nights ago in one of those places where it seems you become a part of the conversation with the strangers at the table next to you more so than with your own dinner partner. Or at least overhearing their conversation is nearly impossible. Anyway, when the couple began talking about God, my ears perked up, curiosity getting the best of me.

The young man was saying, “Don’t you just love when fundamentalists use the Bible as the basis for their argument? When they go around in circles with, ‘but the Bible says...’. That’s when I say, but what if I doubt the Bible is really the word of God? After all, the Bible says I can have hundreds of wives, or commit genocide on people from other races. What about that?” To which his female friend agreed and they continued to talk about the vengeance of God. It was difficult to determine if they did not believe in God, or if they were just wanting to poke fun at certain denominations.

Either way, the conversation was painful to hear. And I fought the urge to defend the Bible, and God. But not having any relationship with these two, I wondered if anything I might have said would have helped or simply fallen on deaf ears. So I did what I knew I could do, and I prayed for them, letting the opportunity to interject pass.

It was later I remembered something David Lose (at least that is who I think it is) has written about. When he has met those who doubt or are struggling, he has asked them to describe the God they have trouble believing in. Often God, as they describe God, is difficult for David to believe in, as well, and he has said something like, “that is not God who I believe in, either.” This opens the door for conversation about the God of grace, love and forgiveness.

Wonder how that conversation may have gone? Suppose it’s just another round of wishing I had been bolder (see Day #160 about my struggle with being bold).


Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Day #427

March 3, 2015

It was my fault and I readily admit that it was. But here is the deal...there are different traffic expectations in my new town. I make that statement that not as an excuse, but as a clarification of the reality of the situation. I am simply not accustomed to having four-way intersections without ANY stop signs in either direction. Yet, with that said, I confess I was in a hurry. But with reason. Running over something in the road sending two long screws into one of my tires necessitated an emergency trip to the tire store, before I had a complete flat tire.

“We can’t help you. It's too late in the day and that can't be repaired. You’ll have to get FOUR new tires (seems having an AWD vehicle means all four tires must be "worn" the same amount - who knew!?!?). I recommend a different tire store just down the street.” Not what I wanted to hear! After putting some additional air in the leaking damaged tire, I quickly headed to the other place.

In route (all of three minutes, thankfully) I had a thought - how about just going to the dealership. They know the car, they might have a tire that is suitable, they will be the logical choice - and it’s only a couple more minutes away. I should be able to make it there before the tire goes flat.

Now you understand my reason for being in a hurry! Except, in the five or six blocks to get to the dealership are a couple of those aforementioned four-way intersections. As I was just about to enter the second one, out of the corner of my eye I notice a car approaching to my right. That means I am supposed to yield, which I try to do, except I’m traveling a tad too fast, so the other car stops. But, of course, the other car isn’t just anyone - it’s a police officer - and my getting stopped in the middle of the intersection was not, repeat, NOT good. So when he waved me on, I just pulled over to the side of the road. I knew I was BUSTED!

Then comes a moment of grace in the midst of all this. In my humbled state, I must have looked pitiful, because he took mercy on me and only gave me a warning violation. With the admonishment, “If I hadn’t been paying attention, you wouldn’t have made it to the dealership to get that tire fixed.” True, and duly noted. Believe me, I will pay better attention!

Also believe me, I truly appreciate the kindness! Truly! Paying a ticket on top of a ruined tire with only 6,000 miles on it would NOT have been fun.


Oh, turns out heading to the dealership was helpful. Just the one tire has to be replaced, not all four. Not great, but better than it could have been! Whew!

Day #426

March 2, 2015

Some days the simple pleasures give me the biggest boost of the knowledge of God’s presence. An offered cup of coffee with a cookie, and a smile. A gracious welcome and appreciation for my coming. The desire and willingness to tell me about yourself. These are not the motivations for my making a visit, but they are little surprise reminders that it matters that I take the time and make the effort.

Thank you for the hospitality, the welcome, the introduction, and the reminder that it really does not take much to make someone’s day.


Sunday, March 1, 2015

Day #425

March 1, 2015

Some days the sermon just does not finish well. What has been laid on my heart to proclaim just does not connect. It is a painful thought, to realize I may have let down God’s word, and a humbling one.

Thankfully, the Holy Spirit is at work in other ways in worship than simply through the preached word - in the prayers, the scripture, the confessions, certainly the Holy Supper, and in song.

As I was finishing the sermon today, I knew it was not going as I had hoped. The words to describe the thoughts in my head were not connecting. This was the planned ending:
Maybe we wonder about our own worthiness. Maybe we hope no one notices the details of our life. Maybe we don’t even know we are in need of Jesus’ living water. Rest assured, we are worthwhile to Jesus. We are loved by him and of extreme value to him. He has all the time just for you and me and wants us to know him and believe in him. Every encounter with Jesus may not be a home-run, so hearing the different reactions of the people who encountered Jesus on earth is helpful to see that no matter where we are in our understanding, Jesus loves us, desires for us to know him more deeply, and is here for us everyday.
I’m not really sure how the ending actually went, but that wasn’t it. But then we began to sing the hymn, You Are Mine, by David Haas. And the words of that hymn said what I had failed to:
I will come to you in the silence, I will lift you from all your fear. You will hear my voice, I claim you as my choice. Be still and know I am here. Do not be afraid, I am with you. I have called you each by name. Come and follow me, I will bring you home. I love you and you are mine.
Oh God, thank you!


Day #424

February 28, 2015

There is a monthly magazine I enjoy, especially the articles written by the editor. In the March issue, she writes about "safe places." We all are in need of a safe place, a place of comfort.

Her words caused me to ponder about what I consider my own safe place and where I go when I am afraid, nervous, anxious, or sad? Perhaps my place is not so much a “place” after all, but a “to whom” I go. Simply put, my safe place and one of comfort is God. I turn to prayer, scripture, worship, or conversation with follow Christians - wherever I can sense the presence of God and am assured of God’s love and grace.

And God has never failed to provide what I need. Thanks be to God.


Day #423

February 27, 2015

The word for the day - FRUSTRATED!

For years I worked in the insurance industry. It was not always easy or fun, but there always seemed to be a solution to a client’s needs. Things seem much more complicated now, however. What my husband and I need to have insurance cover does not seem to be an unreasonable request, yet we have not found an easy answer - or any answer. And time is running out.

Good grief! I despise situations without solutions, because I believe there is always a solution. Guess I need to keep digging.


Day #422

February 26, 2015

For the second time this week, the Devotion d365 spoke directly to me. Here is another portion of the “think” section, this one for February 26, 2015, by Stephen Mazingo:
Do you think you are small, poor, or your grades are not as good as those around you? Guess what. God wants you to lead. It is your weaknesses that God cherishes. Strange, right? But that is what makes you human, created by God.
If anyone had told me as a child I would one day be a pastor, a leader, a strong individual, I would have laughed in their face. I was small in stature as a child, very small, and shy. Very shy. My family was not really poor, but there was much we lacked the ability to buy. And my grades, while they were good, I cannot say they came easily. These are not exactly qualities one would assume exude leadership or strength.

Yet, once God got my attention, there was no stopping what God wanted of me. All of me. And what I had always thought of as weaknesses, God is using in strong ways. The challenge of getting out of God’s way makes for amazing times.


Day #421

February 25, 2015

One of the privileges of being called to ordained ministry is accompanying folks in times of need. It is an honor to be invited into moments of pain and grief in a person’s life. It is truly holy ground.

I met a couple in that situation. The death of a relative brought them to town and the church where I serve. My being the pastor caused our paths to cross. Gracious people, I was welcomed into their moments of grief, and my presence was deeply appreciated.

What joy to represent a presence of Christ, to invoke God’s name in prayer, and to walk as an advocate with them in a process that can be confusing and very trying. Two people who were strangers to me just days ago have become someone I care about and pray for. Amazing grace.


Day #420

February 24, 2015

This is a portion of the “think” section of the d365 Devotion for February 24, 2015, by Stephen Mazingo:
Those who have suffered know how to treat others who are suffering. Perhaps this is why our faith is tied to suffering. When we know what it means to be hungry, we are more likely to feed those who are hungry. And if we know what it means to believe in the midst of that hunger, we also know how to share the love of God.
Reading that reminded me of the training I took for the program called Family Promise I wrote about in Day #397. In order to volunteer in the program, training is mandatory. As we gathered for the class, the director asked us to share our name, church, and why we wanted to volunteer for Family Promise. One person said they were almost homeless once, and wanted to help in this way.

When we have walked the walk, we desire to do more than just talk the talk, don’t we?!


Day #419

February 23, 2015

The question was asked in a meeting, "pastor, what is discipleship?" The brief answer I gave: “all that I have and all that I am comes from God.”

But there should have been more said. There should have been an explanation that discipleship is being intentional about learning what those twelve words mean. Then it means responding to what I learn and joyfully following the One who gave all for us, no matter what is asked of me or where it leads. It means a daily opening of heart, mind, body and soul to what God would have me do and be. It means putting aside my own desires and wishes, perceived needs and wants, for the sake of someone else. It means dying to self, relying on prayer, trusting that God is bigger than any plans or dreams I can concoct.

In the end, I suppose discipleship really means that God is God, and I am not, and that I can only believe in or follow Jesus through God’s mercy and grace. To realize that is to be a disciple and to be a disciple is to live in response.

Yep, there should have been more said.


Day #418

February 22, 2015

There is no more precious moment of Intersection between faith and life than this:

Welcome to the newest member of God’s family!