Monday, September 28, 2015

Day #636

September 28, 2015

The Book Club meets tonight to discuss this month’s selection, Crossroads by Wm. Paul Young (author of The Shack). An enjoyable book including all sorts of aspects of life: regret, anger, closed-mindedness, Alzheimer’s, healing, and more.

But my favorite quote the author included came from Rainer Maria Rilke: "A person isn’t who they are during the last conversation you had with them, they’re who they’ve been throughout your whole relationship."

A comforting thought as I think about some of the last conversations with my parents, parishioners, and a few others before they died. Very comforting!


Day #635

September 27, 2015

The Blood Moon Eclipse, 2015. While we tried to get pictures and had a beautiful view, they didn't work out. So, I snagged this picture by Mike Mezeul II off Facebook.
What an amazing occurrence!


Day #634

September 26, 2015

After more good information at the continuing ed conference, husband and I got all dressed up to go and celebrate with some very special women. We didn’t want to miss the gala, especially due to one of the winners of the YWCA Salute to Women 2015 - friend, colleague, parishioner, hard-working woman as Director of Family Promise of Great Falls.

An enjoyable evening was had by all! And here we are as we aren't seen often - gussied up. :-)

Day #633

September 25, 2015

Time for some continuing education - about preaching. Since I am always looking for improved ways to convey God’s love and grace through the sermon, I’m glad for the sharing of two well-known and respected instructors.

How does the scripture serve as a lens for God’s work in our lives? How does life and faith intersect (sounds familiar, right?!)? How is story an integral part of sharing God’s care for us and creation? These are but some of the questions being explored.

And as an example, one of the instructors, Dr. Thomas Long, told a great story that went something like this.
A pastor in NY began their ministry in 2008, just before the “economic downturn.” As things progressively got worse, the mantra of meetings became, “what will be the next shoe to drop?” After weeks and months of living in fear of what might be next, the pastor left a meeting one day and collapsed in their office chair. Please God, they prayed, no more shoes! 
Not seconds later there was a knock on the door with the words, pastor, you need to come downstairs to the clothing pantry right away. Oh no, thought the pastor. What now!? Waiting were two police officers. Pastor, they said, we just raided a counterfeit shoe factory, and have 70 pairs of boots we were wondering if you could use.
Yep, God never ceases to surprise or amaze. How can those of us who preach do a better job at conveying the message? Looking forward to hearing more!


Day #632

September 24, 2015

No words necessary - just the beauty of God’s creation!


Day #631

September 23, 2015

Confirmation class is back in session! Not sure the 7th-8th graders are as excited as I am, but I am!

And it’s the Bible year. Time to talk about the scriptures. God’s story of love and grace, relationship with God and with one another and its ups and downs, expectations, redemption, etc., etc.

So looking forward to another year of teaching, and learning!


Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Day #630

September 22, 2015

The word for the day - thankful.
  • the graciousness of a family grieving, yet open and witnessing to the help of the community.
  • the hard work of folks who provide the gift of lunch for a family to be together and visit (the cooks AND the servers!). 
  • helpful professionals who take their job seriously and act compassionately.
And for the honor of being invited to walk with them all! 


Day #629

September 21, 2015

I am sure I have talked about the honor of praying with others as Daily Intersections before, but I was reminded of that today thanks to d365’s Pause:
Often, when life isn’t working out the way we imagined or hoped, our impulse is to pray for God to change things.
We think, “if only” things were different, “if only” people were better, “if only” our needs were met, “if only” the pain went away, “if only” the choices were simple, “if only” temptation disappeared, “if only, if only…”
Sometimes God does transform situations, but more often, God changes us...if only we ask.
It’s true that sometimes folks ask me to pray with them as they hope for an “if only” moment - in hospitals that “if only” healing would come, in meetings that “if only” good decisions would be made, with friends that “if only” things would go a certain way.

But more often than not, what I also witness is a sense of trust in God. That even if the “if only” doesn’t go as we ask, there is still trust that God knows best and is present in the situation.

Thanks be to God for the honor to pray with others, the faith I have the honor to observe, and what I get to learn in the process.


Day #628

September 20, 2015

This Sunday was the first for the choir to sing again after some time off for summer. Yay - what a gift! But what I share is the most precious thing that happened while the choir sang the anthem - the daughter of one of the choir members came and sat in my lap. Being of kindergarten age, it’s hard for her to understand that she can’t have her parent’s full attention for those moments. So I was honored to have her in my lap while she waited.

And what a fitting Sunday, too, for this to happen, as we heard Jesus teaching about the importance of welcoming a child (see the Gospel of Mark, chapter 9, verses 30-37). Yep, a true Intersection moment!


Day #627

September 19, 2015

In an article in The Lutheran online magazine, Sarah Carson writes this about church:
“I think there are a lot of things about church that aren’t working for a lot of people right now, but people will never stop wanting to get together to talk about the important things in their lives.”
Wow!!! This really made me think. We do enjoy getting together as people, don't we? Look at the popularity of FaceBook, for example. It may be a new way of getting together to “talk” about the important things in our lives, but it surely does help keep people connected. And what about the groups that meet each week - or even daily - for a meal or just for coffee. It’s a chance to get together and talk about the important things in our lives.

So how does church, or maybe I should say worship, accomplish this? There is time for fellowship after, giving an opportunity to talk about important things in our lives. But what about during the worship service itself? Are we missing something? Is there more we could do to give space for sharing?

Must say, it’s surely something to think about.


Friday, September 18, 2015

Day #626

September 18, 2015

When I saw this picture on facebook:
I couldn’t help but think about Day #625 and my being thankful for respectful deliberation and polite discussion. Please note this isn’t being posted here for a political purpose, but a reminder that even people on the polar opposite sides of an issue can put aside their differences for the better of all (represented as the center, yet really is the all). And a reminder that even when folks disagree with good reason, a decision can still be made and there can be forward movement.

Thanks be to God (again) for those who are willing to put aside selfish intentions and consider someone(s) else!


Day #625

September 17, 2015

The word for the day - thankful! This time for a faithful group of folks who serve as council for the congregation. A group who faithfully considers the issues at hand, discusses them politely, and shows respect in deliberation. And trusts!

Yes, thankful!! And filled with hope and anticipation of things to come.


Day #624

September 16, 2015

So I overextended myself today, thinking I could make a couple of “emergency” visits in a relatively short amount of time. Shame on me. But when I arrived tardy and a little out of breath for a weekly gathering, I was granted understanding and graciousness. And we had a wonderful discussion in spite of it all.

Again, my heart is heavy with prayer and with hope that God’s healing touch will be upon those in need.


Day #623

September 15, 2015

Another FULL day! Yet, even with everything going on, the thought came: how can you not see God at work in the busy-ness, granting energy, patience, creativity, ideas, joy - and even sorrow?

Yes, perhaps one of the most precious times I see God at work is in the celebration of life at death. In the sorrow and mourning, there is hope. And there is love.

My heart is heavy with prayer, yet also with trust that in the midst of grief, there is joy.


Day #622

September 14, 2015

Whew! A day FULL of meetings, conversations, planning, and rejoicing in the creativity folks have and are willing to share. All in all a great day - but tiring.

Yet, I wouldn’t dare trade what I do!


Day #621

September 13, 2015

It was a full day for the church. First, worship bringing together six churches - a full sanctuary, lots of participation, a wonderful choir, and Jesus’ meal. Next, splitting into groups to go out into the community - celebrating God’s Work, Our Hands by serving in various ways and places. Lastly, gathering again for a potluck feast (way too delicious to just be called a meal). What a wonderful morning to be the church!!

Later that evening, there was another gathering at one of the local tasting breweries for Hymns and Beer. What fun!! All in all a day full of knowing/sensing God’s presence! Awesome!


Day #620

September 12, 2015

Again I am amazed by the polar opposites of posts on facebook that follow one right after the other. Next to one pointing a finger at the actions of the “other” was a post that was amazing as its focus was on forgiveness.

Aman Ali wrote about his experience on 9/11/01. He talked about a kid in his class who made some rotten comments after the bombing. He suggested there should be retaliation and when the kid said, “I bet it was your father flying that plane,” all Ali wanted to do was punch his lights out. Then Ali said he couldn’t believe his reflex toward fighting came so quickly, because he considered himself so anti-violence (he never did hit the boy, but because he wanted to, the boy gave him a “Yep, I knew it” look that totally disarmed him).

After describing the incident, he talked about how the shame has stuck with him over the years, concerned that perhaps his action had reinforced for the other young man a hatred for Muslims because of Ali’s behavior.

Then, on the morning of this 9/11, he noticed a facebook message from the kid he tried to punch. Not having heard from him in 14 years, he wondered what in the world he wanted. He writes, “He told me how difficult it is to think about that day because he can’t forget all the hurtful things he said to me and he profusely apologized.” They ended up talking on the phone and having a great conversation.

What a polar opposite from pointing fingers and blame. A story of reconciliation, understanding, and a reminder that no matter how many years go by, forgiveness is always possible. An awesome, positive story on the anniversary of a horrible day.


Day #619

September 11, 2015

As we stood listening to the opening for a local outdoor event combining music, food, arts, and fellowship, the leader made the comment that we were there to have fun - no violence, no trouble, just fun and fundraising.

How sad that we need to be reminded there shouldn’t be trouble at what is meant to be a fun event. How sad that there are surely those who pay no attention to reminders that we humans should try to get along, care about one another, respect one another, and focus on someone other than ourselves. But then, it is 9/11. :-(

Yet, how hopeful that his words might be heard in the intent they were said. Yes, let’s keep our attention on what we’re meant to do, and have fun.

Maybe that’s exactly what God asks of us - keep our attention on what we’re meant to do (be God’s children), and have some fun doing so.


Day #618

September 10, 2015

At one of the sweetest graveside services ever, there was a pause in the sharing of those surrounding the family. Suddenly one of the women began to sing - a quiet, yet angelic solo of Amazing Grace. It was absolutely beautiful. It was absolutely appropriate. It was absolutely a moment of God’s intersection of love and mercy in daily life.

Thank you for sharing your gift! It meant more than you know.


Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Day #617

September 9, 2015

We took some items that belonged to our dear Daisy to a new facility in town, the MacLean Animal Adoption/Welfare Center (here is the link to the website: MacLean), with the hopes that a dog waiting for a home might be able to use them.

After working up the courage to go by, we were disappointed when it wasn’t open. As we turned to walk away, Barb came out the front door to see if she could help us. When we told her why we were there, she graciously accepted our items and even gave us a tour of the facility. It’s remarkable – bright, open, well-planned, and ready to accept animals for care and adoption.

We want to share that the center is also looking for monetary donations. The facility as it stands today is the culmination of a vision a few people had some 13 years ago. There were humble financial beginnings, until a major donation was received from the Margaret MacLean Estate that provided the seed-money to break ground on the building.

However, there is still a loan to be repaid. We mention this opportunity to help because we were very impressed, not only by the facility, but also by the people we met. There is such a caring, welcoming spirit (after all, she opened the building just for us) and it gave us a heart-warming feeling to have our items graciously accepted. Daisy would be pleased. We were, and are thankful for such a place of caring for our creation and our creatures!


Day #616

September 8, 2015

The story of this quilt goes back a long way – almost nine years ago now. It really begins with my mother-in-law, a quilter. She had put together blocks for a project that she never had the opportunity to complete.

After she died in 2006, my sister-in-law donated these blocks to the quilt ministry at the congregation where I was intern at the time. Those devoted women put them together as you see pictured, and presented me with the quilt when I finished there in 2007.

The quilt stayed packed away without an appropriate place to display it, until recently. When my sister-in-law (same one) visited a couple of weeks ago, I had a project for her – help me find a way to make this a wall-hanging for the office I now occupy. Which she graciously did, and my dear husband helped hang it.

I am so pleased to have this reminder of some of the folks who helped me along the journey to this place. These blocks are familiar, reminding me of my mother-in-law as they contain material she used on the back of the quilt she made my husband and on the back of a quillow she made for me. Also, they remind me of a great group of women in another congregation miles away who shared with me their love, friendship, and encouragement for the journey.

I suppose you could sum this up in one word…comforting!


Day #615

September 7, 2015

Yep, another birthday. And thanks to friends and family who called, sent cards, texted, gave gifts and sent greetings through FaceBook, along with a whole congregation who sang to me, I was overwhelmed by well-wishes!!! Thank you everyone!!

I also received this article from a friend, and, as she mentioned, it seems appropriate for contemplating on a birthday:
At birth we boarded the train and met our parents, and we believe they will always travel on our side. However, at some station our parents will step down from the train, leaving us on this journey alone. As time goes by, other people will board the train; and they will be significant i.e. our siblings, friends, children, and even the love of your life. 
Many will step down and leave a permanent vacuum. Others will go so unnoticed that we don't realize they vacated their seats. This train ride will be full of joy, sorrow, fantasy, expectations, hellos, goodbyes, and farewells. Success consists of having a good relationship with all passengers requiring that we give the best of ourselves. 
The mystery to everyone is: We do not know at which station we ourselves will step down. So, we must live in the best way, love, forgive, and offer the best of who we are. It is important to do this because when the time comes for us to step down and leave our seat empty we should leave behind beautiful memories for those who will continue to travel on the train of life.
This is how I replied to my friend:
This Train of Life has some wonderful scenery, some joy-filled ups and some crashing downs, doesn't it?! A perfect read as I near another station (birthday), wondering what the next year will bring. This last one certainly saw some changes.
Yep! Certainly! And the next year is off to a good start, with a little help from friends and family!


Day #614

September 6, 2015

I borrowed an idea from Dollar Store Children's Sermons for this Sunday, adapting it somewhat. The idea was to use glue, but still in its package, pointing out it doesn’t work as it should unless you take it out. My adaptation was to use fruit snacks instead of glue. The focus was on the reading from James, chapter 2, verses 1-17, especially verse 17: “So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.” In other words, God gives us faith, but also desires us to do something with it.

I said to the children, I have these snacks and I’m hungry for them. Are you? Of course, they nodded yes. Well, here they are, but they aren’t very good like this, still in the cardboard box. So what do I need to do to share them? One young lady raised her hand and when I acknowledged her said, with a “duh” inflection, “Open the box!”

Exactly!!! Open the box so they “work.” Or open our hearts and our hands to spread/share/tell/live/serve using and "working" the faith God gives us. I love it!!

Thanks Pastor John Stevens of Zion Lutheran Church, Oregon City, OR, for the inspiration!


Day #613

September 5, 2015

After days and days of hazy, smoke-filled sky, the rain has been such a welcome relief. And, hopefully, sent some relief to the firefighters and those endangered by encroaching blazes.

Either way, the word for today – beauty.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Day #612

September 4, 2015

After weeks of declining health, we said goodbye on this day to our four-legged companion, Daisy. Truly a fine example of God’s creation, she loved many things:

running when she was young (especially in snow);
rolling (especially in snow - do you sense a theme here? See Day #603);

being with her master(s);

and riding in the truck - this is her last one when we took her to the river, another thing she loved.
She is already missed terribly. The house is awfully quiet and lonesome. But we say thank you, Daisy,  good girl, for many years of joy and devotion.


Day #611

September 3, 2015

Theologian David Lose wrote in his blog, In the Meantime, about the controversy that seems to surround the movement called “Black Lives Matter.” He writes that the angst seems to be: Don’t all lives matter? Of course, he says, all lives matter. But right now, the actions of many in our country seem to indicate that black lives don’t matter as much as others. Then he writes:
“A colleague of mine put it this way: “When you see a house on fire and direct the firefighters to that house, you’re not saying that all the houses in the neighborhood don’t matter, you’re saying this one especially matters because it’s on fire.” My colleague is an African American pastor, I should add, who lives in a predominantly white neighborhood and has on various occasions been pulled over, though not for speeding. When he asks why, the police officers say they’re just doing their job. “Right now,” he added, “our house is on fire.””
His writing got me to thinking. I suppose supposed favoritism can translate to many things: Do the lives of people in one country matter more than others? Does the contribution of young people’s (or old people's) ideas and needs matter more than others? Do those who contribute more, time or financially, matter more to the church than others (this one I thought of especially since the reading of James 2: 1-17 will be heard Sunday about acts of favoritism)?

Certainly the answer is no, but there are times when one person, or group of people, has more immediate needs than another. That’s where prayer and the body of Christ, the church, has opportunity to spread love and help with all sorts of needs through giving and serving.

Yes, there is always much to do, and much to help equalize. Yet there is never more than what God can help us provide. 


Thursday, September 3, 2015

Day #610

September 2, 2015

My heart is heavy with the arrival of this day. While it is one that my friend needs in order to help with diagnosis, treatment, etc, it also brings a reality to her situation.

So I share this I copied from a plaque, as a reminder and a beacon of hope:
What cancer cannot do - cancer is so limited…
It cannot cripple love.
It cannot shatter hope.
It cannot dissolve faith.
It cannot destroy peace.
It cannot kill friendship.
It cannot suppress memories.
It cannot silence courage.
It cannot invade the soul.
It cannot steal eternal life.
It cannot conquer the spirit.
To all this I say, thanks be to God!! Amen!


Day #609

September 1, 2015
This may seem like an odd picture, and topic, for the first of September, but it is on my mind and hopefully will become obvious why.

We are usually blessed with receiving an abundance of Christmas cards in December. I think this is wonderful. I so enjoy hearing from folks, especially ones who share a little of the events of their year with me. And I want to respond, to brighten the holiday of others, too. But while I once was diligent in sending cards at Christmas, it seems that time always gets away from me and it never gets accomplished. Much to my chagrin.

Several years ago, I read an article about an idea we have adopted that seems to work well for us. The author said that during the year (I believe it was weekly, but that isn’t always the case with us), she took out a card or two she had received at Christmas, prayed for the person(s) who sent it, and sent them a note/card to let them know.

Perfect! This practice reminds folks they are important to us, gives us the opportunity to give thanks to God for the people whose lives have crossed paths with ours, and even keeps a little of the joy and celebration of Christmas alive all through the year.

We are still working our way through our stack of 2014 cards, and giving thanks for friends, family and co-workers in the kingdom of God. What a blessing!


Day #608

August 31, 2015

Often the most obvious intersections of faith and life come in the simplest ways. A smile, a laugh, a hug, an act of caring, at just the right moment, can make God’s presence so obvious. So when people stop in the office to share about their life or ministry, I am grateful and honored. There is such simple joy in being with the church - the people who make the church - and hearing about their lives of faith.

Thank you for what you do, for who you are, and for celebrating “whose” you are with me!


Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Day #607

August 30, 2015

A few of us traveled together a couple of hours for the installation of a new colleague (middle of the front row). It was a fun day of celebrating with a congregation and pastor who are in the beginning stages of serving together.
It was also fun to think back on my own early days of first call. Getting to know folks, figuring out how to schedule time, learning a new area and new ways can be difficult. Every day is different, every day is an intersection of faith and life, and every day has challenges and joys. Prayers for our new sister in Christ and service.

And…what a surprise! I was shocked almost beyond words to run into a classmate from seminary in this small western town. The pastor on the front row far right and I began seminary together all the way across the country in Gettysburg, but lost touch over the years. I was as surprised to see him as he was me. You just never know where colleagues and friends will reunite, but what fun when we do!!!


Day #606

August 29, 2015

All good things must come to an end, as they say. We waved good-bye to our family as we left them at the airport for their long flight home. Until next time: love, hugs and kisses.

Perhaps you’ve been bitten by the travel bug reading about our adventures. Come west! It truly is a beautiful place!


Day #605

August 28, 2015

One more excellent adventure trip with our family – the Gates of the Mountains.

This is a beautiful limestone rock walled canyon on the Missouri River. Lewis and Clark came through this valley and, while it changes constantly due to nature’s movements, it has not been changed much by human’s movements. Although smoke still fills the air from all the wildfires, the scenery on our two-hour boat tour was breath-taking.

Perhaps the smoke in the air made the account of the Mann Gulch Fire (the area where it took place could be seen from our boat tour) all the more tangible. In 1949, 13 men lost their lives (most of them smoke-jumpers) in a horrendous wildfire. The lessons learned in that event led to new research and education for battling wildfires today.

Prayers are certainly with those who are battling blazes today, that all are safe and that soon all fires will be quenched!


PS For more on the Mann Gulch fire, a book was recommended by Norman MacLean, Young Men and Fire.