Sunday, February 26, 2017

Day #1152

February 25, 2017 

Meeting people in a new place isn’t always easy. It helps, however, when you meet at a function indicating there is already something you have in common. Worship is one such place. Concerts, art galleries, book stores, and coffee shops can be such places. So can fundraisers. So while we went to support a good cause, meeting a new friend was a bonus. 

So whether new friends or old friends, people are people and connections can be joy-filled. Community - certainly a thing to celebrate.


Saturday, February 25, 2017

Day #1151

February 24, 2017 

This question struck me as one to share - what surprises you most about where you ended up in life? 

I suppose there are too many things to count. I never thought I might end up living almost all the way to the west coast. I never, ever dreamed growing up that I might be a pastor. I never thought I would be fortunate enough to find a wonderful man to share life with (even though I hoped I would). I never thought best friends from childhood would drift away into their own lives and I would move away into mine. 

There have been songs, movies and books written about the possibility of time travel. One idea I love is writing a letter as an adult to my youth self, encouraging me to keep going, looking ahead, and realizing that what seems overwhelming now just may (probably will) seem insignificant as time goes by, no matter how enormous it feels at the time. Wonder what time I would have chosen to write to myself? Would I have listened? Or would it just have made matters worse and frightened me even more about what might be coming?

And yet, with all these thoughts about looking forward, they seem shallow when good friends are living a nightmare in the present, doing their best to trust now and hope for a brighter tomorrow as others surround them with prayer and good thoughts. I talked with the father of our first Godson’s brother, the one who fell (see the bottom of Day #1147). While there is minimal improvement, there are still many unanswered questions. Prayers abound. And thank you for joining us in praying for Jason. 


Day #1150

February 23, 2017 

The February study from the WELCA magazine Gather is written about the 3rd chapter of Galatians. The focus is on law and gospel (mostly gospel), or as author Kathryn A. Kleinhans writes using Martin Luther’s words from the Apology of the Augsburg Confession written in 1531, article IV, law and promise. She writes: “Laws, by definition, require something from us, while a promise offers something to us. In Luther’s words, “the law demands: ‘Do this!’ The promise grants: ‘Accept this!’” And then, “…God is one who can and does keep promises!”

The good news is the gospel. The promise is God’s love and acceptance. And yes, God can and does keep promises. Thanks be to God!!! What wonderful news!! And how wonderful to think and talk about with the faithful women in WELCA circles!


Day #1149

February 22, 2017 

On the day when graduating Lutheran seminarians across America wait to hear where they will be "sent" for their first assignment area, I am reminded of what that felt like for me nearly ten years ago. Where would God send me to make the best use of the gifts and talents God has instilled in me? Would there be a congregation there who would accept and welcome me? Would we all thrive as we worked and served together? How long might the process take to find one another? Would it mean moving far away or staying nearby? There were so many questions and so much angst as we waited. 

Of course, hindsight is 20/20. There was no need to worry. God knew exactly the place where I needed to be and there I served with wonderful, spirit-filled, faithful people. It was not far away from where I had been living. And the process took the exact right amount of time. 

May all those waiting be filled with peace and assurance of the working of the Holy Spirit. The church needs your gifts and there is a place for you to use them. Thanks be to God!


Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Day #1148

February 21, 2017 

Just a typical day in the life - studying, talking, visiting, studying, writing, and being. A full day - a “regular” day - and while a typical day, it was actually a great day!


Day #1147

February 20, 2017

On mystical Monday, I wanted to share this from ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton on the WELCA blog, Daily Grace. It may not be specifically a way to describe Jesus, but it certainly points to him:
What does it mean to be Lutheran 500 years after the Reformation? Some might question the relevance of the theology of a 16th-centuryGerman monk, but Martin Luther’s clear exposition of the gospel is as fresh and powerful today as it was 500 years ago. For Luther, God was an actual living being: holy, righteous and jealous. In our culture, God has become a cross between a cosmic Barney (“I love you, you love me…”) and an ATM. This cuddly, transactional God does not inspire reverence or awe. With this domesticated God, we are missing the earth-shattering, life-changing good news of the gospel. Lutherans hold up two key understandings. First, grace presupposes that we need it. Second, grace is a gift. We are not loved for what we do or for who we are but because of Whose we are. To be Lutheran 500 years after the Reformation means that we are free to serve the neighbor as a person in his or her own right, not as a means to an end. It is the possibility of being open and genuine and honest because we are loved completely by God, who knows us completely. This message is adapted from “Where’s Lutheran” by ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton in the January/February 2017 issue of Gather
And then a shocking phone call about the son of good friends who is fighting for his life after a tragic fall from a popular climbing spot in NC. Our heart is heavy, our prayers are fervent, and our love outpouring for this young man and all his family. 


Day #1146

February 19, 2017

Is it possible to just be thankful?! Thankful for Sunday worship. Thankful for folks who are committed and faithful (and faith-filled). Thankful for warmer weather. Thankful for precious conversations and fellowship and laughter. Thankful for delicious food. 

I think it is possible, because I am simply thankful for a wonderful Sunday.


Day #1145

February 18, 2017 

The word for the day - paperwork! Specifically, paperwork necessary for tax preparation. The goal - to have everything complete before the end of the month and ready to take to the professional. And with this full day of working, that just might be possible. 



Day #1144

February 17, 2017

Earlier this week, there were the celebrations of two pastor colleague installations at their respective congregations where they serve here in town. At the end of the week - an ordination of a new colleague who will be serving in a different state.

Here is another photo courtesy of the synod office:

What a joyful, contemplative worship for the ordination of a pastor (she's the third from the right on the front row). And quite the celebration with awesome music!!

May the Lord bless her and keep her. May the Lord’s face shine on her and be gracious to her. May the Lord look upon her with favor and give her peace. 

And may she always remember to ask God to help and guide her.


Day #1143

February 16, 2017 

The first official meeting of the 2017 council. There are new members elected just last month and members from the past who have served faithfully their terms and are not continuing (at least for a while). 

In other words, there is change around the table. But there is also opportunity. And there is uncertainty. And there is wonder - what will the year hold? 

Whatever comes our way, there is one entity that has not changed - the presence of the Holy Spirit. May God guide us and keep us. May the prayers of others uplift us. And may we be found faithful at the end of the year! 


Day #1142

February 15, 2017 

This may have been the most special Confirmation Class I have ever been a part of teaching. One youth member of our class had never been baptized. So while we have been learning about the sacraments of baptism and Holy Communion, it seemed appropriate to make the invitation to baptize him during class. So that is what we did.

His family came, his classmates surrounded him, and we celebrated the beautiful service of baptism. And we rejoiced in welcoming a new member to God's family. Then together we all celebrated Holy Communion. 

What a wonderful celebration of community, of welcome, of God’s love and acceptance, and of God’s grace - truly an intersection of God’s blessing of faith and life. My heart is surely full! 


Day #1141

February 14, 2017 

Yes, February 14 is an “artificial” holiday created to celebrate love. Yet, Valentine’s Day is as good a day as any to make certain to tell the ones we care about that we love them, especially because we need to hear we are loved - and often. With that said, it is also a good day to hear these words: God loves you! 

But then, every day is a good day to hear those words. So for today, tomorrow and forever - please remember, GOD LOVES YOU!!


Day #1140

February 13, 2017

Mystical Monday and the word for the day to describe Jesus - forgiver. 

What an amazing thing that Jesus came as God incarnate on earth, to embody God’s love and grace for all. And because of that amazing act, there is forgiveness that comes to all of us through Jesus. Perhaps we do not think we need forgiveness, but when we realize we do, I have found forgiveness through Jesus to be a freeing, life-giving, second (third, fourth, etc) chance that restores hope and gives me joy beyond imagining. 

That is why we begin worship on Sunday with confession and the words of the assurance of Jesus’ forgiveness. That is also why we celebrate Holy Communion each week, hearing the words from Jesus - the body of Christ given for you, the blood of Christ shed for you. And in that sacramental reminder, we also hear Jesus say, I love you and there is no need to be concerned about today or the future, for our relationship is secure. 

What wonderful words - what amazing grace!


Day #1139

February 12, 2017 

A busy but wonderful day which included services of installation for two area colleagues. While we have already begun to know one another as colleagues, these official services in their respective congregations were good reminders of the partnership pastors are called to be in with the congregation they serve. We truly are in this together. And I give thanks for the reminder and the celebrations.

(Unfortunately only one picture and it courtesy of the synod office.)

Certainly a joy-filled day!


Saturday, February 11, 2017

Day #1138

February 11, 2017 

What a fun evening at a fund-raiser for the local Family Promise chapter. The Comfort Food Classic - an event with several different types of food to sample, desserts, music, silent auction, fellowship and more. 

And then there is the winner of the People’s Choice award for the favorite dish:

That's team "For the love of the Yam." What a great coming together from two congregations to make a yummy (after all, it is the one voted best by all those at the event) sweet potato casserole (and yes, that's me holding the coveted award surrounded by others of the team). And a special thanks to ALL those who baked and brought the "winning" dish.

So we have bragging rights for a year - all for a great cause. I yam what I yam - yummy!!


Day #1137

February 10, 2017

Ahh…a warmer day - windy, but warmer.

And then, the moon:

A picture is worth a thousand words (even one that isn’t the best of quality). 

And as the daylight continues to go a little longer each day, today is just another reminder that spring is getting closer. Yay! 


Day #1136

February 9, 2017 

A pastor shared this story online and I have made some amendments to her original to try and insure the anonymity of the couple. I don't remember the pastor, nor even what state it came from. But I think the story is beyond heartwarming, and quite the testimony to the love between the couple and the love of God for all:
A middle-age couple walk in off the street with a marriage license wanting to get married. He's 6 foot tall, she maybe 5 feet on her tiptoes. They have the license, they have the rings, they just need a pastor willing to do the ceremony today if possible. I talk with them for a while. She is a manager at a fast-food restaurant. He is a truck driver. Both are currently homeless and living at a shelter. They have dated and been together for several years. She finally proposed to him by saying, "can I keep you?" A chuckle erupts by us all. They are in scruffy, soiled clothing and have second-hand pawn shop rings. The life they have known has been visibly hard. My secretary and someone from next door serve as witnesses as I perform the ceremony and solemnize their relationship. He tears up at the vows. She gets up on her tiptoes as they exchange the kiss at the end of the ceremony. It is a long, deep kiss and the love they share is genuine and visible. I ask them what they are planning to do now, and her response is direct and simple. "We're going to show the marriage license to the folks down at the shelter so we can be together tonight instead of having to go to the separate men and women areas." She tears up as she looks at him and says, "I just don't want to have to leave you at night and be alone no more." My heart feels the weight of their lives. This is a grace moment, when suddenly my troubles and the cares that seemed so important a few minutes ago evaporate as the mist gathers in my own eyes.
And I have to admit, their story gathers mist in my eyes, too.


Day #1135

February 8, 2017 

Some thoughts from Richard Rohr:
We have to practice un-possessing, letting go, detaching from our thoughts and feelings, or they own us. With every idea or image that comes into our head, we have the opportunity to say, “No, I’m not that; I don’t need that; that’s not me.” 
I often hear, “I can’t help what I think or feel.” True, but when thoughts own us we need to remember that we do have power to overcome them. With God’s help, our thoughts can be transformed. 

Richard Rohr went on to say “be amiable with your thoughts.” In other words, it is ok to have thoughts, just don’t fall prey to them. Good reminder!


Day #1134

February 7, 2017 

It’s been sort of a “community building” kind of week with reminders in many places of how difficult it can be to live in community. It’s not easy to determine what is fair, what needs to be done to make certain that there is justice for all, and what, if any, consequences there should be for breaking the rules put in place to help make fairness happen. 

What is fair when it comes to a neighborhood, a family, a congregation, a classroom, a workplace? And who gets to decide? And, who enforces the rules? 

Hmm…not an easy thing. And yet what one person does can affect everyone else, as Rev. David Lose reminded me in his blog, In the Meantime. Actually, what one person does almost always has an affect on others. 

Oh the joys and the challenges of community - but then aren’t they worth it in the end?!


Day #1133

February 6, 2017

The description of Jesus for today’s Mystical Monday (see #1098) is Welcomer. Especially a welcomer of children, or those who come to him as a child.

And on that note, in the mail came this from one of the children at the congregation:

She’s been traveling with her family and sent this she made at the Children’s Discovery Museum, along with a note saying she misses us.  

Certainly warms my heart to know she misses church! We miss her, too!


Day #1132

February 5, 2017 

There isn’t much that seems more inspiring than having youth participate in worship - especially when it comes to playing music. How fun to have a group of young ones come in with percussion instruments on the sending hymn. 

What a great reminder to share the joy, let our lights shine, and celebrate. Thanks be to God!


Saturday, February 4, 2017

Day #1131

February 4, 2017 

While chatting with someone at a funeral, we were talking about how everyone’s life has a story to tell. There is always something about everyone that makes an impact on our world. And sometimes we only find out their most interesting stories after they are gone.

She went on to tell me one of the most interesting of those stories she remembered hearing. While she knew some of the family, she did not know the deceased. But the story was told at her funeral of how she had been quick to remind her family that they all owed their lives to her - that when she was a child, she had saved them all. Her story went something like this - her family was preparing to immigrate from Ireland to the United States, but when the time came to board the ship, she was sick. Having a cough, she and her family were not allowed to board, but were told to keep their tickets so that when she was well they could take another ship to America. How, then, did she save their lives? The ship they would have boarded had she been well was the Titantic. 

As we continued our conversation at this funeral, we reminded one another that while things may seem to be at their worst, we just never know what might be coming next. And how God is at work in ways we have no way of knowing or planning. Thanks be to God! 


Day #1130

February 3, 2017

While running errands and interacting with various types of “service” folks, I was reminded how thankful I am to receive good service. Smiling, patiently answering questions, not appearing to be in a hurry or over-committed, are all ways that I would define good service. And being ignored, well, that heads my list of poor service “qualities.”

How much effort does it really take to make someone feel important? How difficult is it to smile, make eye contact, and in the process make someone’s day better? It’s certainly important to this customer, and a reminder that many others probably feel the same. 

Which begs the question, what sort of “service” do I provide when someone enters my office or the building for worship? Surely something to think about!


Day #1129

February 2, 2017

Groundhog Day. 

And the question, of course, is, did he see his shadow or not? 

Well, in this area of the country, relying on a groundhog’s prediction makes little sense. After all, there will be at least six more weeks of winter - it’s a given. 

Oh, but how sweet Spring and warm weather will be, whenever it gets here. 


Day #1128

February 1, 2017

Wonderful Wednesdays - they begin and end with youth, along with a couple of hours of Bible Study in between. Certainly a high point of the week.

But there are days when keeping up with the youth is a challenge, much less trying to stay ahead of them. They have amazing insights and questions that keep you on your toes. There is often the challenge to keep their interest and attention. But there is also, often, the reminder that while it may not seem they are hearing anything you say, their prayers remind me the Holy Spirit is at work. 

Thank you, God, for teaching alongside us humans - all the time!!


Day #1127

January 31, 2017 

As I read these words from the devotion, Daily Grace, I was reminded of what someone once told me, “it’s not gossip if it’s true.” 
With our words, we can change the way others look at someone, build a reputation or tear one down. Our stories can shape the truth about a person, a place or an institution. Gossip can be true, false or (most often) a mixture of the two. Gossip has the effect of making the gossiper, the one with the information, feel powerful and experience a sense of control over others. One of my favorite interpretations of the commandment “You shall not kill” is one that expands the law to not only prohibit taking a life but to prohibit all the little “murders” we commit each day. When we mutter under our breath about a co-worker or speculate about a friend’s relationship with her spouse, we injure their reputations. We don’t physically “kill” them, but we do kill their character. This message is adapted from “Rumor has it” written by Amber Leberman that first appeared in the July 2006 issue of Café magazine.
So what are your thoughts about "gossip?" True or not, should we share news that isn't ours to tell? Have you been hurt by the sharing of news, even good news? Much to consider - and to discern.


Day #1126

January 30, 2017

Mystical Monday (see #1098) and the word for the day to describe Jesus - bread, as in the bread of life. 

And what could be more appropriate than to actually bake bread that will be used in worship to celebrate Holy Communion, the giving of the body of Christ, broken for you and me. 

What a joy it is to spend time with youth in this way, knowing the nourishment this bread will bring!


Day #1125

January 29, 2017

Sunrise Mass as performed by the Symphonic Choir and Symphonic Winds was a fabulous way to spend some of the afternoon resting and recuperating. Amazing music and fantastic performers coming together, giving glory and praise to God, sharing their gifts, was balm for the soul!

Thanks be to God for the gifts and talents shared!


Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Day #1124

January 28, 2017 

A milestone - the first lost tooth!

I suppose that whatever “Simon says” for a while will be with a little more air through it. :-)


Day #1123

January 27, 2017

In a word - sick! Boo! But, as they say, this, too, shall pass. 


Day #1122

January 26, 2017

In thinking and pondering the Beautitudes (Matthew 5:1-12), there is this from the devotion d365
The philosopher Søren Kierkegaard explained that “purity of heart is to will one thing.” Can you imagine all of your options, priorities, and opportunities narrowed down to just one? That is purity – a heart that has a single focus, not distracted and pulled in many directions.
I cannot even seem to have that kind of focus for a short period of time, much less always! Makes me truly thankful for God’s grace!

And then, the death of Mary Tyler Moore. As a young woman, her character, Mary Richards, was a hero, one I often looked to for help with navigating the single life and all that came with it – living alone, dating, working, friendships. She could be strong and yet not overpowering, independent yet she needed others. Mary Tyler Moore will certainly be missed, and I am thankful she was around when I needed her.


Day #1121

January 25, 2017

Sometimes it’s not a “Simon says” but a “Simon draws”

Think we may have a budding artist here!!

And just when you wonder about those in the teen years, an awesome prayer by one at the end of confirmation class: “Thank you for healing the scars of the wounded.” Such wisdom and faith!!! What an inspiration!! 


Day #1120

January 24, 2017

This says so much!! It is "Setting up for failure?" from the devotion, Daily Grace, provided by the Women of the ELCA:
One of the hardest things, especially for women and/or mothers, is the guilt that accompanies making choices for our own well-being, choices that feel selfish. We are taught as Christians that we ought to make decisions that are Christ-like, loving and unselfish. And we assume that means that the greatest show of love is self-sacrifice, like Jesus, an emptying out of our entire beings for the sake of others. What we sometimes forget is that when we try so hard to be like Christ, we can easily end up trying to be Christ for other people–to be their savior instead of pointing them to the only one who can save them. We end up setting ourselves up to fail, trying to be to others what we were never designed to be: God. This reflection comes from “The faithfulness of boundaries,” written by Collette Broady that appeared in the November 2013 issue of Cafe.
Lord, remind me of my place and move me to do all I can while in it. Amen.