Wednesday, October 31, 2007

A short post about Saints

This is the quotation Husband and I discovered when we did the acrostic in the New York Times Magazine this Sunday:

"The wonderful thing about saints is that they were human. They lost their tempers, got hungry, scolded God, were egotistical or testy, made mistakes and regretted them. Still they went on doggedly blundering toward heaven."

P. McGinley, "Saint Watching"

How timely! I had never heard of this book.

But I learned all about it on another blog, which coincidentally turns out to be from Minnesota. For a few minutes, I entered another whole realm of the blogosphere (instead of going to bed).

Funny what you will learn doing puzzles in the Sunday New York Times.

Happy All Saints Day.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Dog is a Good Sport

As promised, here are a couple of pictures of Scout in her too-small pumpkin outfit.
She is a good sport, even though you can tell she's not thrilled.

I think, in the future, we will stick with brightly colored scarves (unless someone else has a better idea).

And, as a bonus, here's a picture of Scout doing one of her favorite activities: lounging on "her" loveseat (the one she is allowed to sit on). This picture was probably taken after doing another of her favorite activities: running.

In fact, it was probably taken on Sunday afternoon. She should have been good and tired then. Just before Husband and Stepson left for church, she bolted out the front door and ran down the street (we live on a dead-end without much traffic). I got three messages at church on Sunday about how Scout was on the loose and they didn't have time to run after her.

So I was in a terrible mood as I drove home, not knowing what to expect. Expecting the worst. I drove in the driveway and got out of the car. I called out: "Scout! Scout!"

I was shocked to hear a voice call out my name.

It was my next door neighbor.

He and his wife had seen Scout and grabbed her. When I got home, she had been playing in the backyard with their dog, Sadie.

I think they deserve a nice present. What do you think?

Monday, October 29, 2007

To my neice, on the occasion of her confirmation

My neice was confirmed yesterday, on Reformation Sunday, at her own church Down South in the Desert. This is what I would like to say to her:

I know that you have been studying for the past three years in order to get to this day. You regard it as a Big Accomplishment. You might even regard it as a "Coming of Age." I know I did. I thought, "Today I am an adult in the eyes of the church." I was proud of myself as I imagine you are.

Today, though I want to share a story about something that happened a long time ago, to you and to someone you don't know well, your great-grandma Emma.

Your great-grandma Emma was my grandma, and a very special person. We used to visit her down in Jackson when we were growing up. She liked to laugh and tell jokes, and she prayed for all of us too. She grew strawberries in a big garden, and tomatoes in a smaller one when she and grandpa moved into town. She was also a good hugger. You know, all of the important things.

She first met you when you were a little baby, not long after you were born. Then, when you were about 1 year old, your mom came home and you went to visit your great-grandma when she was in the hospital. The truth was, she was going to die soon.

Your great grandma was in a hospital room. Some people get scared when they have to go to hospitals. But your mom told me later that when you went in to visit great-grandma Emma, she was happy to see you and smiled, and that you were not scared at all, even though she was weak and had some tubes and things in her. You put your arms out and went right to her.

You were only one year old, but you did a good thing that day. You made your great-grandma happy, and peaceful. I'm sure she was so glad to see you, and so glad that you put your arms out and were not afraid to go to her.

It wasn't long after that great-grandma went home to be with God. God welcomed her with open arms and a big smile, just like you did.

As you keep growing in Christ, you will discover that God has plans for you. You won't discover this all at once, but bit by bit as you live and learn and have adventures. It will be a little bit like when you went across Gooseberry Falls this summer. You will discover more things that you can do, and things that only YOU can do, because of who you are.

Don't be afraid. Don't be afraid to cross the rocks sometimes. And don't be afraid to open your arms like you did for your great-grandma. You helped her know that God was with her. Sometimes we all do that for one another. We show each other God.

You were very good at that when you were one year old.

God bless you.

Aunt Diane

Sunday, October 28, 2007


Today I read the front page of our Sunday paper with a heavy heart and a lump in my throat. The news hit a little too close to home today.

A young woman was found murdered in the trunk of her car this weekend. Although no one knows exactly what happened yet, she apparently disappeared after answering an ad for a nanny on Craigslist.

Her father is a pastor at a Lutheran church not more than a mile from where I live. He is a part of a clergy group I attend.

I had not heard of Craigslist before yesterday. I don't know much more about it today. After church today, one of my parish members told me that it started out as a way to barter, or share: goods, ideas, services. He said that he has used Craigslist himself a few times.

The young woman's family said that she "always believed the best about other people." She was a beautiful, talented young woman.

At church this morning, the children were invited to dress up in their Halloween costumes for worship. The children's choir sang a song called "Monsters", inviting us to chase away the scary monsters in our lives by the power of Jesus' love.

After church, I talked to a friend about the news story, and the young woman. He asked me whether I knew this pastor. I said I did. Then he shook his head and said, "There are a lot of monsters out there."

Thinking of the children's choir, I replied, "Real ones."

Still, I think the young woman was right to always believe the best about other people. It will be harder to live by that light now.

Please pray for our community, and for this young woman's family.

Saturday, October 27, 2007


Thursday evening while we were walking down the driveway with Scout, we heard a meowing that seemed like it was coming from inside our hedge. But we couldn't see a cat anywhere. It was dusk, and of course Scout was in favor of doing an all-out search, but we were not so sure. We knew there had been a little cat wandering around the neighborhood lately. We looked around the hedge a little and forgot about it.

The next morning when Scout and I went for our walk, we heard the meowing again. It was louder. But I still couldn't see a cat anywhere. The meowing seemed to be coming (again) from inside the hedge. When we went inside, I could still hear the meowing from the kitchen.

I thought -- something must be wrong. Maybe the little cat is injured. Otherwise, why would she stay in the same place and meow all night? so -- I called animal control. They said they didn't have anyone on yet, but they'd be out later.

Then, I decided to take one more look, on our neighbor's side of the hedge. I rooted around and found a flashlight. There, on the other side of our hedge, was a cage, something like a dog kennel -- and the little cat was inside, meowing like crazy. I wasn't sure what the explanation of that could be. I know my next-door neighbors, and I can assure you, they are not into any kind of animal torture.

I called animal control back and cancelled the order. Sometime later, I called our neighbors, and left a message about the kitty. Something on the order of "surely there must be some explanation."

In the evening I got a call back.

It was a raccoon trap, and our neighborhood kitty got stuck in it.

Don't worry, all you cat lovers, she was not hurt.

But it seems that raccoons are a real problem in our neighborhood. My neighbor said she had been scared one evening when she came home late and found about eight of them in her front-yard tree, shaking the branches. This is possibly what makes Scout suddenly start barking at the front window sometimes.

I said, It seems like "The Birds", only with raccoons, and my neighbor did not disagree.

In the meantime, the kitty is still around. My neighbor said that she thinks the cat eats some of the food neighbors put out for the deer. We do not feed the deer, or the cat. But, she lives in our garage. She seems very comfortable in there.

Today, I got some pictures of her: in the garage and out on the driveway. It's pretty clear that, though Scout is very interested in her, she is not interested in Scout.

However, she does seem to like us. When I was trying to take her pictures, I would kneel down, and she would run up to me and rub up against my pant legs.

Tonight, she was sitting on our back steps. And she followed my husband and dog on their nightly walk.

Pictures will follow.

In the meantime, what do we do about this cat?

Friday, October 26, 2007

200 posts: Because I Can

I've been meaning to post this picture of my dad for a long time. But, when I tried to post it before, I just got a black spot on the screen. But thanks to Marsha and David, I learned how to change the format I saved it in, and now, you can all see this wonderful picture of my dad when he was a young man.

This picture probably was taken before I was born (maybe even before he was married). He's standing in his shop (He sold and repaired radios and TVs). He looks young and happy, and, if I may be allowed to say so, kind of cute. I love all of the old radios in the background. Of course, they weren't old then.

Every once in awhile, my mom would take me to my dad's shop and I would hang out with him while she ran errands or went shopping. The shop was full of kind of unusual smells; if picture tubes have a smell, that's what it smelled like in there. I especially liked to explore in back where all of the parts were kept. The display window, with the latest models, was cool, too.

Somewhere along the line, my dad got an orange van that he would take to work. He used to transport the TVs back and forth in the van. And he gave us rides too. Since the van rode a little higher than a car, he would pretend it was an airplane, and say "Pilot to copilot. Pilot to copilot. Ready for take-off." Then, we were supposed to look in the rear view mirror.

Later on, the neighborhood where my dad's shop was located became rougher and poorer. Sometimes we would get a call in the middle of the night; someone had broken in. Once, he said, he had been held up while he was working.

As well, the competition got tougher: department stores, Best Buy, others. People stopped having their TVs repaired. Just buy a new one. So, finally, my dad quit his business and started working at a big department store in our town.

I suppose my dad's business at least in part accounts for my passion for small businesses. The small shop seems a thing of the past, though. Sometimes I think, if I weren't a pastor, I'd love to have a small book store. Maybe a book store with a coffee shop.

Of course, I'd miss preaching, and teaching, and leading worship. Also going to the hospital and the nursing homes. I'd miss baptizing babies and meeting with couples. I think I'd miss a couple of other things, too.

I think that being a pastor (especially a solo pastor) is a little like running a small business. In both cases, you have to be somewhat of a generalist. My dad's shop advertised "Sales and Service." He both sold new TVs and radios, and repaired old ones. In the church, we offer new life and repair old ones, as well.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

It's a Pumpkin/Apple Friday Five

Singing Owl over at Revgals writes:
All Hallows Eve (Halloween) is near. As a child, Halloween was one of my favorite holidays. We didn’t yet worry about razor blades in apples or popcorn balls or some of the other concerns people have with Halloween these days. Halloween was a chance to be mildly scared, and better yet, to dress up and pretend to be something we really weren’t. Let’s talk about that a bit, but then let’s add in some food ideas for this year.

Where I live the leaves are falling, the temperature is chilly and pumpkins are for sale everywhere, along with many kids of apples. What's more, the "Holiday Season" will soon be upon us. ACK! I could use a new idea for dessert. So, here we go…

1. How did you celebrate this time of year when you were a child?
Mostly your basic trick or treating, on our own block and around the neighborhood. My dad went with us when we were little. My sister and my first costumes were ghosts. My mom just threw white sheets over our head. My best year my mom made a witch costume for me from a Simplicity pattern. I thought I was pretty scary! I had a light up hat, and I did win a prize at a Halloween party.

2. Do you and/or your family “celebrate” Halloween? Why or why not? And if you do, has it changed from what you used to do?
We basically just get decorations and a pumpkin for the front yard, and welcome trick or treaters to our house. Although this year we didn't get a pumpkin, because the squirrels keep eating them.

2. Candy apples: Do you prefer red cinnamon or caramel covered? Or something else?
Caramel apples, of course. They make me fat. And, if allowed, I would eat them all of the fall.

3. Pumpkins: Do you make Jack O’ Lanterns? Any ideas of what else to do with them?
We have made Jack O'Lanterns until the last year.

4. Do you decorate your home for fall or Halloween? If so, what do you do? Bonus points for pictures.
Just the pumpkins and something for our door. This year we are decorating our dog for Halloween, if she cooperates (sorry no pictures yet). Never did that much growing up. I was always impressed, on our trick or treating jaunts, by the neighbors with the scary soundtracks and skeletons in their yards.

5. Do you like pretending to be something different? Does a costume bring our an alternate personality?
Hmmm... I used to like dressing up as a cat. And I loved putting on kimono in Japan, and pretending I was different. And... this isn't Halloween, but I enjoyed dressing up in mom's clothes as a little girl. One of my favorite birthday parties was a "Cinderella" theme. My friends and I all dressed up in our mom's clothes, and my mom made a "pumpkin" cake.

Bonus: Share your favorite recipe for an autumn food, particularly apple or pumpkin ones.
Too bad, my favorite autum recipe is "Autumn soup", with tomato and hamburger. No pumpkin or apple. I'll post it if anyone is interested.
Ok, here is my aunt's Autumn Soup recipe:
1 lb. ground beef
1 tbsp fat
1 cup chopped onion
4 cups hot water
1 cup each cup up carrots, celery, potatoes
2 cups cooked tomatoes
2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp meat extract
1 bay leaf, crumbled
pinch basil
Brown beef in hot fat in heavy kettle. Add onions. Cook 5 minutes more. Add remaining ingredients. Bring to boil, cover. Summer 30 minutes. 6 servings (exactly from her recipe card)

Images of the Prodigal Son

I don't know why, but it seems that I am into art this fall. First, it was the St. John's Bible, art that is being created right in front of us. Now, it's "Images of the Prodigal Son", a collection by a man named Jerry Evenrud. The collection is now on display at the museum of Biblical Art in New York (which I didn't even know existed.) There is also available a book of images and essays by former Luther Seminary Pastor Robert Brusic.

This Sunday Pastor Brusic will be coming to our adult forum to share some of the images and his thoughts with us.

I hope that it is yet another way for us to "get into" the Bible, and discover all the facets of this great parable.
(Image above is from the collection)

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

short update

Car -- major major repairs. Very Expensive. The car won't be back until tomorrow. Guess I won't be getting my own computer for a little while longer.

Husband's Bone Scan -- not scary. Good prognosis. There is some arthritis, which is good news compared to our Worst Fears.

And, it puts the car repairs into perspective.

Today, I opened the paper and read about a man who was bitten by a bat last summer, and just died of rabies. He didn't even realize that he had been bitten. This makes me so so sad.

And I have been reading over at Presbyterian Gal's blog about the spreading fires in California.

There are many other things, small and big, to pray for, take action on, care about. It's hard to keep up with them all.

My confirmation students went house to house collecting food for a local food shelf tonight. They had fun. At every door they knocked on, polite, friendly people gave them non-perishable food.

It was my block.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Why It's Called Faith in Community, Part II

Faith is born, deepens and grows in community. "This is most certainly true." And what Luther calls "the mutual conversation and consolation of the saints" happens in all kinds of communities: between parents and children on the way to school, in formal Bible studies, around dinner tables and at pot lucks, at the grocery store and while walking the dog, over coffee hour and while sharing the peace. We experience God's mercy and forgiveness often most often in community: when another person bears our burdens, shares their faith, weeps or rejoices with us, walks with us in doubt, teaches us a new thing.

And in a world of isolation and loneliness, real community is a great and a rare gift.

But there's another part of it, something just as true but that we rarely talk about.

Bonhoeffer, I discovered, also talked about this other aspect of community in his book, Life Together. He writes:

The serious Christian, set down for the first time in a Christian community, is likely to bring with him a very definite idea of what Christian life together should be and to try to realize it. But God's grace speedily shatters such dreams. Just as surely as God desires to lead us to a knowledge of genuine Christian fellowship, so surely must we be overwhelmed by a great disillusionment with others, with Christians in general, and if we are fortunate, with ourselves. (pp. 26-27)

In other words, just as we experience God's mercy and forgiveness in community, so often we are most likely to experience sin and brokenness in community: other people's, and our own. In community we allow ourselves to be both loved and hurt; we love and hurt others as well. Perhaps that's why Christian community is not embraced by everyone.

A friend of my whose parents divorced when she was a girl explained her mother's decision to me once: "She finally decided what she wanted to do with her life," my friend said. "What was that?" I asked. "Live by herself."

I don't want in any way to belittle the hurt and pain inflicted by dysfunctional Christian communities. But even in the healthiest churches, we will experience both grace and sin. We will be disillusioned by the church's failure to live up to its ideals, we will be let down by other people on whom we depended. And, as Bonhoeffer says, if we are fortunate, we will become disillusioned with ourselves as well.

If we are fortunate. Odd words.

If we are fortunate, we will in community realize our deep brokenness, and God's constant and unending love.

In the poem, The Death of the Hired Man, Robert Frost writes of a broken down man who goes back to one of the places he worked. He is dying. The wife wants to give the old man, unreliable though he was, a place to die. He doesn't really have another home. The husband wrily observes, "Home is the place where, if you go there, they have to take you in." The wife replies, "I should have called it/Something you somehow haven't to deserve."

A true community is a place where, if we go there, they have to take us in. It's where the hired man goes to die. It's where we come to feel useful, to lean and to be leaned on, to rest and to work. And, in community, again and again we see ourselves for who we are: brokendown, unreliable, lonely, mean and beloved, beautiful, forgiven and whole.

When I was a little girl, my brother had a rock tumbler. I was fascinated by the machine, which with grit and lots of noise tumbled dull old rocks into beautiful agates. Now, sometimes, I think of the church that way: as a rock tumbler, where we are bound to rub each other the wrong way, but where God is making us beautiful.

And that's why it's called Faith in Community

Monday, October 22, 2007

Scout Goes to Day Care!

Today, Scout went to Doggie Day Care for the first time.

She went to a place called Dog Days over in our Adjoining City. Today was her Test Day because today is the day they have the fewest dogs stay with them. And, she boarded at this place during the summer, with less than spectacular results.

So, they wanted to be sure that we would be able to come and pick her up right away in case things were not going so well.

I got up very early this morning (for a day off) to take her over before all the other dogs arrived. Then, it seemed kind of funny and quiet in the house.

Not that she's a loud, barking dog. (She isn't.) But she is rather large, and conscpicuous by her absence. I guess I just missed her.

However, she passed her "day care" test today. She did fabulously well, and is invited back anytime. (But not overnight. She has, they say, "confinement issues.")

Now she is sleeping on the living room floor. So, it's still quiet around here.

By the way, Husband had "bone scan" today, but they were behind and had to re-schedule MRI. We hope everything goes ok.

And something appears to be wrong with one of the cars. Engine sounds sort of ominous.

P.S. Picture is from puppy-hood. Hope to get pumpkin outfit pictures soon.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Sabbath Prayer

We watched the movie Fiddler on the Roof on TCM this afternoon. As I watched, I recalled my earlier post about all-time favorite movie lines. One of my favorite lines from this movie is the exchange: "Is there a proper blessing for the Tsar?" "A Proper Blessing for the Tsar? May God bless and keep the Tsar... far away from us!"

So, my question now is: do you have an all-time favorite religious or spiritual-themed movie? If so, what is it?

Hear our Sabbath prayer this evening.


Sunday Sermon

"Body Prayer"

A couple of years ago I got a little prayer book simply because it piqued my curiosity. I like prayer books, but this one was unusually titled: Body Prayer, it’s called. (by Doug Pagitt and Kathryn Prill, Waterbrook, 2005) It’s by a local author, and it advocates using certain "prayer postures" – and its thesis is that prayer is not, or should not be an activity of the heart or mind only, but of the whole body. I like what part of the introduction says about certain traditional postures during prayer: "for ... early believers, folding their hands during prayer was a statement that they would not hold onto anything else when they were praying. It was a physical way to say to God, "Your kingdom come, your will be done in my life." (Did you know that?) Or how about this? "The custom of kneeling and bowing one’s head in prayer is strengthened by the imagery of a person approaching a king to make a request. When doing this in prayer, the subject puts herself at the mercy of the King by exposing her neck, an act which shows her complete vulnerability to the Sovereign’s power." (p. 4-5) (What do you think of THAT?) With that in mind I’d like to try a couple of easy prayer postures right now. First, there’s an easy prayer. You put you palms up, like this – this is a prayer for healing. Let’s try another one – If you are able, fold your hands and stretch them above your head. This is a prayer for enjoyment. Or, if you stretch your arms over your head, that is the posture for a prayer for courage. Finally, let’s do a traditional posture – let’s all fold our hands, and as we fold our hands, think about holding on to God – and what that means..

Holding on to God. That’s what Jacob was doing, in that strange lesson from Genesis we just read, wasn’t it? Holding on to God. Although he didn’t know it at first. And at first it was more than holding on, it was wrestling. It’s a pretty radical prayer posture – holding on for dear life, and spitting out the words, "I will not let you go unless you bless me." But it’s a kind of a prayer, isn’t it? A desperate prayer, a prayer from a wounded man, an exhausted man. "I will not let you go unless you bless me." And he doesn’t even know – at first – who he is praying to.

It helps to have a little background on this character Jacob. What do you know about him? I recently heard someone say, about Jacob, that he was "addicted to blessings." And based on his life – that assessment doesn’t seem to be so far off. Jacob, you see is a twin – he and Esau are twin sons of Isaac and Rebekah – only sons. But Esau, as the older twin, by rights, is heir to his father’s blessing. And to receive a blessing meant everything in those days. If Isaac would say to his son (as in fact he did), "May God give you of the dew of heaven, and of the fatness of the earth, and plenty of grain and wine..." it was as if it had already happened. A blessing was not "just words".

So Esau was older, and he should have gotten his father’s blessing – but somehow – Jacob, the "blessing-addict" got it instead. How did he do it? He tricked his father, his old, half-blind father, into thinking he was his brother, and he stole his brother’s blessing. So... not such a nice guy. And his brother was, as you can imagine, angry, so angry he vowed to kill his brother, so that Jacob had to run away, to a far country.But now – now he’s coming back, coming back to face his brother, his brother whom he cheated. He’s coming back with flocks and servants and wives and children, a wealthy man. He has been blessed. But he doesn’t know what he will see when he sees his brother’s face. And so that night, as he prepares to meet Esau, and perhaps, as he’s awake in the night, he even prays, wondering what will happen to him.

But one thing we know – that night he wrestles with a stranger, and he ends up holding on to God. And just a daybreak, exhausted and crippled, he pants out the words, "I will not let you go unless you bless me," and the stranger blesses him. Again! The stranger blesses Jacob, the cheat, the liar, and the wrestler: the stranger blesses him. And the stranger turns out to be God. That body prayer seems to work for Jacob.

In a way, Jacob and the widow of our gospel have something in common. Neither of them know who they are dealing with – and yet they persist, yet they hold on. Jacob wrestles with a stranger. The widow persists in demanding justice from an unrighteous judge. As far as Jacob knows, the stranger could just as soon kill him as bless him. But he asks. And he holds on until he gets it. Because somehow he understands it is important. The widow, as well, is dealing with a judge who, by his own admission, does not care about her or her situation. And yet she persists because whatever else she knows about him, she knows that he has the power to grant her justice. And in the end, he blesses her. That’s what a blessing is, you know – the words that make a promise real. A blessing is a word that changes reality from someone who has the power to do it. When the judge says, "You are innocent. You may go free", you are free. When the IRS says you don’t owe any more taxes, you are paid in full and free. When the pastor says, "Your sins are forgiven, for Jesus sake," you are forgiven. A few years ago, we got a phone call shortly after Christmas. The caller said that we had won a contest (a contest we didn’t even know we entered) and that we had won a gift certificate through AAA to use for travel in the next year.
We were pretty suspicious – but then we asked where the person was calling from. "Plymouth, MN" he said. (It might be true!) And when we got the tax form from the IRS saying that we had to pay taxes on our prize – then we knew it was real. A blessing is word of promise from someone who has the power to make it happen. A blessing is the word that gives the widow justice. And a blessing is the word that makes Jacob righteous — and that makes him "Israel" – the father of a nation, and a blessing to the world.

One thing about Jacob – he never does anything half-way. He lives life to the fullest. He puts his whole self into everything he does. So perhaps it’s no surprise to find him wrestling all night – wrestling with God. And perhaps it’s not surprise as well to discover that he got what he was looking for. People like him, people who reach out and grab and take – often are the ones who get. But Jacob got more than he bargained for. Because Jacob was dealing with God. So Jacob received his blessing. But he received as well a mission – to become a blessing to others, to the world. To become Israel, the father of a nation, a light to the world. His life, however imperfect, would be a prayer. How could this be? How could this scoundrel, this cheater, this liar – be a blessing?

I think of Oscar Schindler, in the movie Schindler’s List. He is, in many ways, not so different a character than Jacob. He has a reputation as a cheat and a swindler. He’s used in engaging in shady business deals. That’s the way he lives his life. And yet – in the time of crisis – he saved the Jews that worked for him. He did it the only way he knew how – by cheating the Nazis. And he became a blessing for many people. Because of what he did, many people lived, and had children and grandchildren. God blessed Oscar Schindler’s imperfect, struggling, limping life – and used him to be a blessing to others. That’s a kind of body prayer as well – when our actions, as well as our words – bless and save others.

Body prayer – it is prayer as if our whole lives depend on it. Body prayer – it is a prayer to receive a blessing – but it is also a prayer to be a blessing to the world. And we pray to the one who has the power to do both things. We pray – with our own imperfect hearts and our limping bodies – to the one who both blesses us and makes us a blessing. We pray to the one who can make our whole lives a prayer, the one whose whole life WAS a prayer. On the cross, Jesus forgave his enemies and promised them paradise. But these were not just words. It was a body prayer that blessed and saved the world – including you and me. We too have been blessed – and given a mission. We have been sent out armed with words and actions, sent out to bless the world.

So we pray – with our hearts and with our hands:
we pray for healing (palms up) and that we might be healers.
we pray for for couraged (arms outstretched) and that we might be encouragers
we pray holding on to God -- as God in Christ holds on to us. AMEN

The Hymn of the Day was #722 from our new ELW. I love the words!

O Christ, Your heart, compassionate, bore ev'ry human pain
Its beating was the pulse of God; its breadth, God's vast domain.
The heart of God, the heart of Christ combined in perfect rhyme
to write God's love in human deeds, eternity in time.

As once you welcomed those cast down and healed the sick, the blind,
so may all bruised and broken lives through us your help still find.
Lord, join our hearts with those who weep that none may weep alone,
and help us bear another's pain as though it were our own.

O Christ, create new hearts in us that beat in time with you;
that joined by faith with your great heart, become love's open doors.
We are your body, risen Christ, our hearts, our hands we yield
that through our life and ministry your love may be revealed

O Love that made the distant stars, yet marks the sparrows fall,
whose arms stertched wide upon a cross embrace and bear us all:
come, make your church a servant church that walks your servant ways,
whose deeds of love rise up to you, a sacrifice of praise!

Text: Herman G. Stuempfle Jr

Saturday, October 20, 2007

The just man justices

I don't know why, but while I was working on my sermon this morning, I thought of this sonnet by Gerard Manley Hopkins:

As Kingfishers Catch Fire

As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame;
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell's
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
Selves -- goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
Crying What I do is me: for that I came.

I say more: the just man justices;
Keeps grace: that keeps all his goings graces;
Acts in God's eyes what in God's eyes he is --
Christ. For Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men's faces.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Friday Five: Homage to the Top Chef

Rev HRod writes:

This Fall my family has been energetically watching Top Chef on the Bravo channel. My teenage daughter watches with the dream of some day being a chef. My husband watches because he loves reality shows and I mean, really loves them. Plus the whole competition thing really works for him. Me, I love cooking and good food. Every so often I get an idea from this group of talented young chefs who are competing for big money and honors galore.The winner for this season was Hung. Not the fan favorite, but he won fair and square. In his bio, he says if he were a food "I would be spicy chili - it takes a while to get used to, but once you eat it you always come back for more!" With that in mind, here is this week’s Friday Five.

If you were a food, what would you be?

I think I would probably be something comfortable, like mashed potatoes and meatballs. Except my husband doesn't like mashed potatoes, so how about egg noodles and meatballs? I'd like to be something more exotic, but .... I'm not really that exotic.

What is one of the most memorable meals you ever had? And where?

New in Japan, the pastor and his wife took another young teacher and me to Yokohama for the day, to see the sights. We went to a wonderful Chinese restaurant, where I experienced a real Chinese meal: the pastor did all the ordering for everyone, and the staff kept bringing out round serving bowls full of hot, delicious dishes, which we all shared. I didn't recognize one thing I ate that evening, but loved every bite. And of course later I learned the Japanese saying: "What is heaven? Heaven is 1) an American house, 2) Chinese food, and 3) a Japanese wife."

What is your favorite comfort food from childhood?

We had a certain particular recipe for spaghetti that all of us loved. In fact, if we went out to eat, us kids always obnoxiously whined, "We like Mom's spaghetti better." I'm sure it was the rosemary needles that made it so good. I also remember fondly my grandmother's chicken and egg noodles.

When going to a church potluck, what one recipe from your kitchen is sure to be a hit?

I hardly ever bring anything to a church pot luck, but if I did, I think I would bring the tortellini salad recipe that I got on internship in Denver. I'm partial to salads because I can make them ahead.

What’s the strangest thing you ever willingly ate?

I'm not sure it was willing, but once I ate fried "taco", or, in Japanese, octopus.

Bonus question: What’s your favorite drink to order when looking forward to a great meal?

Alcoholic: a good chardonnay.

Non-alcoholic: Good earth herb tea (has cinnamon in it).

It's Raining

It's raining today. It started raining last night and hasn't quit yet. It's supposed to rain all day today and tomorrow too.

This isn't one of those torrential downpours, with thunder and lightning. It's one of those rains that you can imagine might last forty days and forty nights. If you have ever lived in a place where there is a "rainy season", it's a little like that.

Only colder.

Regarding Scout and the Cute Pumpkin Outfit, I bought it. Size Large. Except, even at Size Large, it's too small. She's not THAT large, but I guess she has kind of a long body. So the hat looks all right, but the costume only goes about halfway down her back. So I'm a little disappointed about that.

On Monday, she is going to try Doggie Day care for one day to see if it works. If she gets too anxious we have to come right back and pick her up. She likes playing at the dog park with other dogs, but there are often 60 dogs at Day Care, and that might make her anxious. We'll see.

If it works, we would like her to go one day a week. It would be good exercise. She isn't getting enough exercise lately, for a variety of reasons.

Also, Husband is having some tests on his shoulder Monday.

I'm feeling a little down (probably because of the rain), but also because sometimes the church is trying so hard to take in enough money that we forget that we exist to tell people about Jesus. So, we could barely find a little room for the Bible class for third graders that is coming up.

But, on the bright side, here is a good story:

I had coffee with a young couple on Tuesday evening. They did some premarital counseling with me. They live in the area but are not members of our church. They got married in Another State. They visited one of our worship services a few weeks ago. I said that I was sorry that I didn't see them. They said it was because they saw their neighbors, J & B (an older couple), and began to talk to them right away. Then they went on and on about how helpful and nice J & B are, and how they have been so welcoming to them as they came into the community. Then they said that J & B invited them over to their house for dinner the last weekend.

Somebody Somewhere is doing Something Right. I felt proud to be associated with J & B. They are sharing their faith by being welcoming to their neighbors. It was such a simple act, but I think a little too rare these days.

Poetry Party in the Rain

I'm late for this, but come on over to the poetry party at Seeking Authentic Voice.

There is refuge from the storm there.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Why it's called Faith In Community, part I

Image from the St. John's Bible

First of all, it was the first thing to come to my mind, as my fingers were poised at the computer screen, and Blogger was demanding a title. I'm not sure exactly why that title came to me at that time: perhaps because "community" has been on my brain lately. In our ecumenical social justice group, we have identified the core values of Community, Hope and Shared Abundance as the foundation from which we act for justice. We believe that our society has fostered a sense of fear rather than hope, scarcity rather than abundance and isolation rather than community. So I decided to called my blog "faith in community."

But that doesn't mean I have faith in community. I have faith in God. I believe that faith is meant to be practiced in community -- whether that community be few or many, formal or casual.

Lately, I picked up a new copy of Dietrich Bonhoeffer's little classic Life Together, a book I always feel that I ought to know better than I do. I felt that especially when I spied the subtitle on this volume: The Classic Exploration of Faith In Community. As I read, I was especially taken with these words:

"Therefore, the Christian needs another Christian who speaks God's word to him. He needs him again and again when he becomes uncertain and discouraged, for by himself he cannot help himself without belying the truth. He needs his brother man (and I would add sister!) as a bearer and proclaimer of the divine word of salvation. He needs his brother solely because of Jesus Christ. The Christ in his own heart is weaker than the Christ in the word of his brother; his own heart is uncertain, his brother's is sure. Ad that also clarifies te goal of all Christian community: they meet one another as bringers of the message of salvation." (p. 23)

Of course this sentiment is not new. Martin Luther said as much long ago in the Smalcald Articles, when he wrote:

"We shall now return to the Gospel, which offers counsel and help against sin in more than one way, for God is surpassingly rich in his grace: First, through the spoken word, by which the forgiveness of sin (the peculiar function of the Gospel) is preached to the world world; second, through Baptism; third, through the holy Sacrament of the Altar, fourth, through the power of the keys; and finally, through the mutual conversation and consolation of brethren. Matt. 18:20 "Where two or three are gathered."

Faith -- born, deepened and practiced, in community, as we hear and speak the gospel to one another.

The Bible as well is a community book. It is a book about the generations of the saints, who have spoken to one another and to us about the acts of God for them and in them and with them. Reading the Scriptures together is like opening up an old family album and wondering about each clear or fuzzy black-and-white picture, noticing the resemblance. As we ponder and meditate, we gain a deeper understand of who we are, where we came from, where we might be bound for.

My grandparents emigrated from Sweden as young adults. My father's siblings all visited Sweden once but not my dad: he was the youngest. A number of years ago, he got a letter from Sweden, inviting him to come over and claim a small inheritance -- in person. So began an adventure for my mostly non-traveling parents. They grabbed the opportunity, made reservations, and set out to find all of the relatives they had never met. Old cousin Julius, who played the saw. Cousin George, who was born in the United States, but moved back to Sweden as a young boy. And Cousin Mae Britt.

When they were looking for Cousin Mae's house, they wondered how they would know the right place. She lived in an apartment in a certain small town. As they searched the numbers, they knew right away: Cousin Mae had posted one of my father's baby pictures on her door. My parents discovered then that my grandmother had faithfully sent back pictures to the family in Sweden, keeping everyone connected across the ocean.

Across the oceans, across the generations, across cultures, but also face to face in families, in churches, as neighbors -- we testify to one another of God's goodness and grace, God's mercy when we are weak, God's vision for our future.

That's why it's called Faith in Community.

(part II coming soon)

Monday, October 15, 2007

You Lift Me Up

I received an unexpected bit of grace last week. Marsha over at Just Some Thoughts gave me an award I had never even heard of: "You Lift Me Up." She even said nice things about me and my blog.

I have just been keeping my "blog" since April. Marsha was the second person ever to find it (I did an entry called "bookmarks"). I was so excited to get a comment I just about fell off my chair! Needless to say, she "lifts me up, too".

There are so many people I had "met" through the web since then, it's impossible to choose one. So I would like to highlight just a few people who I met relatively early on: Mompriest, over at Seeking Authentic Voice, lj at Wild and Precious (where I first learned about Mary Oliver), MoreCows over at You Really Have to Love Your People, and HotCupLutheran over at Freshly Ground and Freshly Brewed.

Mompriest, I love our poetry discussions, and hope we get back to it soon.

lj, I love your perspective on life and the church, and your humor (also, your Youtubes).

MoreCows, you have the best blog title, and it's true! Your reflections lead me to dig deeply into ministry in my own place.

HotCup, your wit and humor, and your passion for the gospel in its simplicity inspire me.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Weekend Update

The three of us (Husband, Scout, me) are relaxing (well, one of us is almost asleep) in a nice hotel in Duuth tonight. We took Stepson back to school this evening, and will spend a lazy morning sleeping in and wandering around town before heading back.

It was a busy week, with a funeral on Wednesday, and a wedding in Adjoining State on Friday (outside, in a State Park, on a beautiful -- but cold -- afternoon). The car I rode in took the scenic route back to the hotel (read: got lost) after the ceremony. It was an interesting little wedding.

Then, Saturday morning, I felt relatively free. Just one meeting at church. As I was walking down the hall, I noticed a big pile of leaves in the middle of the hallway. Can't keep them out this time of year. We get leaves in our house, too. We get lots of other things too. Dirty dishes, mail (particularly junk mail), papers we are working on, books (see last post), guitars and amplifiers, laundry. That's what the leaves in the hallway made me think of.

I'll never be "clean." I'll always be a Samaritan.

After the meeting, I was anxious to get back home, and have almost a whole Saturday off. But I noticed some tiny little pieces of paper in back of my chair, just under a cabinet. I had just vaccuumed under there the day before, so I became curious. I unlocked and opened the cabinet.

It seems that, several years before, I had bought sunflower seeds once, for a children's message. And, I had a roll of paper towels for cleaning purposes, which was being slowly chewed up. Oh, and did I mention the sample bag from a World Hunger site called "Feed My Starving Children"?

Anyway, the cabinet looked a little bit like a hamster cage. Except that I suspect that it wasn't hamsters who had been living there.

Needless to say, it was somewhat later than I intended that I finally walked into the front door of my house.

Yesterday, we found a new "small town" (well, 18000 people) where we shopped for Used Books and Antiques. I found, among other things, a devotional book for Army and Navy personnel printed in 1941. It has Protestant, Catholic and Jewish section.

It was a beautiful, sunny afternoon. However, I kept worrying that I was supposed to be at church for something. We have so few Saturdays free, particularly in the fall, that I have trouble enjoying myself if I get a free Saturday. I keep thinking, "I must be forgetting something." (sigh).

But, I wasn't forgetting anything.

Today, our intern preached his first sermon. I gave a Bible study during the Adult Forum hour.

And our Leadership Board President gave each pastor a present for Clergy Appreciation Day: a hand lettered art calligraphy piece with a quotation by Ralph Waldo Emerson.

I hope you had a good weekend, too.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Books Meme

Katharine E over at Meaning and Authenticity has tagged me for this great meme about one of my favorite topics, books! (To be honest, over a week ago). So, now I'm finally getting to it:

1. How many books?
I have not ever counted all my books, although at one time I did try to list at least the Biblical studies ones (for insurance purposes). A conservative estimate is about 750, as I am always weeding out and taking some over to books sales and used books stores (we have a small house, and, my husband has books too -- both at home and at his office). Altogether we probably have about 2,000 books, although not all of them are at home. My interests lean to literature and theology; his to biblical criticism, music and history (certain eras, anyway). Lately I've been into a subgenre called "dog books."

2. Last book read?
That would have to be Abide with Me, a novel by Elizabeth Strout that I read for my church book club. It is set in 1959 and is about a pastor in a small town in New England, and how the town reacts after a family tragedy.

If there were a last book almost read category, that would have to be Three Cups of Tea, which I have been almost done with since August. Almost finishing books has gotten to be a Bad Habit with me lately. I have several other partially read books on my shelf, which I put down when I realize that I need to put on speed and finish the book club book! But Three Cups of Tea is the most inspiring book I have ever almost finished, and when I'm done, I'll post a review and some salient quotes.

3. Last book bought?
I believe that is For the Love of a Dog, by Patricia McConnell, which I got with some gift card money recently. Not a dog memoir, by an animal behaviorist, and full of insights into both dogs and people. I absolutely loved her book The Other End of The Leash.

Last book almost bought.... I am kicking myself for not picking up a copy of Sherman Alexie's new book for young adults, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which was available at the college bookstore when I was at the 7th grade confirmation retreat last weekend. I heard him on the radio, talking about the book, and I think it will be a winner. It's about a boy from the reservation who goes to an all-white high school, and is semi-autobiographical. (also, the books were signed.)

4. Five Meaningful books

1. To Kill a Mockingbird. One of the first "adult" books I read, in about 5th or 6th grade. I was too naive to "get" all of it, then, but I've come back to it, again and again.

2. The Living Reminder. The first book I read by Henri Nouwen, put me in touch with a deeper spirituality than I had experienced before. After that, I read everything he wrote for awhile. Later on, I discovered that it was a book about the priesthood, in some ways.

3. The Freedom of a Christian. The best thing that Luther ever wrote, in my opinion.

4. The poetry of George Herbert. An Anglican priest who was a contemporary of John Donne. Start with "Easter Wings" and go along from there.

5. Bleak House. And other books by Dickens, who was actually quite a social critic in his day

like Fran, I have a couple more than 5....

....The Bean Trees and Animal Dreams, by Barbara Kingsolver. I loved "Jesus is Lord" used tires, and there is a quote from Animals Dreams, about "living inside your hope" which I believe describes what it means to be a Christian, living in this world by the values of the Kingdom of God.

....The Plague, by Albert Camus, about living a moral life in a flawed society.

....Breathing Space, by Pastor Heidi Neumark (I confess that I haven't finished it yet) . About being a pastor-organizer in New York.

....The Preaching Life, by Barbara Brown Taylor (the first one of hers I read)

Children's books?

Harold and the Purple Crayon. (love the creativity)
Alice in Wonderland (what good IS a book with no pictures or conversations?)
the Betsy-Tacy books (I too tried writing a book about my best friend and me)
Winnie-the-Pooh (How can you not love a bear of very little brain?)
and, more recently....
books by Katharine Paterson, like Jacob Have I Loved, Angels and other Strangers
Because of Winn-Dixie, by Kate DiCamillo
Holes, by Louis Sachar

Pray for Rowan the Dog and Lindy

Scout's friends Rowan and Lindy need your prayers. Rowan has, as always been a brave trooper, but in part his bravery means that he will need to be quarantined for awhile. The treatsments for both of them will take a while, so please keep both of them in your hearts and prayers. You can read the whole story here.

I know that Scout and I will be praying for them. I hope you will too.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Friday Five: The B-I-B-L-E

Mother Laura from over at the "Revgals" asks:

Does everyone remember the old Sunday School song?
(I do!)

The B-I-B-L-E,
Oh, that's the book for me.
I take my stand on the Word of God,
The B-I-B-L-E.

I have been working on an expansive language version of the Psalms and the Liturgy of the Hours/Divine Office/Breviary. (For you non-liturgical gals and pals, that's a set of prayers for morning, noon, evening, etc., mostly consisting of Psalms and other biblical texts). So I have been thinking a lot about the Bible recently, and how we encounter it as God's Word--or don't--in our lives, prayer, and ministry. (Great minds think somewhat alike this week, as yesterday's
Ask The Matriarch post dealt with ways to help as many people in a community as possible engage with a scriptural text in preparation for Sunday worship). So, in that spirit, I offer my first Friday Five. I'm looking forward to hearing everyone's experience and reflection on these B-I-B-L-E questions:

1. What is your earliest memory of encountering a biblical text?
When we were little, my dad used to read to us out of a little book called The Bible in Pictures for Little Eyes, by Kenneth Taylor. I still remember the little tongues on top of all of the apostles' heads at Pentecost.

My grandmother gave me my first "real" Bible when I was in third grade. It was a Revised Standard Version and had the Twenty-third Psalm printed on the inside front and back covers. I memorized it for her, and she was puzzled because she knew the King James Version, and kept correcting me.

2. What is your favorite biblical translation, and why? (You might have a few for different purposes).
For study, the NRSV.
I enjoy "The Message" for fun.
And we use the CEV with Confirmation students.

3. What is your favorite book of the Bible? Your favorite verse/passage?
"For freedom Christ has set us free..."
and from 2 Corinthians, I have always loved:
"If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation; the old is gone, the new has come!"

4. Which book of the Bible do you consider, in Luther's famous words about James, to be "an epistle of straw?" Which verse(s) make you want to scream?
Well, the book of Revelation, except for a few passages about the river of life.

5. Inclusive language in biblical translation and liturgical proclamation: for, against, or neutral?

Pretty much for, except of course, Jesus WAS a man.

Bonus: Back to the Psalms--which one best speaks the prayer of your heart?

This is hard. But right now, I've been thinking about Psalm 139 -- "O Lord, you have searched me and known me."

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The St. John's Bible

Today, for confirmation, we had a special presentation. We had a man come from St. John's College and Benedictine Abbey to tell us about the St. John's Bible project. So we had all of our 7th through 9th graders and invited adults from the congregation as well.

I don't know how many of you have heard of the St. John's Bible. It is the first handwritten Bible commissioned since the 1500's. It set to be completed in 2009, and is housed at the Benedictine Abbey in the middle of the prairie lands of Minnesota.

The primary artist for the St. John's Bible is Donald Jackson. He is the chief calligrapher for Queen Elizabeth. When he was 12 or 13 years old, he set as one of his life goals to make a handwritten Bible. Now he is in in his 50s and the end of his goal is in sight. Our presenter said that in England, he is as famous as a rock star! Imagine!

Everyone sat in rapt attention to hear the story of the paper, the quill, the inks, and all of the things that were chosen especially so that this Bible would last 1500 years. We saw some of the artwork and talked about the possible meanings of the images. For example, in one of the pages, where some of the parables of Luke are pictured, there is also an image of the Twin Towers. The artist wanted to send a visual message that we will never overcome evil with hate and violence, but through the love and forgiveness which Jesus lived and died.

The first image he showed us was that of creation. He had us look in silence for 2 minutes, and then turn to the person next to us and tell them what we saw. As we discussed the creation, we saw images both ancient and modern, the seven days of creation, and the "big bang", and a thin ribbon of gold in each day, to represent the presence of God.

At the end of the presentation, the presenter invited people to stay and look at a replica of the Gospels and Acts. For twenty minutes after the end of the program, youth and adults looked at page after page of images and calligraphy.

The book, when completed, will be divided into seven books. One book, all put together, would weigh over 400 pounds. It will be two feet tall and three feet thick.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Will the Circle Be Unbroken?

I was standing by the window
On a cold and cloudy day
When I saw the hearse come rolling
To carry my mother away

Will the circle be unbroken
Bye and bye Lord bye and and bye
There's a better home a waiting
In the sky Lord in the sky

I have a funeral tomorrow. The father of a member of my parish died after several years living with Alzheimers disease.

She wrote a eulogy for him and asked that I give it. She wrote with simplicity and eloquence about the gradual diminishing of her strong, silent, athletic father. I wish I could tell you more about it.

"He forgot how to dial the phone. Forgot his apartment number; what floor he lived on; how to use the elevator. On Tuesdays I would take him to bowling with his friends. But he forgot how to bowl; how to tie his shoes; how to take turns."


"He forgot how to walk and get up.....He forgot how to lift his arms. He forgot how to eat with utensils. He forgot to stay awake...He forgot how to swallow....He forgot how to breathe..."

Her dad loved country western and gospel music an asked that this song be played as the recessional tomorrow. I found two sets of words, those more traditional above, and more religious below.

There are loved ones in the glory,
Whose dear forms you often miss.
When you close your earthy story,
Will you join them in their bliss.

Will the circle be unbroken,
By and by Lord by and by,
In a better home-awaiting,
In the sky, Lord, in the sky.

We may forget, but God remembers. God remembers God's promises, sealed in Jesus' death and resurrection. And God remembers us, our names, our faces, hopes, our griefs. God remembers how to feed us and to tie our shoes, God remembers where we live and the way to us.

Monday, October 8, 2007

A Very Short Reader's Poll

Last week I saw the cutest Halloween costume at the Large But Classy Discount Store where I live. Not for me: for my dog.

It's a pumpkin outfit.

Now, I wasn't shopping for Halloween, for my dog or really, anyone. I was shopping for laundry detergent and paper towels and oh, I think, toenail clippers or something. Colored pencils. A plastic waste basket. And those adorable dog Halloween costumes were right there on the end of a row, where everyone could see them.

Generally speaking, my dog doesn't wear clothes. We have two cute bandannas that we occasionally remember to put on. Last year we got a pair of antlers for Halloween that she didn't like very well. And of course, there were the Famous Very Cute Red Sunglasses that she wore for the picture. (We actually just found those sunglasses in the parking lot of the Large But Classy Discount Store.) (Later that day, she ate them.)

And I don't believe in conspicuous consumption for dogs: no expensive, unnecessary accessories or designer dog beds. We're spent a little in dog training and sadly, in vet bills. She doesn't (read: can't) eat a lot of fancy treats, either.

But I Really Wanted To Buy This Halloween Outfit.

I know, it's crazy. I mean, I think she could wear it to Large Pet Store on Halloween. And we could take pictures (something we do love to do). And it is only $8.99.

What do you think?

Sunday, October 7, 2007


1. Yesterday, after spending the day with the 7th graders, I met with a family who would have a baby daughter baptized today. I like to begin our pre-baptism sessions with the question: What is your favorite picture or image of baptism? I use a little book called Let the Children Come. It has a whole page of images for baptism: including Noah's Ark, a picture of a family, a picture of a bath, a tree with a new branch grafted into it. The new father said the picture he liked the best was "the new birth." He said it reminded him of the birth of his daughter, and what a great event that was. "That was a miracle, wasn't it?" Both parents agreed. "Just like baptism."

The little girl has the roundest, most alert eyes: she was fascinated by everything, both yesterday and today. When the other pastor showed her the baptismal candle and said "let your light so shine before others..." she just stared at it. Beautiful.

2. Today was our first ever (annual?) Blessing of the Animals Service, at 2:00 p.m. this afternoon. The day dawned hot and sunny. It's October, but it was 85 yesterday. It seemed more like the middle of July. I think we even had the air conditioning on. Then, by the end of the second service, there were dark rumors of rain this afternoon. We had planned to have most of the service outdoors, with the small chapel reserved for only the closing prayer and the individual blessing of animals. But as 2:00 drew near, the clouds remained, neither dispersing or getting darker. There were some barks and yips as we opened with "All Creatures of Our God and King." My own dog was a little too curious about a couple of the cats who were wearing leashes. And unfortunately, we ended up singing a tune of "All Things Bright and Beautiful" that almost no one knew. Five members of the children's choir sang "Creature Praise." Then we all processed into the chapel, where, after one brief growl, it grew quiet. I looked out at the assorted people and beasts sitting in the pews, turned to the other pastor, and said, quietly, "Have you ever seen anything like this before?" "No."

I said a prayer. Then, one of our confirmation students ushered two animals at a time to come forward to get a blessing from one of the pastors. There were a half dozen cats, dogs of all sizes, at least one bird, a hamster or two. Someone counted 51 animals. 103 people. One older woman whispered to me as I knelt down to bless her little dog, Amy, "She's dying. She has a tumor. I don't know how she has lasted this long." So I prayed, "Bless this creature, Amy, and fill our hearts with gratitude for its being. Amen"

Each blessed animal got a little remembrance medal of St. Francis of Assisi. A member of our congregation took many pictures (I hope to have some later this week.) We gathered for a short time out on the hot and humid lawn to have cookies, lemonade, cider, and of course, dog and cat treats.

After about fifteen minutes, someone felt a drop, then another. The piano and the amplifier had already been taken in. We quickly moved the treat tables, and proclaimed the day "a miracle."

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Classic Movie Lines

It's late on a Saturday night (well, late for me). I have been doing a lot of heavy thinking and doing lately: weddings, funerals, political issues, special services. Tonight, for just a little while, I want to have fun.

While at the retreat this afternoon, the intern mentioned to me watching the movie Apocalypse Now for an English Literature class (based, of course loosely on Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness). And mentioned the classic line: "I love the smell of napalm in the morning." So then I mentioned one of my all-time favorite movie lines, from Some Like it Hot: "Well, nobody's perfect."

While I'm on a roll, here are some good lines from classic and not-so-classic movies:

"You may now serve the nuts."

"How could this happen? I was so careful. I picked the wrong play, the wrong director, the wrong cast. Where did I go right?"

"Tell 'em, Raymond." "K-Mart sucks."

"I'll have what she's having."

"Too many notes."

"That's going to leave a mark."

"Toto, I don't think we're in Kansas any more."

"As God is my witness, I'll never go hungry again."

What are some of your all-time favorite movie lines?

Confirmation Retreat!

Today I will be spending most of the day with some seventh grade confirmation students at this place:

Then, I'll come back to the church for a pre-baptism meeting (always love those, and the baptisms too).

Tomorrow, after 2 services and a meeting with Inreach visitors (No preaching, though), we will also have our first ever Animal Blessing Service! Please pray for good weather, as we hope to have most of the service outside.

Then, I get to have my second ever Revgal meet up: with HotcupLutheran and her husband!

Friday, October 5, 2007

Friday five: Thankfulness List

Here's one from Marybeth that everyone can play!

Welcome to the Friday Five!

This one is going to be veeeery simple: List at least five things (people, places, graces, miracles...) for which you are thankful. You may elaborate as you wish, or keep it simple.

Hat tip to Princess Mindy for the idea. Oh...and if you know The Veggie Tales' hit "Thankfulness Song," please hum it as you post.

1. I'm thankful for family: husband, Scout the wonder dog, wonderful stepsons and my parents. I'm thankful for the little trips husband and I take together, while praying that the pain he is experiencing in his shoulder will be healed. I'm thankful for Scout, even though she drives us nuts and makes us worry sometimes (she ran away two nights ago, careening through our dark neighborhood for about 20 minutes at 9 o'clock.) I'm thankful for Stepsons, who are both wonderful and so supportive of their dad, and so smart and talented, too. And I'm thankful for my parents, who are still doing well enough to travel to Arizona every year, despite my dad's Parkinsons. Oh yes, and I'm thankful for my neices and nephew, and especially, my ONE neice who will turn 16 next week! (just in case she is reading this).

2. I'm thankful for Emma, Kari Kirsten, Christopher, Lauren, Gavin, Cooper and Peyton: all babies I have baptized since the end of May. Every baby tells a story of blessing.

3. I'm thankful for my two 7th grade confirmation girls.

4. I'm thankful for RevGalBlogPals and of course RevGalDogPals (though I don't have a link for this one). I'm thankful for the many connections I have made and people who have encouraged me. I'm thankful that I have had the opportunity to be a part of the webring, and that Songbird (at least I think it was Songbird) asked me to lead a discussion of Mary Oliver's book Thirst in November. Oh, and I'm thankful for all the people I have "met" since becoming a blogger.

5. I'm thankful for friends. I'm thankful for friends who encourage me in writing and in ministry, for friend who see me as a person (and not just as a pastor), for friends who challenge me to be more courageous and to take risks when I want to play it safe. Right now I am thankful for New York friends who are encouraging us to come and visit, and are helping us find places to see and stay -- if we go.

P.S. I'm also thankful for the people who suggested things I could do so that I could post pictures that previously appeared as a black or silver screen. Yay! Thanks David and Marsha.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Children of God

The ICE (used to be INS) have been in my community lately. Not in the church -- but in the neighborhood, looking for "illegal aliens" or "undocumented workers." At first, it seemed they were after people who were involved in gang activity, something everyone (including most of the immigrants) would be happy about. But the other day someone said she saw a woman being taken away while her teenage daughter watched. And there are reports of schoolchildren coming home to find their parents missing. I don't know if they are just isolated incidents. It's hard to find out the facts because there's not much information out there.

An Hispanic Seventh-Day Adventist church worships in our church building. Every Saturday morning, from 9:00 to 12:00, and sometimes even later, they come to church. They also have Wednesday evening Bible studies and a Saturday night youth group. They have revival services. They also volunteered to clean the building for us on Saturday night or early Sunday morning, after their sabbath is over. They are about the most earnest, serious Christians I have ever met. They believe in bringing people to Christ, having a personal relationship with Jesus. And I can't imagine that they ask people for immigration papers when they walk in the door. Should they? Of course not. We know as well as they do that the church's basic responsibility and reason for being is to preach the good news -- to tell about Jesus' life-giving love: and that love knows no limits.

I can't imagine that this Hispanic church doesn't have some "undocumented immigrants" among its members.

Now I have certain beliefs about doing justice in the world, but I am not a policy wonk. I have my set of "facts": things that I know about immigration. And I know that others have their own set of "facts": things that they know about immigration.

But I am a pastor, which means that I deal with sinners every day. In fact, as far as I know, those are the only people I deal with. Sinners.

But also, children of God. People who God loved enough to walk with, feed, forgive, and die for. As a pastor, I can only think of immigrants as children of God. If others are offended that I think that, so be it. They are also children of God.

And because I think of immigrants as children of God, I also think of them as worthy of food, clothing, a good job, and a voice to tell their story. I think of them as worthy of protection from those who would exploit them.

It doesn't mean that I don't believe in law and order, or that the policy issues regarding what is just are going to be easy to figure out.

But just because I can't figure it all out, doesn't mean I can't stand up and call them my sisters and brothers. Children of God, immigrants -- and sinners.

Just like me.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007


There are many deep and complicated things weighing on my mind right now -- things I believe I have responsibility to think about and comment on and perhaps even, in some way, take action on. But right now, before I think about any of those things, I want to meditate on a moment of grace I experienced today.

Our 7th grade confirmation class is unusually small this year. I had a group of 6 girls for the past three years. They were serious and questioning Christians (not because of me: they all have good parents), and it was a pleasure knowing them. Last May they were confirmed.

This year there are just two in my small group. (I do teach large group classes as well; these are the ones I have been chosen to mentor.) So, we have been thinking that is just too small and that they would enjoy it more if we put them in with another group of four girls.

Tonight, I substituted for a mentor who was sick. And the other mentor, who had my two girls for the first time, floated to them the idea that they might permanently stay with her group.

They want to stay with me.

They like our little group.

That's all I can say about it. Really, I'm practically speechless.

Except to say, that I feel a little bit like the 13 year old who has just been allowed to sit with the cool girls.

Interview Questions for Pastor David

A while back Pastor David of Postings from Prairie Hill asked me to interview him. I have been sadly remiss, but have had a good excuse: they just had a baby! They must be very busy, right? So, now I finally begin and with and easy one:

1. What is the best thing (so far) about being a father? What is your greatest worry?

2. I know you are a 4th (5th?) generation pastor. What was one of the benefits of growing up as a pastor's kid? If there was a downside, what was that?

3. What is one place you have never been, but would like to visit?

4. If you weren't a Lutheran, what would you be?

5. Who is your hero? (can be living or dead, famous or not, but give your reasons).

and bonus question (if you would like to): what is one question you would like someone to ask you?

Now, I have to post these rules, that you will need to post on your blog:

1. If you are interested in being interviewed, leave me a comment saying "interview me."
2. I will respond by posting 5 questions for you. I get to post the questions.
3. You will update your blog with a post containing your answers to the questions.
4. You will include this explanation and offer to interview someone else in the same post.
5. When others comment, asking to be interviewed, you will ask them 5 questions

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

The Fab Four - a meme

I've been tagged by Presbyterian Gal for this meme:

Four jobs I've held:

Secretary at an investment firm
missionary/ESL teacher
Insurance Underwriter

Four films I could watch over and over:

Rear Window
The Thin Man
Gigi (my husband doesn't understand it)
Eight Below (it's the dogs, silly)

Four TV shows I watch:

Actually, our television is permanently set to TCM, the classic movie station. But, every once in awhile, we switch to:

Antiques Road Show
Cold Case (this is just me)(is this what it's called?)

Four places I've lived:

Minneapolis, Minnesota (land of 10,000 lakes)
Kumamoto, Japan
Denver, Colorado
Northeastern South Dakota

Four favorite foods:

Chinese food (I can take it pretty hot but watch out for those little red peppers!)
Japanese food
Cheesecake (but I hardly ever indulge!)
Chicken Pot Pie Soup (available at the deli counter of local supermarket -- except they might have just stopped making it)
Bonus: almost anything someone else has cooked

Four websites I visit every day: (there are no web sites I visit every day, but here are some I like)

Practicing Our Faith
The Loft Literary Center
The Canine Coach (the trainer who saved my dog)

Poetry 180

Four favorite colors: (from the big Crayola 64 Box!)

Burnt Umber (I actually just like the name of it)
Red (I like primary colors)

Four places I would love to be right now:

I'm right there with ya on Hawaii, but I don't have a specific locale in mind!
Sweden -- never been there either, but it is a homeland
New York City, Broadway, Metropolitan Museum of Art and bright lights, big city!
either Chicago, where nice relatives pamper us, or the North Shore -- I would escape there almost anytime

Four names I love but would/could not use for my children: (don't have children, but if I did....)

Myrna (because we love Myrna Loy, but really, couldn't inflict it on a child)
Judith (my grandmother's name, bit also I think a bit old fashioned now)
Fjaere (I had a friend in college -- her name means "butterfly" in Norwegian -- pretty, but just too difficult, I think), and finally
Emma (I actually WOULD use this one, but can't because I will not have children. It was my other grandmother's name, and I always wanted a daughter named Emma. I am secretly prejudiced toward any little girl named Emma.)

I now tag:

lj (Wild and Precious)
ps (Purpletologically Speaking)
hotcuplutheran (Freshly Ground & Freshly Brewed)
RevDrKate (Prairie Light)

You're IT!

Monday, October 1, 2007


There's a small cat (maybe a kitten) who lives part-time in our garage. I saw her walking down the driveway yesterday afternoon while I was doing the dishes. Husband says, "Don't ever get tempted to leave her a little something." She looks healthy, so somebody is leaving her something. If I catch a glimpse again, I'll try to get a picture.

And this afternoon, I went out to put garbage in our garbage can and discovered a raccoon sleeping down there! I squeaked a little scream and put the lid back down. Raccoons are only cute, I believe, if you are seeing them from a distance.

By the way, the young couples dinner went fabulously well last night. 5 couples came -- not a huge crowd. But I think they will get together again, and there are 2-3 others who may want to join them.

At the end of the dinner, I gave each of them a copy of the book The Lutheran Handbook on Marriage.

P.S. by the way, the two areas the couples found right away were: How to Identify an Ill Spouse, and How to Handle an In-Law Visit. (Another good chapter: How to Train Your Spouse). As you can tell, this book mixes the serious and the light-hearted.