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Showing posts from 2020


  “Be still, and know that I am God!   I am exalted among the nations,   I am exalted in the earth.” - Psalm 46:10 In discussing this verse with a friend today, it occurs to me how undervalued stillness is in many Christian traditions. In my experience, stillness can be a struggle because people find it difficult to quiet their minds from racing thoughts, pressing needs, and clamoring desires. The inability to be still or have a quiet mind then becomes a source of shame or guilt, instead of its own reflection point.  In the Lutheran tradition, we value the tension that plays between positive and negative construction. This is most clearly evident in our interpretation of the 10 Commandments. While the written word is in the negative construction, " do not do this ", the interpretation includes a positive construction, "Instead, do this". Is there a way to put both positive and negative construction on stillness?  Positive: Being still will help me draw closer to God

Who Can Stand?

All Saints 2020 Readings: Revelation 7:9-17; Matthew 5:1-12 Revelation 6:15-17   Then the kings of the earth, the officials and the generals, the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in caves and in the rocks of the mountains. They called to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of the one seated on the throne and from the Lamb’s wrath! The great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?”   Who is able to stand?    It’s a fair question. In the vision of the Revelator, six of the seven seals have been opened. Famine, war, pestilence, and death have spread through the earth. All of the natural worlds are acting unnaturally. And then- the kings of the earth, the officials and the generals, the rich and the powerful, and everyone else- enslaved and free- hides from what is happening, and they cry out to the mountains and the rocks- who is able to stand?     They cry out to the mountains and the rocks, perhaps, because

Prayers for Ordinary, But Important Tasks

Paraments Changed from Green to Red Sometimes the everyday rituals mean the most. I was pondering these while doing some necessary, but mundane tasks at church. Here is a series of prayers for church and home activities that help us connect more deeply to the activities.  Waiting for A Hot Beverage to Be Ready Water of Life, I give you thanks for this tea/coffee/hot cider/cocoa/etc  that I am about to consume. Its warmth and comfort remind of the consolations and peace of your everlasting arms. May I rest in those arms forever and carry the peace of this moment into the rest of my day/evening/night . Amen.  Changing the Altar Candles Light of the world, you illuminate all existence with love and mercy. Even in the depths of pain and grief, You are present and do not permit us to walk alone. Strengthen our trust in your real presence and our perception of your works all around us. Amen.  Washing Dishes or Loading the Dishwasher Holy Provider and Healer, you have once again provided dail

God's Punctuation

We know that all things work together for good for those who love God,  who are called according to his purpose. - Romans 8:28  Never place a period where God places a comma. - Gracie Allen  Some of you may be familiar with the comedy duo of George Burns and Gracie Allen, who were active together in show business in the middle of the 20th century. George played the straight man to Gracie's comic timing. They were also married and had children. They were deeply in love. When Gracie was dying and George was deeply grieved, she wrote him a final love letter. One sentence that George shared from this letter was this, "George, never place a period where God places a comma."  This was Gracie's way of reminding George that his life wasn't ending. There was a pause, but there would be more the sentence God was writing as the life of George Burns.  That sentence, which may have been a proverb before Gracie wrote it, has taken on a life of its own. The United Church of Chri

Undivided Heart

Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth;  give me an undivided heart to revere your name . - Psalm 86:11 What does it mean to have an undivided heart? Specifically, the psalmist requests an undivided heart for the purposes of revering, holding in awe and respect, God's name. A heart that is focused on keeping God's name holy is truly an undivided heart.    In the  Large Catechism , Martin Luther writes, "Anything on which your heart relies and depends, I say, that is really your God... Idolatry does not consist merely of erecting an image and praying to it, but it is primarily a matter of the heart, which fixes its gaze upon other things and seeks help and consolation from creatures, saints, or devils. It neither cares for God nor expects good things from him sufficiently to trust that he wants to help, nor does it believe that whatever good it encounters comes from God." ( Book of Concord,  386f)    Our hearts are divided if we believe that God takes

I Am Not Resigned

I know.  But I do not approve.  And I am not resigned.  - Dirge Without Music,  Edna St. Vincent Millay*  It is difficult to communicate what it means to have a teachable spirit . How do I encourage people to live in a way that shows curiosity and a willingness to learn about others and their experiences? It is possible to learn to be different in the world while being gentle with yourself and without shaming the you of the past or expecting perfection of the you of the future. Trying to accomplish this is so hard as to feel impossible.  I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned .  The political and social systems of the United States have only been united in one thing for generations. Keeping class dissension alive by exacerbating differences between people of different races and cultural backgrounds means that those who are at the highest reaches of wealth will rarely have their windows rattled (metaphorically). In particular, if people can be convinced that upper reaches o

Fire Assurance

What's the upshot of this post: Holy baptism is not fire insurance; holy baptism is fire assurance.  When last I heard Pastor Angela Shannon preach in person (2019), she quoted Garth Brooks. She spoke of how we are all called to difficult work and how the world makes some people's work more difficult. That extra difficulty, by the way, is not an accident. It is by design.  Pastor Shannon then spoke of Brooks and the song, " Standing Outside the Fire ". She quoted, "Life is not tried, it is merely survived if you're standing outside the fire." She spoke to our group, acknowledging that many there likely needed a rest from their life in the fire. She encouraged the taking of that rest. Then she reminded us that we will have to go back to the fire, not stand outside it, if we want to say we are living.  Like all sermons, there is a space between the words of the pastor and the hearer. This is how I heard Pastor Shannon's words and how I ha

I am not afraid. I am heartbroken.

I live in Montana, a state with a very low number of diagnosed COVID-19 cases. Even more specifically, my county has not as yet had any cases. This passover is both a blessing and a curse because it divides the community, with some of our citizens feeling as though we have been spared because we have been careful and others suspecting that our precautions were "sound and fury, signifying nothing". (Macbeth) Now we have the ever-present questions about what we can do, what we should do, and from what should we abstain. In the conversations around masks, distance, and open v. close, the word "fear" gets bandied about. It is murmured that people who are cautious are "fearful" or being led by fear, as opposed to faithfulness or freedom. I cannot speak for everyone, but I can speak for myself. As a mother, as a wife, as a sister, as a friend, as a pastor, as a neighbor, as a daughter, as a citizen, I am not afraid. I am heartbroken. My heart broke when

Into Our Blind Spot

Fourth Sunday in Easter John 10:1-10 It is a dangerous thing to preach about sheep to people who know more about sheep that you do. I’m not quite that dumb. I have nothing to say about ranching, sheering, lambing, or butchering. I won’t offer comment on fodder, spacing, or breeds. I do have a comment on sheep physiology, though. Even that is risky, but I did a lot of research (science reading, not theological) and I did attempt to talk to a couple people about my questions.  Sheep have excellent vision- in their peripherals. Due to having eyes on the side of their heads, they can see things sneaking up on them from the right, left, and behind. This is called monocular vision, which means each eye has its own field of view and the eyes do not share a field of view. Binocular vision, what humans have, is when both eyes receive the same information at the same time- in the best of circumstances.  Due to monocular vision, sheep can see to their sides and when they lower th

Eternal Light

In 2012, I wrote about changing the eternal candle in the congregation I served at the time. It is a very short post . I still think about this, even though I am not always the one to change the candle in the current congregation I serve.  When Montana went into "hunker down" mode for a few weeks, I stayed home too. Even though I could have continued to cross the street to the church and worked there alone, it seemed important to set a good example. Since I also believe that the church is the people, not only the building, I set up a little place in my house. On March 26, I brought the eternal candle into the parsonage where I live.  I lit at the start of each work day. Making phone calls, praying, working on videos, reading the Bible, leading Bible study, the candle burned. I would go up at night and blow it out, just because I didn't want to keep a candle burning all night- no matter how stable and safe. (I also have to set a good example for my kids.)  Som