Showing posts from 2008

Stewardship and Karma

I was at REI for a few last minute Christmas gifts last week and noticed an advertisement on the front door. It read: Stewardship - Just a fancy word for Karma. The words danced over a man hiking in beautiful scenery. He seemed to enjoy the view from his perch in a high forest.

As I wandered through the store looking for gloves and a book, I wondered about that comparison. Is it fair to dumb down a word like stewardship? We hardly use it and rarely understand its broad compassion. Like any brave responsibility that is also a privilege, stewardship is both grave and joyful.

While Karma preaches a message of interconnectedness and harmony, it is also motivated by plain old self interest. We wish to do well for the sake of rewards and promotions in the next life, taking care of others because failing to do so will result in frightening consequences.

We are good at speaking about environmental stewardship as a "should". We can debate the legality of caring for God's earth and…

Winter Wonderland

It's a deep freeze week in Minnesota. My husband is glued to the weather forecast each night before bed and watches the Weather Channel each morning before work, anticipating the cold darkness of December with childlike enthusiasm. Clearly he's a native.

On Saturday we finally bought our Christmas tree, a strapping three-foot Norfolk Pine. It's potted so we can watch it grow during the year and, perhaps, decorate it again next winter. She's a beaut! We spent the afternoon wrapping presents and pulling out ornaments to adorn our little friend. Outside, the air grew cold and harsh.

Sunday gathered all kinds of people for worship despite the frigid rain. The kids' Christmas play was after the service and we huddled downstairs to see them proclaim the incarnation. And though St. John's is a grand building in the big city, there was something intimate about the church basement. It felt like the warm family of a small country church. The set was hand-painted, the cost…

Light in the Darkness

I came home mid-afternoon last week hoping to rest and lie down before evening vespers. I didn’t feel quite right and soon it was clear that I wouldn’t be preaching, let alone driving to church. A stomach virus held me captive and it was days before I could open my eyes and peel myself away from my trusty puke pot.

There’s nothing fun about being sick, especially when it wipes out all your energy and clears your calendar. Just calling in sick took strength I didn’t have and I spent most of my time in the silent living room. My big event each evening was trying to get vertical at dusk to turn on the porch light for Matt. The sound of television commercials and the sight of a computer screen made my stomach churn, so I sank into the darkness of Advent and drifted between sleep and wake.

So much for keeping watch during the season of anticipation and waiting! I was less concerned about the time lost for shopping and finding a Christmas tree. I didn’t miss the advertisements and the …

Dr. Seuss

I've never kept a plant alive longer than a year. They wilt, lose leaves, and even the succulents develop strange growths or seem to cave in. I'd all but given up hope of keeping anything alive: a plant, a pet, a child. The only thing I am capable of nurturing is mold in the shower, but I'm too much of a neat freak to let that happen.

I married my opposite in many ways and, fortunately, he happens to be a green thumb. He adopted all the plants I was failing in Arizona and now they happily thrive. Even this China Doll plant my roommates and I neglected and left for dead is perky and reaching for the sky. We call him Dr. Seuss because he's gawky and scraggly, growing in one direction and then changing his mind.

Most of our plants are funny looking because they have died and been resurrected, veering from their original size and shape to become something new and strange in a second life. With the weather turning colder, all the plants have found their way in from the porch.…

Lil' Techie

Today our new, updated church website went live!

It's been a fun project this fall. Taking pictures, writing content, and helping the webist design the layout was a great way to gage what I'm learning about my new congregation - our people, our community, and God's mission for us.

There are a few more things to do before it's complete and all the links work, but it's up and running with lots of information.

Check it out!

Rest, huh?

On Mondays I rest and celebrate being only sometimes useful to God. I step away from my professional role and trust that life and church continue without me for 24 hours. It feels good.

I do a variety of uninteresting things with my day. This morning I went to the gym and did my no-nonsense-thirty-minute-lift workout. Later I stopped by my parents' house and picked up my dad for a few hours of fun. He's cooped up recovering from knee surgery and likes to get out and about when there's a willing driver and some time to spare.

He spent last Monday asking me if I had anywhere else to be, concerned that my day would be more hectic or less efficient because of him. I would just smile and try to explain that Mondays have nothing to do with stress or efficiency.

Normally, I relish Mondays and the relief they bring. I wander and nap, graze and enjoy the quiet of a day alone. But today is the first time I'm having difficulty separating myself from the tasks of Pastor and Church. …


When I'm in the right mood. When I have my eyes opened to the details of familiar places. When I'm defeated. When I need my faith bolstered by another. In these moments I notice the nooks in life that bring great hope and happiness to my day.

Earlier this fall, I noticed this bench along the parkway. Unlike others overlooking the river, this one has been adorned with sweet signs of fall and it draws people in. Whether I'm driving or running by, I watch people gravitate towards it's beauty and the view it offers. They sit and take a break from the plan, the route, the day. A pumpkin, fall berries, and a stalk of corn created unsuspected beauty for all to share.

Those blessed to stumble by this nook approach the bench as though the experience itself contains great value. What a simple thing! As the holiday season approaches, I wish for little nooks that bring true and simple joy. Malls will fill and decorations will surround, but my prayer is that we can note the nooks t…

Rise Up, O Saints of God

Two years ago, I woke up in Arizona to find the sky filled with hot air balloons. It was All Saints Sunday, but a local balloon festival was preaching resurrection well before I arrived at church. That image is hard to forget, colors rising and people slowing to stare at the heavens in awe.

This morning we awoke with an extra hour of sleep to sunny skies and fall colors that refuse to fade into winter just yet. I slipped under a chasuble for the first time, blanketed in white and prepared to read the names of those we have lost this year. There was much to do before the service and, for the first time since arriving at St. John's, I didn't think to wish for filled pews and new faces.

I couldn't stop smiling during worship because the kids poured up front for the children's sermon and the choir boasted a few more voices than usual. There were a lot of people here! Was it the extra sleep or the warm weather that brought these saints? Or was it the Spirit, visiting us in o…

Sometimes It's That Simple

I fell into bed on Saturday night listening to the wind howl outside. It was chilly and the yard sounded restless. We both read in bed for some time before falling asleep, enjoying the silence inside that brought wild noises to our attention: cat fights and trees swaying. It sounded cold out there.

One of my favorite Garrison Keillor stories about Lake Wobegon marks this peculiar transition that happens when the weather gets cold in Minnesota. Suddenly we spend less time on our hair because it’s bound to be smushed by a hat or blown into a rat’s nest. We skimp on the make up because pale skin is too blatant to hide and deep freezes will leave snot-sicles you’ll have to wipe off anyway. In the cold of Minnesota, life is simplified to an animal instinct: we are either out there or in here.

When we’re out there we walk with our heads down into the wind, determined to get in here. And once we are in here, we’re just plain grateful. The little things don’t seem to bother us much bec…


I found my way to the corner booth at Longfellow Grill during the lunch rush. I was surrounded by four other women, new to ministry in the Twin Cities and fellow students with me at Luther Seminary. We have been planning to come together for weeks now.

Soon we noticed that another group of pastors was sitting a few tables from us with two classmates we recognized and greeted. Later, two priests came in, wearing clerical shirts, and were greeted by our laughter and introductions. There we were, more than a dozen ministers sprinkled about the small restaurant, mixing Sunday with Thursday and saying grace over sweet potato fries.

We laughed and shared stories about being new to ministry and the worship blunders we’ve made thus far. We confided about anxieties and joys, pondered the economic crisis and its effects during stewardship season, and talked about the blurred line between Generation X and the Millennial Generation.

Instead of trying to find the official year in history this s…

Saint Teresa

I share October 15 with Saint Teresa of Avila, my self-designated patron saint.

I love her because she was a sassy Spaniard born just as the Reformation was taking hold in Europe. She ran away from home to become a nun and, while sick later in life, started experiencing ecstasy and visions. Teresa was the first woman to be named a Doctor in the Church and dedicated her life to caring for the poor. Her bare feet were signs of service among those with no shoes. My saint’s writings are clever and sarcastic, often referencing her casual conversations with God the Creator and Jesus.

Her story has dark corners and strange twists, which continue to remind me that even the Church’s saints are children of a fallen humanity and entirely relatable. She never lived as though her faith confined her, but instead with great freedom and bold passion.

I knew nothing of Teresa until I spent a week at the hermitage in St. Francis, MN three years ago. Each cottage is named after a saint and the small …

Pumpkin Par-tay

Harvest time! I spent yesterday’s drizzly afternoon at the “pumpkin patch” in my neighborhood, a city garden shop just a few blocks away. We hoisted many onto the scale before choosing six for the wagon. They found a home in the trunk of my car until we could carve them at my parents’ house tonight.

The garage was draped in newspaper and pumpkin guts. We spent happy hour drinking beer and playfully competing as we carved each masterpiece. Matt and Bror used designs to create wolves howling at the moon and a crow in a tree. Spooky. Gabe free-handed a creepy face that reminded me of his toddler temper-tantrum stage. Cara took so much off the top from scooping it out that her little stem had to be worn to the side as a beret. Resourceful.

My dad’s pumpkin was finished within minutes and then he waited impatiently for us to finish so he could start the grill and dinner. The face he carved looked like the same face he carved on each annual pumpkin when I was little. Don’t mess with …

Faithful Fanfare

I was late to work this morning because I couldn’t stop watching the stock market yo-yo during breakfast. By the time I left the house, it had dipped 700 points from yesterday, “fully” recovered, and started wobbling in the red again. Barack Obama and George W. Bush had both given brief speeches addressing the crisis and a man with a clipboard had appraised our home before considering us for refinancing. Europe is also experiencing economic instability and Matt’s face dropped when he realized our honeymoon would have been much cheaper this month.

I need stronger coffee.

It is overcast with streaks of every gray in the sky and a light, restless wind pulls leaves from trees. Traffic is backed up everywhere because even detours have detours during this mad dash of fall road construction. The stained glass angel that hangs from my office window has no light to catch, but she plays her trumpet anyway.

But these things look different once I roll up my sleeves as Pastor. The stock market …

The Other Side

There is a scene in scripture that seems to find and challenge me every time I get too comfortable in my life or cozy in ministry. In Mark 4, Jesus gets poetic and shares parables and teachings with the crowds. People are in awe and the disciples are finding some popularity in this place. Just when they get comfortable and confident about the way this ministry might play out, a storm blows in and the weather changes. Jesus surprises them by saying, "Let us go to the other side." He gets in a boat and heads across the lake where people don't know them and they're unlikely to be accepted. It is here, in chapter 5, that Mark tells the stories of mission and ministry that are most fascinating to me.

It is construction season in Minneapolis and 35W serves as a greater divide than usual this time of year. While the bridge near the U of M is back up and running, other bridges near my home and church are still closed. It takes creativity and patience to cross the divide, esp…

Welcoming the Neighbor

You never know what you're going to get when you knock on a stranger's door. If you have ever been a solicitor or walked through neighborhoods taking a survey, you're familiar with the adventure of door knocking. Anything can happen.

I've spend many afternoons since arriving at this congregations walking through the community and introducing myself. I've been told to "milk being new", and this is one way I do. I knock with no intention to survey or sell, bother or harm. My smile and small flier simply inform neighbors that they are always welcome at St. John's. Sometimes, that's the most surprising news of all to those I meet.

I was called because this congregation believes they are meant to grow in and for the community. There is a desire to serve as a neighborhood church, to be proclaimers of the gospel and the hands and feet of Christ to those right here. There are plenty of churches in our neighborhood with bigger Sunday school programs a…

I Know A Place

I know a place where a tiny cornfield thrives in the city and people come together to tend the soil. I peered at this garden from a bus window on the way to school and now run by it on sunny afternoons. I take a break from the sidewalks and houses to rest my breath and let the sweat beads gather on my temples. The bugs sing happily and and crickets chirp freely. I enter through the chain link fence lightly because something about this place is sacred and carefully designed.

September is a fall month that demands warmth and sunshine before the days draw too short. We know that each beautiful day will follow with another before snow dominates, so I enter with relief that warmth and growth are not quite gone. This is a good place to come when you want to believe in change and collaboration, hope and harmony. People in this neighborhood have miraculously turned a dusty lot into a sanctuary and brought life to a city block.

Maybe I'm an easy sell, but a moment in this place is enough to…

Back to School

This week, buses have been lining up outside the schools near church. Kids pour in and out of the buses with new backpacks, homework, and friends. Our childcare center is in full swing, welcoming kids for another year of fun during the day.

Since I’m a “pipeliner” and went straight from college to seminary, I have never experienced this season without new classes of my own. Even pastoral internship was marked with self, supervisor, and committee evaluations that marked the time like a school year.

I celebrated this week by cleaning out the Sunday school classrooms and restocking them with fresh supplies. I love this ritual that takes place every late summer. I used to bring my supply lists to Office Max and cruise the aisles. Like most Type A - First Born children, I color coded my notebooks and folders for each class and had everything tucked in my backpack neatly by mid-August.

In college and seminary I loved receiving my new syllabus on the first day (or download it ahead of t…

A Thousand Words

I am slowly hanging things on the walls of my office, in part because these walls are stubborn. Behind the paint is red tile that only a drill hammer can conquer. For now there is one piece that claims my identity in this room and perhaps it deserves this time alone. I reused a nail that remains from pastors past and proudly display a large photograph of my great, great grandfather, Pastor Nils Arveson, and his 1904 confirmads from North Prairie Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Church.

The scene is a formal sitting room with heavily draped windows and a large rug for d├ęcor. The girls wear long, white dresses with high laced collars, their hair in sensible and stylish buns. The boys are in suits and ties, hair parted down the middle and straight faced. My grandfather sits in the middle, his clown collar a distinguishing sign of the times.

The matte and frame are originals and the back of the frame is closed and contained by the slates from an old orange crate. Somehow it has lasted in fa…

The Bird's Nest

Today I preached in this sanctuary for the first time. The pulpit is high and I stand on a small stepstool to make sure I don’t look like a Kindergartner stuck in the limbs of a giant tree. I know that I am fairly new to the craft of preaching, but I would guess that the nerves stick around in new spaces throughout a preacher’s life.

Each time I meet a new congregation, I am humbled by the mystery that precedes me. What have they already heard? What do they need to hear again? What hurts them? What lifts them up? What wounds to they have that I could worsen with salt? Who will hear law and who will hear gospel? The view changes with each bird’s nest and layout. The sound changes depending on how far my voice is from the ceiling. The people change, needing to hear different things on different days.

My palms were sweaty as the adrenaline rushed through me before preaching. There is something in that anxiety that taunts me each time, tempting me to believe that I am truly…

The Center for Changing Lives

Park Avenue and 24th Street is bustling with construction and vision as the project nears completion.The old Lutheran Social Services (LSS) building is gone, but not the mission and community presence it has provided for the neighborhood for 50 years.I was able to explore the building on a hard-hat tour yesterday and learned more about the plans for this dream that is about to come true.
Here’s what I learned about the Center for Changing Lives:
Affordable Housing for 48 families.More than 1,000 families applied for housing here, which proves that the need is great.These units are not labeled transitional, giving the families stability and the freedom to decide how long they want to call the Center for Changing Lives home.Important Services that will assist families and members of the community to feel cared for and surrounded by support and information for their families.These services include employment, housing, counseling, financial, pregnancy, refugee, yout…

Church Mice

I am meeting the tender souls and strong hands that love this church. By church I mean the Body of Christ, living through ministries and the Word alive in our speech and action, and I also mean the building. When you have been the hands and feet of Christ together with others for so long, the house itself becomes dear and meaningful. This church is beloved by many.

One of these servants encouraged me to follow him around the building today. It is a maze of mystery and beauty that stands tall in Tangletown, hiding history behind old doors and holding children in learning and laughter each day.

You can learn a lot about a congregation by following in the footsteps of a faithful member. He taught me about light switches and back stairways, boiler rooms and classrooms. The stories flowed as we wandered and I soaked them in, hoping that someday they would feel like my own precious history. This congregation has been the Body of Christ for nearly 125 years and the building has been sta…

Holy Communion

I come from an over the top family. While we are culturally Lutheran with Nordic emotions, dinners together are usually loud and chaotic. We usually serve food by lining everything up in bowls and on platters across the counter and fill our plates in a first-come-first-serve order. Condiments pour out of the fridge and on to the table. Dozens of almost empty salad dressing bottles and types of steak sauce litter are passed from end to end after we sing grace and finish with a single, booming clap in unison. Perhaps there is some Italian blood in there we have yet to discover.

The Matriarchs in this madness are my mother and her twin sister. If you set them loose on remote beach, they will use small talk to find someone we're distantly related to before dinner. It is in this environment I've grown, knowing third and fourth cousins and reconnecting with people five times removed from me.

Last week I had dinner with the twins and somewhat distant cousins that connect me to C…

A Thin Line

I've been thinking about self-care lately. In seminary we are reminded again and again that spiritual leaders have a reputation for giving too much of themselves without replenishing, reflecting, or resting. Clergy are sometimes stereotyped as out of shape and out of touch with their own emotional and mental health.

Internship was a great opportunity to draw the line concerning "me time" before launching into the world of full-time ministry. It's difficult to set aside time to take care of yourself when there's always more to do. People pat pastors on the back when they're always available and serving, but giving in overdrive fails to set an example for parishioners fighting the temptation to work 50+ hours/week at their own jobs. (It also means there's probably a lack of lay leadership, pastoral trust, and delegation, but that's another entry!)

Technology also makes communication instantaneous, which causes people to expect more from each other.…


I don't feel any different. I don't feel divine or righteous and there is no thin glow radiating from around my head. But I do feel up to the challenge and will ask God to help me. I do feel grateful for the love and support I feel today.

I suppose I should have seen this coming long ago. This is not the first time I've worn red on a festival day (note the shoes - sadly, that was conscious). God has had this in store for me since day one and I have those present this morning to thank for teaching me to hear that call.

This photo is probably framed on God's Ha! I told you so! shelf.

Promises were made this morning by God, the congregation and me. The faith in my heart makes me confident in God's, grateful for those that echoed around me and hopeful about my own. This is a good call. I cannot think of anything I'd rather be set aside for.

Tu che, God. Tu che.

The Homeland

Matt packed pages and pages of family history on this trip. We were prepared to go looking for the old homestead in south central Sweden. Thanks to Matt's great uncle Luther, most of the research was in hand and we were off to explore.

The adventure took us by the original IKEA and to the Emigration Museum of Sweden. We followed clues from Luther's research and winding roads out into the countryside. Signs and familiar descriptions led us deep into the woods where we found the lake. Matt's grandfather's grandfather learned to fish at this lake more than 100 years ago. Lilly pads and birds entertained us as we wandered to find signs of an old paper mill and the foundations of buildings.

The land is a young fisherman's dream. I walked the trails watching Matt discover a cave and an old boat. His grandfather's grandfather left this place when his was ten and settled just west of the St. Croix River, a region that raised Matt and taught him to fish. The mo…

Kyrkan, Kirken, Kirkjan

We honeymooned in Sweden, Norway and Iceland. Of course, this is a silly idea for two students employed part-time. The U.S. dollar isn't exactly holding its own and Scandinavia has an expensive reputation. But we've learned that you are allowed to be foolish and extravagant when planning a honeymoon. People will look the other way and say lovely and supportive things like, "This is just the time to take a trip like that!"

Our days were filled with buffet breakfasts, coffee on the go, tiny rental cars, people watching, hiking in the rain, waterfalls, geysers, glaciers and fjords. We are those people you see in museums and on tours. We've studied up, read every photo's caption and ask for the audio guide headphones. If there's a tour guide, I'm usually in front, asking the dorky questions.
Some of Matt's greatest entertainment came from watching me encounter ancient churches and the congregations of quaint towns. I circle the grounds, take in the vie…

Here we go!

I begin a third year of blogging only because I would miss so many of you without it! It has been great to keep in touch and meet through comments and conversation, both in AZ at Mountain View and Life at Luther. Now I'm on my own again at tangled up in grace, wading through a wonderful summer of change and excitement.

Matt and I got married on Friday! It was an awesome celebration that started on the Mississippi River Thursday evening. Family and friends arrived in town and we rehearsed before dining on the river in beautiful weather. The boat was a great way to get our loved ones together and mingling before the chaos of Friday and an opportunity for us to say thank you to everyone involved.

The worship service was beautiful! The music was regal and serving communion to our guests was a powerful way to solidify words spoken about the Body of Christ during the sermon. I relished every moments, knowing that it would feel like a big blur later on. The sun cooperated every time Matt a…