Showing posts from 2013

like a tree.

I am more than 31 weeks pregnant with twins.

People like to talk about this because it's hard to ignore. I have a bowling ball protruding from my core that steers conversation in her giant direction. My breathing is labored and sometimes my heartburn transforms me into a fire-breathing dragon. My skin is running out of stretch. My belly button is flat and bruised. Sometimes I wear slippers out of the house in the morning since I can't see my feet…and then the texture on the sidewalk reminds me to turn around and wrestle on some boots instead.

They each measure the size of a pineapple and weigh a little over three pounds. Baby A sits on my bladder and Baby B lives up in my rib cage. Sometimes I can see elbows and knees popping out on completely opposite sides of my body - feet apart! - in the same moment.

Usually someone is awake in there and they're both strong enough to jab me from deep sleep into restless wakefulness. I can feel them wrestling with each other, even thoug…

advent sinews

Advent is tricky and fleeting. It does not easily sync with our cultural traditions of December because we start binging on Christmas as soon as that last bite of Thanksgiving roll mops up the last pool of gravy.

I love Advent because it's jagged and askew and we don't know what to do with it. The message is hushed and urgent…or damning and patient. I can't decide which.

At Zion we are in the midst of a sermon series on the prophets. Today Ezekiel the Weirdo did the talking. I love him for all the same reasons I love Advent. He catches our ear with the bizarre and mysterious, with morbid words that are strangely comforting.

His most famous vision was of a valley filled with dry bones. The stench of death. Dead ends all around. A nation cut off from breath and life and spirit and purpose and God and home. The air was still and all hope was void.

This is how the people of Jerusalem felt after the city finally fell to the Babylonians. In the wake of rubble and smoke, they were…

the gospel according to daniel tiger.

There are a few cartoon characters who have changed my life lately. I found myself getting defensive when someone called Dora a princess character this summer. "Actually, Dora is a loyal friend. And she goes on adventures. And she never gives up. So try watching an episode before you pigeon hole her as a princess character. She's actually pretty bad ass." I reacted as though he was talking smack about my best friend.

Daniel Tiger is the animated descendent of Daniel Striped Tiger from Mister Roger's Neighborhood. There's a trolly and Daniel uses his imagination a lot. The friendships are relatable for a toddler and the plots give Jasper great words for his feelings.

Every episode has a little jingle to help you remember the social or emotional lesson in play. "Keep on trying - you'll get better," has been the theme of potty training this week. For almost five days, Jasper wore underwear without hitting the potty. Accidents galore. Lots of laundry. …


We are grateful for your strength because you are capable of all kinds of things: discipline, distance, teamwork, and loyalty that most Americans lust after. You've seen and done incredible things. You serve and labor while most of us go about our ordinary days, unaware of your sacrifice. We are in awe of your strength.

But we are also grateful for your vulnerability because you tell stories that widen our world: our ethics, our imaginations, our politics, and our faith. You've seen and done incredible things. And then you come home, thank God, to a culture that does not know how to receive your emotions and stories well. You come home to the economy and land and people you defended and face unemployment because we don't know how to translate and apply your valuable skills...even though you do. We say dumb things like, "Wow. Did you kill anyone over there?" and nod as though we understand the complexities of your darkest moments.

So thank you for your strength an…


Last winter we lost a few redwoods at Zion. We said goodbye to beautiful and generous saints who left this world in peaceful or sudden ways. The forest rumbled as they fell and we grieved - we wondered how we could go on without them and longed for things to be like they used to be.

But things can't be like they used to be - and they shouldn't be. The forest does not manufacture new redwoods overnight. Instead, the sun pokes through and the ecosystem shifts a bit. The air sounds wide open and the breeze dips down into quiet, sleepy corners.

And then the ferns stretch and span. They recognize the shift and the spaces that are building something new. Slowly, they rise toward the light and stand a little taller because there is room to be and breathe. The potential is palpable.

We have ferns rising at Zion these days. Young people are claiming a place and articulating their gifts and sneaking into the fabric of this forest. It's fun to watch them bond with older women and ro…


My son left the house this morning wearing cowboy boots, pajama pants, and his orange scooter helmet. The sleepover at Grandma and Grandpa's house will include plenty of flare.
The KFC I frequented during my first pregnancy has since folded and turned into a Popeyes. I'm feeling some guilt about this. Could I have saved them if I'd become pregnant just a few months earlier?  Were my regular drumstick runs the only thing keeping them in business in 2010-2011? The world will never know.
I had coffee with a bright-eyed, bushy tailed Ole this morning. He was so optimistic and filled with potential, I could have used a cup of coffee before our meeting to prepare for his energy. I listened carefully and became inspired. Then he lapped up my insights and advice as though I know what I'm talking about. He made me feel old, but in a good way.
The weather is crisp. It's perfect for walks in the dark with your hands shoved deep into pockets.
I love Mentos. I'd never trie…

favorite one.


When you are super silly or about to throw a fit, I usually ask you if you'd like to hear a secret. The invitation causes you to pause for a moment while a wide grin spreads across your face. You come barreling toward me and lean in for news that is always true and always the same:

Out of all the little boys who live in my house, YOU are my!

I realize that out of context and to an adult cynic, this declaration sounds very creepy. (Am I keeping a few in the cupboards and others in the basement? Am I the old woman who lived in a shoe?) But you are wildly flattered by these words and always ask to hear "another secret". So, with gladness, I tell you again and again.

I used to wonder how I would tweak this secret declaration if you were to have a brother. But we recently found out that there is no need to manipulate your Gospel according to Mom. This word will always be true because it sounds like you've got sisters on the way!

I kept a preg…


I get to church when the quilters do on Tuesday mornings. Just two women this week, but there are always enough hands for the work to be done. Always enough words and ears for listening, too.

There was a woman waiting for me by my office door. We introduced ourselves and she confided about her current struggles. I hear a lot of these down-on-your-luck stories and can smell a bullshitter a mile away. Lucy* is not one of them. She is discouraged and misses work and wishes she had a place to call home. We came up with a flimsy plan with promising resources and then I asked her to get her phone charger out of her truck. "Come down to the Banquet Room so you can charge your phone and start making these connections on a full battery. The quilters are downstairs. They've got banana bread and coffee, too."

She returned with her charger and casually mentioned that she'd been baptized here long ago. "It still smells the same," which, to her seemed a comfort and to m…

remembering buddy.

He killed Osama bin Laden. He was a five-star general in World War 1. He was the self-appointed grounds keeper of Zion. He was a life-long Lutheran and I'd been his pastor for 37 years. He lived to keep the streets of Lyndale safe. "People out there call me Vietnam Rambo. You can call me Buddy."

Brian "Buddy" Arland Lemke had a rough life. He grew up surrounded by mental illness and drugs, dysfunctional relationships and instability. By the time I met him in February of 2012, he was a roller coaster of mood swings and personalities. He had been in and out of treatment several years earlier and now he claimed Jesus and recovery as his healers. But he usually smelled like booze. His shame and secrecy and defensiveness about drinking was tangible. And that only added to the unpredictable nature of his relationships.

But several weeks into my call at Zion, I had a neighborhood bully in my face, ready to punch me during the Wednesday meal. He was spitting and swear…


Matt has been working long days, away. I am tired, but doing my best. Jasper senses a shift. He recently gave up pacifiers and moved into a "big boy bedroom". Turns out, this doorknob is easier to open than his old room and the newfound freedom has gone to his head.

He used to wait quietly in bed each morning, sucking on his pacifier and stroking his blanket with his thumb until we came to get him. Now he wakes with urgency, ready for the day to begin. I feel hands on my face at 5:45am and hear, "Wake up!" Naps are disappearing, too. And because he's exhausted but in denial, the whining and crabbiness is off the charts.

Yesterday was one of those long days and by 9:00pm, he was still fighting me about everything. We'd had several bedtimes, dozens of books, a few drinks of water, and my rocking chair offer was refused. My sermon was only half done and I kept bursting into tears of frustration. And so, I gave him a dose of Benadryl. I mixed it with apple juic…

what to wear.

Today was the last of four Sundays in Ephesians. The author, probably one of Paul's friends or students, ends the letter by encouraging believers to "go all in". Discipleship is not like an Old Country Buffet where you pick and choose your carbs. It's not like designing a new laptop on, customizable and tailored to your liking.

It is like full body armor you shlep around. It is like a belt of truth, a breastplate of righteousness, shoes made for walking, a shield of faith, and a helmet of salvation. It is like a sword of the Spirit, which you steward - the sword of scripture and the Story that knits us together with promises from God.

You don't just wear the belt because it's light and fashionable. Or the helmet because it's sunny out. You don't hide the sword when it gets inconvenient to be proactive and proclaiming. The author tells us to put it all on because we never know what we'll need. The future is unknown, but God gives us the ar…

so helpful.

Since I shared my twins news, most have been supportive and excited. Some have understood my anxiety. A few have said really annoying, strange, irrelevant, or unhelpful things. I found it therapeutic to compile these comments as one big list. Together, they are funny and easy to deflect. I know a lady who had twins. One of them died.How do you really know there are two? I mean, maybe you're just really big.So you're going to quit your job, right? Because working at a church while they're little wouldn't be fair to anyone.Oh. I didn't know you guys were having fertility issues.It'll be easy because you have family in town. My sister didn't.Is it possible for one of them to come out fine and the other one to get into trouble in there? Because I was watching a TV show about baby eagles the other day and that's what happened to them.Better soak up every moment you've got left with just Jasper!Well, you won't be able to breastfeed. That would be craz…


The ultrasound technician said that most people are surprised when she tells them they're having twins. And, at the very least, she gets to tell them they're having twins.

I show up looking for them on the screen.

My mom is a twin. We have lots of sets in my extended family tree and I'm one of few siblings and cousins in my generation who has publicly stated that twins are too much. Don't get me wrong - being one looks awesome - but having one baby three years ago put me through the ringer and changed the whole fabric of my being. I'm too neurotic for the two-for-one special. And so I've always been wishing it on my brothers and cousins instead.

"Don't be so dramatic." Those were Matt's last words before I left for the appointment last month. He'd seen me scoping for twins early in our last pregnancy. He got embarrassed when I asked if one could be synchronized swimming behind the Jasper-fetus we could see on the monitor.

"I see two …


There is an old factory by my house. I thought it was abandoned long ago, but yesterday I spotted a man sitting by a window eating out of his lunchbox. There was another man on a bucket by the backdoor holding a sandwich. Something is happening in there. Every day. I studied the paint and brick chipping away around them. I wondered about the things they create and craft - the things they have to show for this one wild and precious life.

Still waiting at the red light, I looked around at the contents of my car. Jasper's dirty socks from months ago and a paper shell he decorated with glitter at daycare. Crumbs from cheese crackers and empty bottles of water. A hymnal. A home communion case. A heavy catalog of statuary and altar cloths. A list of home visits and pastoral calls to make. A make up bag. A pile of gym clothes with poor self-esteem, bitter and ignored, covered in reusable grocery bags and receipts.

The light turned green and I watched the man on the bucket put the last b…

a blur.


I need to order new pages for your baby book because there's much to tell you about this stage. You wear your blue Crocs everyday and declare, "Shoes off!" whenever you get home. Sitting in the front entryway, you take them off and stack them next to ours. Once you were heard congratulating yourself for this organization: I so proud of you, Dap-per.

You do this, of course, except when you don't. "Shoes on, shoes on! NO off!" you shout when you're moody or bossy. And then you run around the house and declare you will sleep in them that night. Ugh.

It's hard getting you out the door for school on Mondays and Tuesdays. You'd rather stay and play with trains in the den. You're usually just halfway through your "p-toast stips" (peanut butter toast that's cut into strips) and you fist them in the car the whole way there. "Orange, Mommy! Construction zone!" You notice excavators and bulldozers from blocks away, alwa…

lucky gal.

If you've been reading along for awhile, this will be old hat. But I feel the need to say once job is weird and awesome. Here are things I've done today:

1. There's a local opera singer about my age. She needs a space to rehearse several nights a week. She can't afford rent, so we've figured out a trade. She'll help lead music and solo at Zion once a month. Won't THAT be interesting?

2. I tried to explain to a Somali woman that morning ESL classes are at the bank a few blocks away. We host the evening classes. She didn't understand, so I walked her to the bank. Then I realized I had a check in my wallet I could deposit. Double win.

3. I watered rose bushes.

4. I made the weirdest bulletin I've ever made. Tomorrow night, Recovery Worship is moving outside under a tree. We'll have a fire pit. We'll burn our written confessions and prayers until they rise like incense. We'll sing and dance to the drums of The Little Thunderbirds, …


Lookout - it's one of those nights. I have arrived home from another Zion Wednesday exhausted, but too overwhelmed by joy and grace to keep it to myself. I'll back up a bit.

I am a 3/4 time solo pastor. That means, in order to do anything creative | outside the box | risky | new | growth-focused, I spend even more weekend and evening hours away from my family. It means I stretch myself a little thinner and have to put down things that others view as essential to my role. It means feeling like I'm a little crappier at life because there are more spinning plates in the air.

But Zion is all about trying new things and so am I, so we're constantly weighing and balancing this dilemma. It's messy and it's so, so fun. I am moved by our mistakes and our victories. I begin experiments convinced that I am crucial and, in the end, am overwhelmed with gratitude for the Village.

The Lyndale Community Dinner is a good thing. We feed 50 people every week. Most of them are re…

truest self.

I've had a few pastoral care conversations this month
that echo one another.
I don't think God hears every prayer 
and I don't think God necessarily cares.
I feel bad because I'm usually asking for stuff when I pray 
and I don't like to be needy.
What's the point of praying, anyway?

Anne Lamott has three prayers: help, thanks, and wow. I have three prayers, too: ugh, why, and yahoo. Prayer can sometimes feel too casual or too awkward. It can be used sparingly or you can sound like a broken record. You might feel like a crazy person talking to yourself or a selfish brat for making it all about you.
Sometimes I try to list a bunch of stuff about other people before I get to the crap about me because I feel bad for only praying for what I want and need.
When people confide in me about this stuff, I get (what my mom calls) diarrhea of the mouth. I have a billion mediocre metaphors and ideas waiting to erupt and I have to remember to slow down and listen. And in listeni…


Be still (and leave your not-so-still child in able hands while you get out of Dodge) and know that I am God.
I spent 8 days away from Jasper and it was hard. Without that daily text or picture or update, my heart started to ache. 
I spent 8 days alone with my husband on a boat. And by alone, I mean we were on a Carnival Cruise with 3,000 of our closest friends. 
We did not participate in the poolside "hairy chest contest" or buy the unlimited drinks passes, mostly because we're not hairy enough and rather frugal. But Coronas flowed, we overate, and the water slide made me squeal out loud. Our snug room on Deck One did not have windows or a clock, so it was pitch black until we stirred each morning. As the boat rocked us to sleep one night, Matt purred, "I feel like I'm sleeping in a big Baby Bjorn."
It was good to get away. With work covered and our phones off, my biggest decision each day was pizza v. reuben for an afternoon snack. (Regrets? Easy to recti…

space for what matters.

When Jasper was born, he had colic and only wanted to sleep in his car seat with the visor down. Three months later, he was amenable to a rocking basinet that propped him upright a bit and snuggled him on either side. There he slept until he was over the weight limit and capable of crawling out.
We started with the crib up high and then down low when he became curious and mobile. Last Christmas it converted to a toddler bed and he could get in and out on his own. Now he’s inherited my goddaughter's IKEA bed. He sleeps a floor above us at the new house and loves it.
You might call this the opposite of attachment parenting. Until last night, I’d never slept in bed with Jasper and I only sleep in the same room with him when we're traveling. Sure, he’s fallen asleep on my chest a bazillion times before being mysteriously transported to his own bed, but we never wake up together at home. While bed sharing works great for many people (and I admit – I’m impressed by their hospitali…


I made so many good cases for taking off the socks this morning.  He's been wearing them for days.  They stink. They're sweaty. It's humid. They look ridiculous.
But they stayed on. I dropped him off at school and blessed the teacher with a few words for context: 
We moved on Saturday. He's being a trooper and we're talking through the transitions, but there are a few things he's clinging to for comfort. Moose Socks are two of them. Be aware that he will want to make sure the moose can "see" at all times, so they need to be pulled up high enough for the "googley eyes" to show.
We've all got our things. I needed a rod to hang clothes in my new closet. Matt needs the garage to not look like a hazardous waste tsunami. Jasper needs to wear his Moose Socks all.the.time.  (We splashed in some puddles on the sidewalk after dinner tonight, so they got all muddy and he finally wanted them off. Wash, Mommy. Make clean, please.Gladly.)
Jasper is ad…


So many balloons.

We long to bring something tangible. Human begins are wired for ritual and spacial celebration. These things transcend religion and culture. We need to gather when we grieve. We want to offer something that makes our presence worthy and of good use.

The media is hounding three women and their families. They are camped outside, stalking and watching and hovering, waiting to ask them what it feels like to be free. Ha. Sounds to me like they're still trapped behind those balloons and the best intentions of the clueless and curious.

These girls don't need your rained-on dollar store stuffed animals. They don't need balloons that will deflate before the crowds do. They don't need 24-hour news coverage or people treating them like they're still 14 years old.

I don't know what they do need, but that's not my job. There are plenty of loved ones and professionals handy to help them sort that out.

Instead, I am in the business of knowing what the c…


I was pitting out and awkward until this very moment. And then all was calm. And funny.  I stopped sweating and I started laughing.
It didn't feel like my wedding day  while someone stuck fake eyelashes on my face  or while dear friends gathered, hair teased.  But it felt like my wedding day hours later -  once Matt found me in a quiet back yard and made me smile.
I am blessed to love the one I'm with.  Those who are  know the deep power and wide gift of partnership. I did not have to fight for this day  or prove my love  or receive less than others. It was given freely  just like the vows we exchanged that day.
Today I am blessed by the love of a state and its leaders who are brave in saying YES to love and marriage... for everyone who loves the one they're with for everyone who wishes to say I DO for everyone who yearns to carry the whole promise - all the joy and the sorrow, the grace and the work just like us.
There is room for all of us in this moment and this love. I…

wide love.

On Thursday, Minnesota's legislators will cast votes about marriage.  Minnesotans have two days to contact their leaders with thoughtful encouragement. 

God of love, there is room for all of us in your Kingdom. You have made space for justice and peace, equity and hope. You have declared that we are no longer Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female - we are all one in Christ Jesus, called to treat one another with that same holy love you have shown us. May we vote and live that mercy on Thursday. Show us how to make space for justice and peace, equity and hope, so that your Kingdom may be seen and known right here and now in Minnesota. Amen.
To read my blog about last November's (Anti)Marriage Amendment, click here.


I paused before saying the words of institution a few Wednesdays ago. I was choosing which piece to hold up while talking about the promises that come with Jesus broken. On Wednesdays, the bread comes pre-broken because we're using leftovers from Sunday morning.

When I was little, my dad used to make leftover omelets. They were generally gross or adventurous - all items you normally wouldn't see in an omelet. If a food made it into the omelet, that was a last resort - it had no other options and this was likely its last day alive before Mom tossed it. I'm pretty sure my dad is void of tastebuds, so his ability to create and eat (and actually enjoy) them came in handy when it was time to clean out the fridge before a grocery run.

Regular non-omelet leftovers are the best. You already know what you're getting and there's something sentimental and familiar about coming back to that same meal again. You heat it up and remember having it for the first time. There's …


We closed on our new house eight days ago! Matt has pulled more than 300 nails out of the floors. My dad has stripped rooms filled with wallpaper and there are many left to do. I am painting, unscrewing screws, scrubbing gluey walls, and taping doorways. There are three paint colors still stuck in my hair despite last night's shower.

Matt and I usually play the busy game. We scramble a lot and wonder where the time goes. But this week we proved that you can carve out time when you're on a deadline. You can squeeze in a few hours when there's something important on the list. Suddenly, work is truly 3/4 time and I'm discovering chunks of each day that can be spent at "new house".

Jasper loves to stop over. He chooses a screwdriver to carry around the house. He picks up chunks of carpet pad and piles them in the corner. He takes you upstairs and runs around his new bedroom with his arms out wide declaring, "Woweee!" It's a lot of space for a littl…

good is sneaking.

They're right. Every year, Easter flies in the face of all kinds of crappy news. Every April knows terror and death, which hides the resurrection beneath the grief and pain of this world.

Today Boston is on lock down and West, Texas is flattened. The media leads us in a fruitless crusade to oversimplify people and motives and fear. It's exhausting... even from way over here in Minnesota.

Speaking of Minnesota, it's covered in snow. It's snowed a few times since Easter morning - since I had Zion's marquee sign to read, "Spring is here! Christ is risen!" Neighbors must think the latter is a joke, too.

The truth is, we struggle through spring as both physical and spiritual people. It's hard to lean into the tangible truth about an empty tomb. We have trumpets and streamers and breakfast together for one day. But now what? What does Easter mean for tomorrow?

People are still underemployed. Stillborn babies are missing from a hospital. Rosie's bronchit…