Showing posts from September, 2013


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…