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Showing posts from 2015

this is the time.

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this is the time
when things get loud, when hope gets muffled and fears abound.
this is the time
when we gather together heaping expectation and judgment and laughter, hiding the longing, the ache and disaster.
this is the time
when we're fiercely surrounded but feel lonesome
and foolish
or haunted, confounded.
this is the time
when we fill up our days  and our stockings with kitsch  and kitchens with glaze.
this is is the time 
when we trick ourselves 
since everyone else is filled up with cheer while muted shame lingers right here.
but that is not Truth you precious, beloved: we are all hiding, all longing, all living with judgment. we are all breaking, wondering where we belong and if there is room for us inside the song.
so listen well, Child: lean into the grief and trust that you are not songless belief you are messy and worthy - made perfectly whole by the One who rubs balm on the cracks of your soul
by the One who saves nations with love crescendos.
this is the time
the whole…

responsibility.

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Fight. Freeze. Flight.
Did anyone else feel the pull last week? Terror rippled in cities around the world. As refugees trudge through a gauntlet of scraps and skeptical stares, handouts and hesitant hospitality, bombs exploded. And everyone felt the earth shake.
If I have to hear that ISIS “claimed responsibility” one more time, I’m going to throw up. When I use this phrase with my children, I'm suggesting the gathering up of both cause and effect, of premeditation and aftermath, of accountability that requires some vulnerability. Hospitals and schools list responsibility as a value cherished and taught. So when we use it to describe braggy terror, I get irritated and queasy.
Like many of you, I felt all of the fight, freeze flight feelings and they got jumbled up together. I wanted to run, but not away. I wanted to duke it out, but with proclamations of dignity and gospel in the face of so much fearful contraction. And I certainly froze: to weep, to listen, to wait, to hold brea…

hope.

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And God's hope does not put us to shame, 
because God's love has been poured into our hearts by the 
Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.  - Romans 5:5
My Hope has been feeling silly and ashamed lately.

It is hard to be hopeful these days. Syria. Racism. Guns.
Fear. Blame. Discord. Corruption. Poverty. Malice.
These things eat hope for breakfast.

Maybe you've been aching too. Maybe Hope has fallen to the bottom of your purse or it sits on your dresser without a proper home. Maybe it's stuck under your skin like a splinter that throbs because its being rejected by everything around it. I know the feeling.

But tonight my Hope is rising and I figured the internet might as well know.

I have been with a sick kid all day. His voice is is completely different when his throat is swollen. His head is hot and I can feel his heart racing when he wraps his long body around me and settles into my lap for a sweaty nap. All 36 pounds of Jasper are working hard. He is fighting and repa…

echoes and balm.

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I arrived late to the Why Christian? Conference yesterday and found myself winding through the hallways of St. Mark's Cathedral in a pokey line. But we had coffee and energy and a few familiar faces. And then, armed with my wristband and swag, I followed into the sanctuary. It was packed to the gills. One chair had been added to each aisle, as if for a whimsical flight attendant, but those were filled too. People were singing and breathing and laughing and squishing in. There were bodies everywhere - and so I got goosebumps. I love when bodies embody.

I came alone knowing that I would not be alone. Most of my dorky church friends would be here. They too were stuffed into this holy space. They too were unpacking their fragile hearts while we confessed and chanted Psalms, while we were led and promised with words often left to our own lips.

I was acutely aware of the crowd, but also of the vaulted ceilings. While the square-footage below was brimming with questions and joy and sorr…

hello again.

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Before bed on Sunday night, I went through my whole closet. I pulled out anything that reminded me of postpartum compromises and pumping milk. I piled skirts with busted zippers and shirts I resent ironing. The bags were bursting and the hangers looked lonely. I took pictures of what remained.

Monday morning involved a bottomless cup of coffee and eggs at my favorite coffee shop. I wrote for fun and slowly made my way through lists and mail piles until my laptop died with grace. Then I wandered toward the mall.
Five things. I used the pictures on my phone to decide what five items would make my wardrobe feel new and versatile and...mine again.

A saleswoman rapped on the dressing room door to ask me if I needed anything. I realized I'd been sitting on the bench in that small room for awhile, just facing the mirror. I couldn't remember the last time I'd been in a mall dressing room. It had been years since I'd tried on wild skirts for sheer amusement. And so I sat compl…

chapters.

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I was describing my hopes and dreams for Zion's future to an older colleague the other day when he interrupted. "Have you ever thought about interim ministry?" Every day, actually. I think more plain ol' pastors should view what they do as interim ministry.

I don't have anything against the long pastorate - and maybe I'll be called to one someday - but most of my contemporaries are enjoying leadership a few chapters at a time. They are nimble and creative and effecting change quickly. They are acutely aware of the warp speed at which Being Church is changing. We don't make 5-10 year plans anymore - not with our councils and not with our own calls.

Some of us are on a shoestring and a prayer.
Some churches pay their pastors below synod guidelines.
Some are accepting part-time calls even though they long to work full time.
Some churches are living month to month, giving their pastors just weeks or months notice when their position will be cut.

And so we make…

sisters and butterflies.

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Darlene called me early this morning with news that Bev had just died. Darlene and Beverly lived together their whole lives - and with their brother Earl until he died several years ago. When they were young, Beverly would leave for work first each morning. She would call from the doorway, "This is the day that the Lord has made." Her siblings would reply, "We will rejoice and be glad in it." 
It has been a difficult 18 months - since Beverly moved into a care center. Darlene has grown both weary and resilient through these daily treks back and forth. Like many caregivers, she has poured her whole self into this bedside role and seeing Bev decline this week has been a mixed bag of dread and relief.


I changed into a black pencil skirt before heading down Lake Street toward the Carlson sisters. This would be the last time I would see them together. I turned north on 11th Avenue, forgetting that it dead ends just a few blocks up and I have to wander west in search of…

threshold

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I am especially giddy about my call these days. Some strategic planning has begun. Systems are being challenged. Interns are coming and going, leading and learning. People are digging in while also letting go. Signs of deep belonging and belovedness are everywhere. Summer Wednesdays are filled with feisty potential.
And while my heart is leaning in and I am easily swept away each day in the vitality of this work, I am also being called to step back a little. There are a few good reasons.
One. These interns know what they're doing. All are capable, communicative, brave, and bright. While it is my job to build connections and reflect with them, I also need to get out of the way. 
Two. I am coming up on seven years of ordination. Many pastors take a sabbatical every seven years - a few months away from their call for rest and renewal. I will carve out my own mini-version of this for ten days in August and I can't wait!
Three. A fabulous and generous grant organization emailed me…

anoint.

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Last Sunday we blessed and sent a couple from Zion off to Canada for pastoral internship. We made them promises and prayed and anointed their foreheads with oil.

After worship, three more came and asked to be marked with the sign of the cross. They carried grief, regrets, enthusiasm, and nervous energy. They asked to be marked because of these things.

I don't take these moments for granted. I get to stare deep into people's eyes as I declare promises much bigger than either of us. And, while I'm shouting, they are staring back at me. They are soaking up the words and the grace and the trust we share because of the Pastor in front of my name. It is lovely, transforming work.



Tove is toddling around now. She is covered in lasagna sauce and hiding in cupboards and shouting across the house for her sister when they get separated by a few rooms. Tove is wild and sneaky and full of good ideas. She makes this face that shows her humor and determination in the form of big lips. I …

maundy wednesday.

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Jesus, Bread of Life,
You offer yourself as bread and wine to the disciples.  You make God suddenly physical and familiar to our most intimate senses.
You urge rituals that infect our memories and motor skills with signs of your love and life.
“Do this to remember me.”
What is it like to empty yourself? How does it feel to be broken and poured out for the sake of us?
We take and eat and drink because you tell us to. Because we have no choice but to place hope in your gifts of forgiveness, salvation, and life.
In doing so, we are humbled by your humility. We are broken and poured out every time we kneel, extend hands, or hold our breath while listening for the promise.
This meal goes after our hunger and our thirst,             our memories and our pride,             our sins and our mortality.
Holy morsels and sips.
Fill us with your love. Amen.
The Prayer of the Day Recovery Worship - April 1, 2015

one.

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My job has been more exhausting than usual lately.

We've become a healthier place in the last three years. I've been picking at systems and procedures. I've been listening intently to people who disagree with me. I've been startled by how many people are on board with my leadership style and vision - that's both scary and exciting. I've been urging people to put things down, simplify, and learn from failure. I've been asking big questions:

Why do we do what we do?Why don't we do what we don't do?What are you most afraid of?If you knew you couldn't fail, what would you do? Now it's time to notice and name relationships and roles in need of great care and challenge. I'm poking at people, control issues, comfort zones, and default plans. I'm stirring the pot, being confrontational, working through conflict, and daring to say things no one has the guts to say.
I go into each dialogue feeling nervous and overwhelmed. I leave feeling tired …

expectations.

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When people ask about the demographics of my church, their first question is often about young families. Many associate health and growth in a congregation with how many young family units attend worship, give financially, and participate in family program ministries.

Well, we don't have many young families at Zion. In fact, if your definition of "young families" is two parents with small children, then that demographic is the Carlsons and…that's it. Seriously.

For generations, we've associated young families with health and sustainable growth in congregations. Sure, we like the sight and sounds of wiggles and giggles in the pews. We are proud of our Christmas pageants and the size of our youth groups. But these families are not feel-good statistics and healthy church trophies. These are, perhaps, our most exhausted and overwhelmed people. They struggle to navigate worship attendance around naps, confirmation around hockey, and pressure to lead when showing up is …

hearts.

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I used to hate Valentine's Day. I had all kinds of reasons to despise the Hallmark holiday and its harpy expectations. I'd been barfed on, smothered, forgotten, and ditched on Valentine's Days prior to meeting Matt, so there were no expectations our first February together. I just asked that we would do something unrelated to the holiday. Thus began our tradition of eating at Hardees. After all, true love is a man and a mushroom swiss burger.

But these children have softened my heart to the holiday. I have birthed three babies in the month of February and now celebrate my love for them each year. I help Jasper design his mailbox for school that receives little candies and notes from his friends. I buy strawberries for the class party and cut them into hearts. I make cookies and frost them red or pink. Okay, I bake break 'n' bakes that come with the necessary supplies…but I wear an apron while I do it. You get the point. I'm suddenly smitten with February, but r…

contrast.

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Solveig got glasses this month. She tugged at them for the first few hours and seemed confused, but then let them settle onto her little nose. Her eyes were wide, focused on things she'd never seen clearly before. She squealed at books and started beating Tove to their favorite toys. The contrast was - and still is - overwhelming.

The season of Epiphany is also bringing contrast into my bland, chilly winter landscape. The stories we hear on Sunday mornings are pointing out all the reasons I need Jesus - all the ways I cop out and cry uncle on this faith journey. I hear my own hesitation or insecurity in these texts:

I am a Pharisee loitering on the sidelines 
  while John baptizes in the wilderness.

I am tempted by every voice that dares me 
  to prove my worth and power.

I am turned upside down by Jesus blessing the unexpected
  and his urging to pray for God's will instead of my own.

I am hoarding bread and fish, 
  skeptical of my own satisfaction and the miracle at hand.

I am buil…