On Sunday afternoon, Zoe and I stopped at a pop up boutique in our town. Before we were even out of the car, she spotted something she just had to have. Once she’d brought it home and showed it off to her dad, she seemed to forget about it.
On Wednesday morning, I remembered. I went downstairs and I took the something out of its bag and I put it on her dresser:
Right now, there are many people in our country who do not feel safe. Who are hurting and worried and heartbroken and afraid. If that is where you are: I see you. I’m with you. I love you. If that is not where you are: please know that it’s where your neighbors are. And know that I love you, too.
Here is what I know in my bones: Continue reading
We don’t always know value–or beauty–when we see them. Case in point:
Did you know that this pile is a pile of canna flower bulbs? Until today, I certainly did not. If I had walked by Helma’s Garden (the garden at First Lutheran) on my own, I probably wouldn’t have noticed them at all. And if I had, I wouldn’t have known what they were. (Pro Tip: No one has ever mistaken me for a gardener.)
During the summer, the beauty of those cannas was obvious: bold and tall and fiery red, they stood proudly in the back row of the garden for all to see. Now that it’s fall, our gardeners have done their work and a few leaves on the ground are all that remain.
All, except for the bulbs. Small and unassuming, their value and beauty tucked safely within. Store them over the winter and plant them in the spring, my gardening friend assured me, and they will grow tall and fiery and boldly beautiful again.
There is something so comforting and hopeful about this: long months of waiting, then invisible change and growth inside the bulb and under the earth, and then . . . beauty and boldness unfurl. When we want to hurry through seasons of darkness, or ugliness, or pain–or when we feel overwhelmed by these things–let’s remember the canna bulbs.
Let’s rest in the dark.
Let’s trust that new life will come.
What darkness are you sitting in right now? What is the new thing that you are waiting for?
P.S. If you would like to take some of this buried beauty home with you, come on over to Helma’s Garden and help yourself.
Sometimes, in the face of grief and loss, we don’t know what to say.
This is part of what makes me grateful for the liturgy–for the shape of worship that holds and carries us when we are too tired or too sad to walk alone. I have leaned into the Sunday morning liturgy in times of uncertainty and worry. The funeral liturgy provides this beautiful comfort and strength, too. Last week, we prayed and we sang and we commended a beloved saint into the arms of Jesus. We were sad, but we were comforted and held by those prayers and songs and words.
But liturgy isn’t the only tool in our toolbox. The day before the funeral, I walked into the church kitchen. This is what I found:
Isn’t it beautiful? There is comfort and strength here, too. We know that there will be orange and strawberry and cherry jello at our funeral lunches. We know that we will be fed.
And, we know that this dark cherry jello with actual cherries in it is the very best. (Pro Tip: If you are the pastor, you might even snag a bowl of this stuff from an empty table. No one at your table will complain about it, because they know you have secured the best jello for them, too.)
What’s your comfort food?
Do you ever wonder if what you do matters?
It’s such a cliche it’s practically too boring to write about. But we do wonder, don’t we? For me, this is especially true when I preach a sermon at the nursing home. Some people are not interested in listening. Some people are not able to listen and understand. Some people are asleep or on the verge of drifting off. (Pro Tip: At least two out of three of those things are also true on Sunday morning.)
As I preached in Madelia one day last week, it felt almost self-indulgent. Was anyone but me really getting anything out of this sermon? Impossible to tell.
As always, I treasured the parts of the worship service that invited more obvious participation from those gathered. We sang the good old songs –“This is My Father’s World”, “The Old Rugged Cross”–and we prayed the Lord’s Prayer together.
And then, we shared the meal of Holy Communion. Continue reading
“I can’t do this again,” I said to Mike as I lay on the exam table. “It’s too much responsibility.”
I was 25 weeks pregnant with Leo. We had traveled halfway across the country for a friend’s wedding, and I had a little spotting. I couldn’t remember when I’d last felt the baby move, or at least I thought the baby ought to be moving more. I called the clinic back in Minnesota and they said, as they would say to any pregnant woman halfway across the country, “You should go in.”
So the day after we danced at our friend’s wedding, we took a cab to an unfamiliar hospital. They admitted me, asked me lots of alarming questions about what to do in case we delivered the baby then and there, and did an exam. I was fine and the baby was fine. We were released. We took the bus back to our rental apartment, thankful and relieved.
I loved being pregnant. It was such a blessing and such a gift. But it was also a huge and terrifying responsibility. If something felt weird or seemed off, I was the one who had to decide if it merited a visit to the doctor. I was the one who knew best, and much of the time, I simply didn’t know.
Tuesday night, three-year-old Leo woke up screaming. We noticed he was clutching his stomach. Of course, we thought appendicitis. We called the nurse line, who sent us to the emergency room in Saint James, who sent us to the emergency room in Rochester. It was a long, anxious, exhausting night. Continue reading
On Saturday, they found Jacob.
If you live in Minnesota, or if you lived in Minnesota during the past 27 years, you know what I’m talking about. Jacob Wetterling was eleven years old in 1989, when he, his brother, and a friend were biking down a country road. A masked man with a gun stopped them and took Jacob. Basically the nightmare scenario for any parent or caregiver of a child.
Jacob’s family never gave up. They never stopped searching; never stopped hoping. Every year on October 22nd, the day Jacob was taken, the Wetterlings encouraged people to leave their porch lights on. The light was a symbol of solidarity and hope. It lit the way home for Jacob and for other lost and missing children. The work of the Wetterlings and the foundation they started was not only for Jacob, but for all children. Because of the Wetterlings, sex offender registeries exist. Because of the Wetterlings, most missing children do find their way home. Continue reading
You’re darn right there are six pies in that oven.
“If I put it in the freezer, how long will it last?” I asked.
The answer was simple and immediate: “Forever.”
Now, I admit: I have not tested the truth of this claim, because, pro tip, what kind of person leaves an apple pie in the freezer forever? But when I was cleaning out our freezer a few weeks ago, it turned out that one of the apple pies I bought at the church bazaar last year was still there.
This shocked me. (Pro Tip: Not the part where my freezer went untold months without a good clean out; the part where I failed to eat a pie.) And when I took that pie out of the oven and warmed it up, the pie maker who sold it to me was right: it was still perfect.
After the lefse makers do their thing, the pie makers take their turn. They peel and they slice and they mix and they roll and they bake. They pile on the butter and they sprinkle the cinnamon and they make the whole place smell like heaven. The first morning alone, they turned out 58 perfect pies.
They didn’t know, that first morning, whether they would have apples for the next day. (Pro Tip: Apples do grow on trees, but it’s only the end of August.) Every year, the pie makers wonder and wait. And every year, produce suppliers and orchards and backyard trees provide.
Blessed are the pie makers, for they will be called providers of sweetness. Givers of deliciousness. Bringers of joy.
What’s your favorite kind of pie?
The bulletin announcement says 8 AM, but some of them arrive at 6.
They measure and mix. They stir and roll. They flip and fold and weigh and pack and freeze. They are careful and patient and precise, but there is artistry and beauty to their work, too. Many of them remember their parents and grandparents practicing this art on a cook stove, not an electric griddle.
Every Tuesday and Wednesday for three weeks, they are here. When all is said and done, they have made about 300 pounds of lefse for the Nordic Bazaar. (Plus an untold number of pounds of “mistakes” that we are forced to enjoy with our coffee in the middle of each work day.) Continue reading
When I was a kid, I loved Choose Your Own Adventure books. Maybe it was the sense of power they gave me, maybe it was the idea of multiple stories contained in one story, maybe it was just the novelty factor.
Sometimes, I would make a choice that turned out badly. My favorite character would be imperiled; a potentially fascinating door would suddenly close; an unpleasant new situation would present itself. Like many other Choose Your Own Adventurers, I’d flip frantically back through the book, trying to find the place I’d gone wrong. This was never successful. I could never get the story to go exactly how I thought it should. Continue reading
I got to do one of my very, very favorite things yesterday: a baptism!
Seriously, ask my confirmation students. If the answer isn’t “Jesus”, it’s probably “baptism.” I love talking and teaching about it. I love remembering and celebrating it in worship and at home. I love welcoming a new person into the body of Christ with water and God’s word.
You know who does not always love baptism, though? The person being baptized!
Yesterday, the newly baptized was an eight month old baby. When, all of a sudden, some lady she didn’t know very well started pouring water on her head, this baby gave a startled cry. And then, she took matters into her own hands.
When I laid my hand on her forehead to pray, bless, and mark her with a cross, she glared. She reached up with her sweet little fingers and grabbed my wrist. She fought my hand and tried to pry my fingers away from her head. She would not be caught off guard again. Continue reading