Tag Archives: prayer

Calmed into Quietness

It is an anxious time at First Lutheran Church. We are preparing to say goodbye to my colleague, who has served so faithfully and so well in this place for twenty-one years. This is how it is to be a pastor–you love the people given to your care, but you know that eventually, God will call you to love the people somewhere else. We trust that this is good for all God’s people–the ones who are saying goodbye to a beloved pastor and the ones who are preparing to welcome a new one. But, still: a time of anxiety, of wondering and worrying and change.

It is an anxious time outside the church, too. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but this 2016 election season has brought all kinds of ugly out in the open. It’s hard to keep listening to the news.

Film star Helen Twelvetrees, Rutland Gates, Bellevue Hill, Sydney, early 1936 / photograph by Sam Hood

Then there are all the private anxieties we struggle with every day. Continue reading


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Filed under Lord in Your Mercy, Ministry Matters

Circumcise Our Hearts

As we made our way down a narrow road in an affluent suburb of Milwaukee–beach bound–the police SUV made its way down the road right behind us. We crept along, not quite sure we were on the right road, not quite sure why that police vehicle was on our tail. Is this a really polite suburban way of pulling us over? I wondered.

We made it to the park and pulled into a space in the lot. The police vehicle did two slow loops of the parking lot, then drove away, apparently just part of her patrol. The whole time, I felt uncomfortable and a little nervous. I also felt very aware that if I were black or brown instead of white, I would have felt a lot worse.


Last night I went to bed thinking about Anton Sterling. This morning I woke up and read about Philando Castile. Their names are added to the list of the many others who have died for no good reason. So many. Too many. I’d say, “Enough is enough,” but we passed that point long ago, and even one is too many, isn’t it? Continue reading

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Filed under Lord in Your Mercy

Let It Ring

It’s not that I think I have anything new or amazing to say. No deep insights, no magic words.

In the face of senseless violence and devastating hate, what is there to say?

But we’ve got to say something. As powerless and helpless and angry and sad as we feel, we’ve got to say something, even if it’s just this prayer:

To my brothers and sisters who are lesbian, gay, bi, trans, and queer: You are loved. You are beautiful and precious children of God, made in God’s own image. Your country and your church have let you down and shoved you down too many times. We have failed you.

We have a gun problem in this country. We have a hate problem and a fear problem. I don’t know how to fix them. Sometimes I don’t know how or what to pray. Continue reading


Filed under Lord in Your Mercy, Ministry Matters

Weather Advisory

Joyce Oglansky playing in the snow, Minneapolis

Zoe has been asking for snow all summer.

When she saw a happy otter family making snow angels in one of her bedtime books last night, it was too much.

“GOD!” she yelled.  “God!  Send the snow!”

Then, she revamped her musical rain prayer, singing, “I want God to send the snow . . . because I want snow.  That’s what I want.  God, send the snow!”


If you woke up to snowflakes this morning, I guess you know who to thank.

What silly or crazy requests have you made?

Mailing Letters


Filed under Preschool Theology

The Power of a Preschooler’s Prayer

Teenage Workers Are Barely Visible as They Detassel Corn During the Summer in Fields near New Ulm, Minnesota...

As you may know, Minnesota has been experiencing a drought.  It’s terrible to watch the grass turn brown, the flowers wilt, and the field corn . . . well, I don’t know a lot about corn, but I imagine those ears are pretty thirsty by now.

So, we’ve been praying for rain.  A few weeks ago, a woman in town held a garage sale hoping to bring the rain (and it worked, for about ten minutes).  Last night, Zoe and I took matters into our own hands.

You know how some pastors have a “pastor voice” they use for official pastoral acts?  It’s calm and serene, a sort of fancy praying voice.

Well, Zoe has a preschooler voice.  As she led us in a call and response prayer, she was not calm and serene.  She was yelling:


Send the rain!

The grass needs a DRINK!


The TREES need a drink!

Send the rain!


I was startled but delighted.  Have you read the psalms lately?  Some of those prayers are pretty shouty, too.  And God can handle it–whether we come to God laughing or crying, shouting or serene, God always hears us.

Sometimes we shout to God, and sometimes we sing (the psalms are songs, too).  Right after her shouting rain prayer, Zoe did a singing rain prayer.

Notice that she sets the second half to Gaston’s song from Beauty and the Beast.  I could not be prouder:

Best of all, we woke up to thunder and the blessed sound of rain falling.

Actually, Zoe woke up to those sounds.  I woke up to the sound of Zoe’s joyful voice: “Mama!  A storm is starting! God is sending the rain!”

What are you singing or shouting or praying about today?


Filed under Preschool Theology

Known and Unknown

One of the things I like best about Sorta Like a Rock Star, my new favorite YA novel, is that when something truly terrible and senseless happens to narrator / heroine Amber Appleton, the Roman Catholic priest who visits her every day does  not have an easy answer.

In fact, he doesn’t have any answer other than: “I don’t know.”

I like this response for its honesty.  For its acknowledgement that terrible things happen for no good reason.  That even Easter people bear the wounds of suffering and sorrow and death.  And it sucks.

Tonight, an eight-year-old boy named Gage Driver died after a tough fight with brain cancer.  It is devastating, and heartbreaking, and it makes me long for a better answer than “I don’t know.”

So, here is what I know.

I know that for Gage, there is no more suffering and no more pain.  There is the peace and love and perpetual light of Christ shining on him.

And I  know that for Gage’s family, there is a lot of suffering, which I pray will be eased a tiny bit by their trust that Gage’s suffering is done.  Gage shares in the victory over death that we celebrate in this Easter season.

So, if you are a praying sort of person, pray for strength and peace for Gage’s family and friends in the days and weeks and months and years ahead.  And if you are not a praying sort of person, send some good thoughts or vibes or virtual hugs their way.

Because prayer is powerful (good thoughts, too).  Not to get a desired result, but to let the prayed for people know that they are lifted up in love.  Our love and God’s love.

I know it.


Filed under Ministry Matters

Come Near

Ingebruikname Islamitische begraafplaats / Praying Muslims (new Islamic graveyard)

The prayer list went on for pages.

I assumed the pastor would not read all the names out loud.  There are only so many minutes in an hour long worship service, after all.

But in the church I visited last night, the pastor did.  And what’s more, the pastor allowed a space after she read each name, and invited the congregation to pray the name aloud, too.

It sounded a little weird, like some kind of group incantation (like, I suppose, any unfamiliar recitation might sound).

But it also sounded like two hundred people praying–really praying–for the sick and suffering, hurting and hungry, lost and lonely in their midst.  And that is powerful.  Not because God answers the prayers uttered by the most lips, but because those prayers buoy up the people for whom they are offered.

Because when we pray out loud, we say, “come near this person, God.”  Because in our prayer, we come near them, too.

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