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

Leave a comment

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

1 Comment

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.

1 Comment

Filed under Ministry Matters

Happy, Happy, Happy Me!

I admit it.

I didn’t want to crawl out of bed at 6 AM on my day off, tiptoe around my house to avoid waking my sleeping husband and child, and drive to a 7:20 AM prayer gathering at a nearby high school.  (Pro Tip: When reading my blog, it’s always a good idea to have your tiny violin ready.)

Now, let me be clear: it’s not that I didn’t want to pray, or that I didn’t want to pray with that group of people, or even quite that I didn’t want to get up early in the morning to do it.  It was just . . . my day off.  My big chance to sleep in and lounge around in my PJs with my family (assuming the youngest member of the family feels like sleeping in, too).  Have you got your tiny violin tuned up?

Of course, I said that I would do it, so I set my alarm, stayed up too late baking macaroons for the church fancy cookie sale (macaroons are fancy, right? they are made of coconut!), and woke up at 4:30 to a toddler demanding to sleep in my bed.  So: not the most restful night.

After sending Zoe back to her own bed at 5:15 (where she slept till 8, bless and curse her), I got up at 6 and astounded myself by leaving the house at 7 as planned.  (Pro tip: Leaving the house without a small child in tow really speeds up the process.)

I got in the car, and heard the last thirty seconds of “Happy We”.  This made me very . . . happy, of course!  I love that song, and hadn’t heard it in ages.

And then, I drove the ten minutes to the high school, with this in my rear view mirror:

Photo by me, feeling like a dork in the high school parking lot.

And then, I got to read the Bible and pray with a bunch of teachers and staff.  I am a pastor, so I really like doing that.  It was lovely.

I capped off the morning with an 8 AM grocery shopping spree (stocking stuffers make it a “spree”, I think) and haircuts for me and Zoe.  (At our favorite Litchfield salon, not at home.  Cutting hair is not one of my spiritual gifts.)

And guess what?  I can have this same experience every month!  I mean, not the haircuts, and probably not the music, and not necessarily the sunrise.  But the part where I get up early, pray with people, and do my weekly shopping?  All that can be mine, for the price of an hour’s sleep.  I believe that is what they call a steal of a deal.

I have a fuller-than-usual Sunday today–church, youth group bowling, confirmation class, an evening meeting–but I refuse to dread it or even whine about it, because I have been reminded that there are blessings in even the simplest, early morningest, most whine-inducing activities.

May you find blessing and joy in all you do today!  Or, you know, at least in one thing.  That is enough, and even a lot, some days.


Filed under Ministry Matters, Thankful Hearts

Traverse These Posted Obstacles

Remember when Zoe and Grandma and I went to Amaze N Farmyard?  They have a whole barn full of inflatables, and one of them had this helpful, hilarious warning sign that also struck me as poignant:

Today my sister and I are heading to Chicago to be with our parents.  Tomorrow my dad will have major surgery to try and remove the kidney cancer from his body (it’s in his left kidney, liver, veins, and vena cava–that sounds like an awful lot of places, doesn’t it?).  It has been hard being far away while my dad was dealing with the diagnosis and my mom was spending twelve-hour days in the hospital with him.  But it’s only going to be harder when we enter that unstable bouncey surface ourselves.

I don’t really know what it will be like.  The obstacles aren’t posted like they are for the unstable bouncy surface of an inflatable, but we will traverse them anyway.  And we will do it knowing that God’s love and your prayers and good thoughts surround us every step of the way.

Please pray it up or think really good, anti-cancer thoughts for my dad John, especially on Wednesday.  Here’s a favorite photo to inspire you:

The man himself.


Filed under All in the Family

A Simple Gift

Yesterday we celebrated Zoe’s second baptismal birthday!  Since I had churchy plans in the evening, we had a breakfast celebration this year, which of course meant: donuts.  Because as we all know, when Jesus made the disciples breakfast on the beach after his resurrection, that is what he served.

Jesus would go for the powdered sugar donut holes, no question.

We lit Zoe’s baptismal candle, and then we got out Dan Erlander’s wonderful little book Let the Children Come, and used the “brief form” of baptism remembrance in the home.  Here’s how you do it:

Light the candle.  (In fact, the “honored one” lights the candle.  Next year, Zoe.)

Say to the honored one, “Zoe, on this day in 2009 you were washed in the waters of baptism.  Because of this event you never need to doubt that you are a  beautiful and precious child of God.”

Pray this prayer: “God of mercy, we give you thanks for the promise you made to Zoe on this day.  Renew in Zoe the gift of the Holy Spirit that she will trust in you and you alone through all of life.  We pray in Jesus’ name.  Amen.”

Pray the family table prayer.  Tell stories about the honored one and the baptism day.

And then, the part I didn’t notice until I was reading it yesterday morning: “A simple gift may be given.”  Can you believe I missed a gift-giving opportunity?  It is a little shocking.

But I’m pretty sure Zoe didn’t miss a thing.  She had two kinds of donuts (“orange donuts” and “donut balls”).  She had milk and drink (what some people might call “water”).  She had prayers and stories for her and about her.  She had the dancing flame of her baptismal candle, which we all blew out together with much pomp and circumstance.  And she had the joy of shouting, “Yeah, I’m baptized!”

I think Martin Luther would be proud.  And he would have enjoyed the donuts, too.

1 Comment

Filed under Your Moment of Zoe