God’s Best Work

One of my heroes—both in writing and for her spiritual wisdom— is a woman by the name of Pat Schneider. Recently I wrote a profile about Pat for the online magazine Literary Mama. During this past week of Lent we were looking at what it means to be in community with people on the margins. Pat Schneider knew something about being on the margins. She grew up desperately poor and spent part of her childhood in an orphanage. If it weren’t for a few…

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Our Personal Community of Saints

This week we heard the story of Jesus’ transfiguration, that moment on the mountain in which Peter, James, and John witness Jesus conferring with Elijah and Moses. I like to think of Moses and Elijah offering words of encouragement, words of hope and resilience to prepare Jesus for all that lies ahead. And I like to think of Jesus drawing strength from their counsel and wisdom, from the experience of those who had gone before him. As a memoirist, and as someone who…

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Called to Community

Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. In our Lenten services and readings we are going to be hearing about community—how we are called not only to be in communion with God, but to live in community with each other and with all of creation.When I was in graduate school I took a course on political theory. I remember studying two opposing schools of thought. One, called communitarianism, held that the well-being of a community should be a higher priority than the…

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A Star Word Worthy of 2021

Did you happen to get a star word this year on Epiphany? This is the second year I’ve had a star word. My word for 2020 was “pray” which made a lot of sense, even before the pandemic and other cataclysmic events of last year unfolded. Although we couldn’t pass out star words in church this year, Immanuel Lutheran made them available in a basket outside the church office. I picked up mine a week or so after Epiphany, wearing my mask and…

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Part of the Family

Recently my husband and I bought a new bed. This was unplanned because we were quite happy with our old bed—a full size—which we had had since early in our marriage, almost 30 years. The reason for our new bed purchase is our small Schnauzer mix, a dog we adopted from a rescue organization in southern Idaho. Fauzie (pronounced Fozzy) was found wandering on a farm road in Burley. His coat was so long it covered his eyes, and he had developed vision…

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Burnishing Christmas

I have cherished memories of Christmas from my childhood. I remember the anticipation I felt when the Advent wreath was added to the church chancel, how I watched intently each week as another candle was lit. I especially looked forward to the lighting of the pink candle, the joy candle, which meant Christmas was almost upon us. My parents were of German heritage, so it was our custom to open presents on Christmas Eve, following a candlelight worship service at our country church…

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The Gift of Encouragement

The first Sunday in Advent is associated with hope. The Bible readings focus on the prophesies of Jesus’ birth, on the coming of the Messiah, which were great sources of hope for the people of Israel for centuries as they waited and watched for God’s coming. But I’m not going to write about hope on this first Sunday of Advent. I’m going to write about its close relative, encouragement.Hope has gotten a lot of air time during the pandemic and for good reason.…

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Now What?

In the past week my heart and my prayers have been all over the map. I've experienced gratitude and wonder, fear and anxiety, relief. But never true peace. Peace eludes me. I have spoken to friends and acquaintances who tell me the same thing. That peace feels out of reach. Our contentious election is over, but in its wake comes the unspoken question, "Now what?" How do we begin to come together as a nation? How do we work together to stop the spread…

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God Bless You With Foolishness

Last weekend I attended (virtually) the consecration of Deaconess Sara Manning, youth director and member of Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church. It has been a privilege to get to know and serve with Sara on the board of Luther Heights Bible Camp for several years. As I listened to Sara take her deaconess vows and sang along to hymns with more than 70 people watching the service on Zoom from around the world, I felt uplifted by the ceremony and renewed. Watching…

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“Put on hope each day like you put on your shoes”

Recently I listened to a virtual talk by the author Barbara Kingsolver. Afterwards, she took questions from the audience and someone asked how she maintained hope during this time. She paused, and then with just the tiniest bit of sternness in her gentle voice, she said, "Well, hope is a duty." She went on to say that if we love our children, if we love the generation that will come after us, we must have hope. To not have hope, she said, is like…

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Create in Me a Clean Heart, O God

Last summer I spent a month with the Benedictine Sisters of St. Gertrude's Monastery in Cottonwood, Idaho. The nuns had granted me an artist residency: a whole month to work on a manuscript I was writing and read and engage in what they called "holy leisure."  It was one of the greatest blessings I've ever had to live with these faithful women. I joined them twice each day for morning and evening prayer, during which the nuns sang the psalms. They would sing…

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God’s Care in the Ordinary

Things that seem ordinary or small but on further reflection are signs of God's care. after Gretchen Legler Three miniscule hummingbirds, iridescent green, alighting on the purple butterfly bush in my backyard. They have traveled thousands of miles to give me this moment of awe.The tiny fur ball puppy my friend adopted just before her father died of COVID. It prances about her yard, totters on hind legs to stand twelve-inches high, and falls asleep across her neck. A reminder grief cannot extinguish…

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The Traveler’s Psalm

Recently my dear friend's father died of COVID 19. Noble Dean was a member of Faith Lutheran Church in Caldwell, and a man whose life embodied, it seemed to me, Christ's promise of joy. It's hard to imagine a man who had a greater zest for life and for sharing it with everyone he met. You can read Noble's obituary here. As Noble was dying, his family gathered around him. His oldest grandson, an accomplished bass, led the family in some of Noble's favorite…

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A Cure for Heaviness

I feel heavy. My husband feels heavy, too. Not physically heavy, though there is some of that, but emotionally heavy. It feels a little like wearing one of those lead aprons they make you put on before you get your teeth x-rayed. I think I know where it comes from. A consequence of feeling anxious and fearful is that we become so focused on ourselves, we lose the ability to look beyond our own circumstances and see how we might help others. We—I—lose…

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What if prayer is most important when we feel the most doubt?

Is anyone else finding it hard to pray these days? I am finding it hard - not because the need isn't great or because my heart isn't willing; it's because I hardly know where to begin. On any given day, I have half a dozen urgent things I want to lay at God's feet. By dinner time it's up to a full dozen. And yet I find myself putting it off. Prayer that is. I’m worried God will want to know where I've…

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