Two Vials of Ashes

It’s been 19 years since the attacks on the World Trade Center (September 11, 2001) and 40 years since Mount St. Helens erupted (May 18, 1980).  Pictured are two vials of ash—one from each event, along with a missing person flyer given to me by the family of Tonyell McDay, who perished in the explosion of World Trade Tower 1.  My life and career came close to both disasters.  I was preaching at Our Savior’s Lutheran in Sunnyside, WA that day in May 1980…

Continue Reading Two Vials of Ashes

Not Expendable

“They make us sound so expendable,” was a comment made a few months ago by several people in my congregation and in my family/friend circle. What did they mean? These elderly people were repeating the sentiment they have read or heard that they are old and that their potential deaths from COVID-19 are just part of how we, as a global community, will get through the pandemic. This all made me think about my reaction to the 2015 film, The Second Best Exotic…

Continue Reading Not Expendable

Losing Touch

“People were bringing little children to him so that he might touch them…” (Mark 10:13a) For me, one of the greatest losses, since COVID-19 hit and changed our lives, has been the loss of touch. I deeply miss being able to hug friends and even shake hands with strangers. I’m lucky in that I have a spouse that I can and do touch and two cats who provide me lots of opportunities for snuggles and pets. Yet I miss the opportunity for those…

Continue Reading Losing Touch

Grace, Grief and Voices of Hope

We are 5 months into this pandemic and we still don’t seem to know what is happening to us. The evidence is right before our eyes. There is the ominous daily (steady or rising) count of new cases and deaths from COVID-19. Our public health experts have given us a fairly specific set of practices to follow that could lessen the severity of our suffering significantly, but we as a society are divided as to whether to follow them. We are also conflicted…

Continue Reading Grace, Grief and Voices of Hope

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…

Continue Reading The Traveler’s Psalm

REJOICE! (are you serious?!)

This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24March 10, 2020, was the last time I attended an activity in a group of over 15 people. That’s over four months ago, but some days it feels like it’s been years. My life has rearranged itself into cooking, yard work, reading, sewing face masks, and Zoom meetings. Each day seems much like the last. And, as a person in an “at risk” category, I know…

Continue Reading REJOICE! (are you serious?!)

Change

There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:28 CHANGE. This is my 2020 “Star Word.” I received it in early February. Some churches (ELCA and other denominations) around the world have these available each year on the Sunday closest to the Feast of Epiphany - the celebration of Christ’s revelation to the world. The star shape emulates the star…

Continue Reading Change

Rooted With Christ

As we live into each day, and more news stories arise around the COVID pandemic and the social unrest across our nation and the world, I find myself lost in the constant stream of information and struggle, searching for hope, searching for God in the chaos. A loving God to help me take a deep breath, connect to the Spirit and lovingly be a light in our world. I long for community gatherings and people to walk this journey with me and I…

Continue Reading Rooted With Christ

Seeing and Seeding

I’ve gotten a few calls recently where I pick up the phone and hear, “Do you think this is the Apocalypse?” It’s a jarring question that catches me by surprise every time. So let me start by saying, “no.” This is not the end of the world. This is not apocalyptic. At least, not in the pop-culture, Left Behind, sense of the word.Yet the word stuck with me this week. In the Greek, apocalypse means uncovering or revelation. In many ways, the current…

Continue Reading Seeing and Seeding

Freedom Blues

“Freedom’s just another word fornothin’ left to looseNothin’ don’t mean nothin’ if itain’t free, no, noAnd feelin’ good was easy, LordWhen he sang the bluesYou know, feelin’ good was goodenough for meGood enough for me and Bobby McGee!”The lyrics above are from one of the greatest songs written, this is verse three of “Me and Bobby McGee.” If you know it then you most likely know that it was written by Kris Kristofferson. It has been performed by so many artists, the most…

Continue Reading Freedom Blues

Filtering Through

When I wake up, I instinctively start thinking about how much I am looking forward to that first cup of coffee. We use a French press as one of the ways we enjoy our coffee. You pour coarse grounds in, then hot water, stir the grounds, let it sit for about 5 minutes, then press the filter down so the grounds are held near the bottom of the container while you pour the coffee.It’s very tasty until you start hitting the bottom of…

Continue Reading Filtering Through

Brighten Our Way

One of my favorite Psalms is Psalm 139 and particularly verses 11-12:11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,and the light around me become night,”12 even the darkness is not dark to you;the night is as bright as the day,for darkness is as light to you.On this past Sunday late in the evening, I went golfing. Rain showers had been coming frequently throughout the day, but by evening the sky was starting to clear. (Well, that is what I thought when…

Continue Reading Brighten Our Way

The Way Things Can Be – Jesus’ Way!

We see it as one of the leading stories in any report of the news these days. Our country is “opening up” and trying to get back to “the way things were just 3 short months ago.” COVID-19 stopped our country and the world in our tracks and stunned us with a reality that we never dreamed could happen to us. But it did. And now we are trying to find our way to recovery. Some voices among us clamor to get back…

Continue Reading The Way Things Can Be – Jesus’ Way!

From Grief to Fatigue to Spiritual Rest

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:28-29 Early into this pandemic and our sheltering-in-place I started talking to people about their feelings of grief. In March and April perhaps you were feeling sad, irritable or unsettled. A friend told me that she was feeling…

Continue Reading From Grief to Fatigue to Spiritual Rest

Dependable

The human spirit will endure sickness; but a broken spirit—who can bear? Proverbs 18:14 Death and taxes. They say those are the two things we can depend on in life. Of course, they don’t mention the neighbor who borrows your rake and never returns it—again; the low tire light indicator that comes on in your car with the temperature change and you are not near a tire service place or a gas station—again; the goat head weeds that appear after several applications of…

Continue Reading Dependable

Do We Trust in God?

Most churches have stopped in-person services during the COVD-19 pandemic. A few across the country have not. Inevitably, their explanation involves some version of, “We trust God to care for us.” If this sentiment were confined to a couple crackpot congregations, it wouldn’t be worth talking about, but it seems certain that as churches plan to re-open early, they’re going to use this explanation to justify it. Along with this justification comes an implied criticism: churches that don’t open early must not trust…

Continue Reading Do We Trust in God?

Two “F” Words, One Lord

I grew up learning how faith and fear could be understood as opposing forces in the Bible and in our lives of discipleship. This lesson always turned to the story of Jesus and Peter walking on water in Matthew 14:22-33, Peter begins to sink when he becomes afraid. This prompts Jesus to ask why Peter had such little faith and why he doubted. I am one who has been inspired by this approach and who has wondered out loud in sermons, bible studies,…

Continue Reading Two “F” Words, One Lord

Keep the Faith

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. 1 Peter 1:3This verse is from the second reading scheduled for this week you would have heard in church. The full reading scheduled is 1 Peter 1:3-9 (NRSV). The reading continues:...and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who are being…

Continue Reading Keep the Faith

Is Virtual Worship “Real”?

In this time of COVID-19 physical isolation, most churches are meeting virtually instead of physically, an appropriate and necessary step to protect our communities from harm. An inevitable question has accompanied this move: are virtual worship meetings “real” in the same way physical ones are?It’s time to put that to rest. They are. Or at least, they’d better be! Here are a couple of important reasons why.Saying that virtual meetings are not as valid as in-person meetings presumes that there’s a single, universal…

Continue Reading Is Virtual Worship “Real”?

Living Joy in the Face of Suffering

So (Mary Magdalene and the other Mary) left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Matthew 28:8I am writing this on Easter Monday. We are now on the “joyous” side of Lent/Easter 2020 as we celebrate the life-changing Good News of Jesus’ Resurrection. We proclaim this event offers all who believe it life forever in God’s community of love.Yet, as I listen to news reports and read the reflections of persons who are trying to make…

Continue Reading Living Joy in the Face of Suffering