It’s been a week…

It has been a week since an armed mob forced their way into the United States Capitol building. Watching the event unfold on the news that day, I had all the emotions you might expect. Anger, frustration, and fear were palpable as my family talked that day. I heard many people (both on TV, social media and in private conversation) call for peace. This week, I find myself feeling the weight of questions of faith and faithfulness. I have fewer answers than I…

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All Shall Be Well

During my college career I sang with a variety of choral groups. During my senior year I had the opportunity to sing with a small group of 16 men. I recall one short piece which included the words “…and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.” These hopeful words came from the writings of the 14th century mystic, Julian of Norwich, who evidently was the first woman to write a book in English, a book she rewrote twenty…

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Seeing the Gift

Each year I come to this day, I begin to wonder what the next year will hold. What adventures lie in wait? What relationships will form? How will the coming year be similar or different to the year we have just passed through?But this year feels a little bit different. Certainly, a piece of that difference is the pandemic. If you spend any time on social media, the posts inviting 2020 to end started back in late spring and have only grown in…

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Hope for the New Year

Video - Hope prepares the way for the coming of the Christ child. Hope is the foundation from which our faith grows. Hope stirs our hearts toward shared purpose and the future Kingdom of God promised in the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. When we hope, we share our faith with the world.

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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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Winter Solstice

Then God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years; Genesis 1:14 NAS To Him who made the great lights, for his lovingkindness is everlasting. The sun to rule by day, for his lovingkindness is everlasting. The moon and the stars to rule by night, for his lovingkindness is everlasting. Psalm 136:7-9 NAS This morning at 3:02 AM MST,…

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Advent Hope

We journey through this Advent season with COVID cases being on the rise across the country. With the country and our state setting new case and death numbers almost every day and at an alarming rate. We journey through Advent in the midst of a global pandemic that has hopefully made us realize how interconnected we all are as a people and a planet. We journey through Advent, the season of waiting and watching, waiting for approval of a vaccine, watching how people…

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A Song as We Wait

Can we start by listening to a song? Here is the link to Luther College choirs from 2013 singing the piece I have in mind. It is called “Climb to the Top of the Highest Mountain” written by Carolyn Jennings, based on scripture from Isaiah 40:9.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lRU_JESEHJc&feature=emb_logoThis is my Advent song. I grew up attending St. John’s Lutheran Church downtown in Des Moines, IA, and I always sang in our church choirs from the time I was in early elementary school until I left…

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What Are You Waiting For?

“Wha-at a-are yo-ou WAITING for? Christmas?” It’s a question I used to harangue batters with as a baseball catcher in college--especially when a batter was excessively finicky at which pitch he wanted to swing. The question is probably asked a million times—thrown at the direction of the driver ahead of us who is more intent on the cell phone than on the green traffic light—in wonderment of how much greener the light needs to be before said motorist finally looks up from the…

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Mixed Up

Not too long ago, my wife and I sat down to a surprisingly relaxing evening after a tough week and we decided to try and watch one of those wonderful and ever popular Netflix original holiday movies. As is usual with those films, I found myself cringing at the script and acting ability. I found myself say at about the hour mark, “how long, O Lord?” Of course, we both laughed and then continued the slog for another 37 minutes. It’s fun to…

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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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Thanks to God For My Redeemer

I can remember as a young pastor thumbing through my grandmother Emilie Bee’s old church hymnal while serving a small congregation in Grafton, Illinois. I remember the congregation well because we had to cross the Mississippi into Illinois by way of a barge/ferry. As I perused her hymnal, I came across a piece of music that has become one of my favorite Thanksgiving poems. I like it, first, because it is so simple, and second, because it is so specific. It doesn’t simply…

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Uncertain Times

“Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as you have been doing" 1 Thessalonians 5:11Those were the words from the second reading from Sunday November 15. This letter by Paul is thought to be the earliest writing of the New Testament. Before the Gospels were written, before all the rest of the canon was put together we have these words written to a people who were the first generation of Gentile Christians. And it seems that they are struggling.The Second Coming,…

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Hope Springs Eternal

It was the first time in months that I saw a medical doctor smiling on TV while talking about the corona virus. The news had just broken that Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine may be 90% effective. In a world desperate to bring the deadly outbreak under control, this was "hope in a bottle," as the doctor put it. And then today, just as I was about to write this devotion, another company, Moderna, reported that their vaccine, at 94%, had been tested as even…

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I Wait for the Lord

"I wait for the LORD, my soul waits,and in his word I hope;my soul waits for the LORDmore than those who watch for the morning,more than those who watch for the morning.O Israel, hope in the LORD!For with the LORD there is steadfast love,and with him is great power to redeem.It is he who will redeem Israelfrom all its iniquities" (Psalm 130:5-8).Nehemiah stepped from the last stair up onto the watchtower. Daniel was there, waiting to be relieved. Some evenings Daniel would loiter…

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What Is Christian Freedom?

"So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed" (John 8:36)."But thanks be to God that you, having once been slaves of sin, have become obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which you were entrusted, and that you, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness" (Romans 6:17-18)."Let us therefore no longer pass judgment on one another, but resolve instead never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of another"…

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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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Praying the News

I am a person who does want to watch, listen to and read about the news to stay current on issues and concerns, learn new things, and know about where I am living. But, I have to be careful when and where and how I engage with the news. For one, I have a 9 year old who can get really nervous when some tough stories are shared. But, I can also completely derail and go down a path trying to search for…

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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…

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Expectations

My parents were intentional when they named me “Penelope.” They voiced the expectation that I would live up to the name’s various meanings. Many of you are familiar with the Greek myth about Penelope, the loyal wife of Odysseus. She stayed home for 20 years while he fought in the Trojan War and traveled the world. In his absence, suitors arrived and tried to convince her that Odysseus was dead – and that she should get remarried to one of them. She kept…

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The Waiting

“I will wait for the LORD, who is hiding his face from the house of Jacob, and I will hope in him.” (Isaiah 8:17) Waiting is not something I’m very good at. I admit I’m impatient and it’s hard for me to watch the slow pace of change over the years. Yet that all changed this year, everything changed didn’t it? Almost overnight we went from being these incredible social beings to isolated, stuck at home, and separated - not just by walls,…

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When Hope Seems Fragile

In this long season after Pentecost, also called Ordinary Time, the New Testament lessons have been working their way through the book of Romans. About a month ago (July 19th) the reading was from the first part of chapter 8 ending with verses 24-25 “For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” I was…

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Wilderness

What do you think of when you hear the word wilderness? For most people they probably think of a location or a place that they have been that may seem isolated or away from “civilization.” A place in the middle of a forest, up a mountain, or maybe even in the middle of the desert. In the United States we even have the National Wilderness Preservation System that helps preserve some of these places from our world of land development. But there is…

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Choose Something Like a Star

When I was in high school, I was a member of the Wauwatosa (Wisconsin) East High School Concert Choir. Every weekday at 11:05, we took our music, got into our assigned seats, and readied ourselves to practice for the next hour. Mr. Bilderback, the director, was a task master but he took great pride in the choir. As a second alto, I rarely got to sing any exciting parts.Sometimes we competed in the Wisconsin high school choir competition, but that depended on whether…

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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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The King’s Speech

One of my favorite movies is The King’s Speech. It tells the true story of King George VI (father of the present Queen Elizabeth). He had a stammer and was terrified of making speeches. He worked for many years with the speech therapist Lionel Logue and the movie covers their developing relationship. The movie won several Oscars – Best Picture, Best Director, and Colin Firth won for Best Actor for his portrayal of George VI. The treatment of the King was not well…

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What’s the Story Here?

I miss church. If being a part of a Christian community of faith has been a part of your life before this pandemic, you probably are missing church too. Oh, we have our online worship, Zoom groups and meetings, phone calls, and texting as ways of trying to find some semblance of the togetherness we experienced when we could gather every week. Some of us have even met with a few friends and members every now and then while trying to be safe…

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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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Hope Wins

The world seems chaotic lately. Filled with problems that I have no solutions for. There is a lot of grief being held by our community: for lives lost, for justice denied, for the felt loss of agency and certainty, loss of income and stability, for the loss of physical gathering and fellowship. Yet we do not grieve as those without hope. So I invite you to join me in remembering the story of our hope: Before anything that humanity knows ever came to…

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All About Fences

As the weeks have gone by, many have taken the opportunity to do that long overdue home improvement project or develop a new skill or habit. We took the opportunity to build wire fences around our fruit trees in the back yard so that our sheep could eat more grass and not eat the branches. One unexpected side effect of the process is that it has revealed to us how much we care about our fruit trees! At first, we only fenced off…

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