The Path Behind and Ahead

"Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.” (Isaiah 43:1b-3a)Sunday was Faith Lutheran Church’s annual meeting. We held it…

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All Creatures Great and Small
Mini Lop Rabbit Breed

All Creatures Great and Small

Did you grow up learning children’s songs at church? One of the earliest hymns I learned was “All Things Bright and Beautiful,” whose words were written by Mrs. Cecil Alexander around 1848 in a collection of hymns for children. The tune I learned is often paired with the words she wrote, a melody coming from a century earlier than that. You can find it in our blue “With One Voice” hymnal #767, and the final verse is “God gave us eyes to see…

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Promising Innovation: Reimagining Church Together

This article was written about TVPrays.org and posted on the FAITH+LEAD website of Luther Seminary. It can be found on FAITH+LEAD on October 29, 2000 where you may also read more about the authors: Terri Elton and Tessa Pinkstaff.  Following this article are some personal notes written by some of our readers. You are invited to share your own thoughts and encouragements in the comments below. Promising innovation is collaborative with shared leadership. Reimagining Church Together Friday, March 13, 2020, marked the start…

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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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Epiphany Blessings

Since the pandemic I have officiated at three baptisms. These baptisms didn't look like any other ones that I’ve presided over before. They weren't held during a regular Sunday morning service. Instead, they were smaller gatherings with mostly just family members present. Two of them were held outside in the Immanuel courtyard and one inside the sanctuary. All of them were with masks and social distancing. What I missed about them, was having the congregation present to be able to offer their promise…

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“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” (God with Us!)

O come, O come, O Lord of might, as to your tribes on Sinai’s height in ancient times you gave the law in cloud, and majesty, and awe. Rejoice, Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to you, O Israel. You may recognize this verse as one from the Advent hymn, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” a hymn that is beloved by many of us. The words of the hymn come from the “O Antiphons” that have been sung in the church since at least the…

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Unexpected Blessings

Have you ever been traveling and found that you did not have the money you needed to get where you needed to go? When I was in seminary years ago, I had the good fortune to travel abroad for a cross-cultural class. Pastor Jerry Schmalenberger had been teaching at the seminary in Hong Kong and led a class for us there during the month of January. Part of our experiences included meeting several Lutheran missionaries who were assigned to Hong Kong and facilitated…

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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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Love Your Neighbors

Jesus said, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” John 8:31 “…the justice/righteousness of God through the faith of Jesus Christ for all who believe. Romans 3:22 This devotion is being written ten days before the US election and is intended to be posted the day before the election, November 2. However, because it will serve as a backup, it is possible that it could be…

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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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Holiday Havoc in Pandemic Times

My heart is a bit heavy these days in anticipation of the next few months and all the holidays that will also likely be disrupted by the continued COVID-19 pandemic. We simply have missed so many events and traditions already, from graduations to summer vacations to back-to-school activities. It is a lot to take in, process, and move beyond. In the coming weeks, my family will engage in conversations about the holiday traditions we love most. My crew is likely to roll their…

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A Place for Everything

There are so many things I love about this time of year – the weather, the trees, the crisp days and scarves. I just love it all. One of the things I have been embracing this fall is my deep-rooted desire to organize. This organizing, structured side to myself is always around, but I don’t think I usually let it step up as much as it has lately. I am sure one big reason for this is that I realize it is a…

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Pandemic’s Lesson

https://youtu.be/xmIHqbO6_Ig Matthew 20 21, 22 Well, this week in Lutheran churches, Jesus gets into politics again. Seems like Jesus was always breaking that social rule about avoiding religion and politics in polite company. Of course, the company was anything but polite in the gospel story we will hear on Sunday— or rather, it was polite to the point of saccharine, as the religious and politic leaders of the day try to trip Jesus up with a tough question: Is it lawful to pay…

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Evergreen Stories

We are now well into fall, and as the name of this season rightly describes, the leaves have begun falling from the trees. I always get a wistful feeling at this time of year. The hopefulness of spring when green buds emerged and grew, has now given way to colorful displays of yellow, orange, and red, which will soon die and fall to the ground leaving bare branches behind. Winter is on the horizon and with it will come colder, darker days. Yet…

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“Do the Right Thing, And…”

Jesus (speaking to the chief priests and elders of the people) said, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you.” Matthew 21:31 There’s this one little (unspoken, but certainly implied) message in this story of Jesus’ encounter with the chief priests and elders of the people during his last days before his crucifixion that teachers and preachers commenting on this story often don't tell you: the chief priests and elders get into…

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Time for Change

“Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.” ~Anne Lamott Tweet I confess to Almighty God, and to you, my brothers and sisters…that I am addicted to being plugged in. What? You may ask. Isn’t this the lady who goes off to a hermitage twice a year and wanders around in silence watching grasshoppers? You are right, ‘tis I. But let me tell you what I am fleeing FROM when I go to the hermitage.Picture it:…

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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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Rituals

On September 1, I will be eagerly awaiting the arrival of the Amazon Prime delivery truck because in it will be my copy of Louise Penney’s next book, “All the Devils are Here.” This is, I believe, the 16th book in Penney’s series of mysteries that focus on Armand Gamache, the Inspector General of the Quebec provincial police. Over the course of these books, Inspector Gamache has become an ever more interesting and nuanced character, always striving to do the right thing but…

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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…

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Surprises

I vividly remember the party for my 40th birthday. That was over 20 years ago but that night is very clear in my mind. My husband Glenn and I went out for a lovely dinner; and returned home to a house full of people. Glenn had arranged a surprise party; I had no idea people were coming over. Our house was filled with friends eager to share in my special milestone. The best surprise of all – my brother and sister in law…

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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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Small Gestures

Summer is here and, as some have suggested, we are in for a summer like no other in the lifetimes of most of us living today. We have a continuing pandemic due to the corona virus that does not seem to be subsiding in the number of cases and deaths. We also have continuing protests and demonstrations in the streets and public places for justice and better lives particularly for black and brown people (but ultimately for all races and peoples) and they…

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Echo of the Divine

“Deep within the heart of everyone there is an eternal echo of the Divine.” (Out of the Ordinary: Awareness of God in the Everyday) Peter Verity Not long ago I had the chance to be alone in a deep basalt lined canyon in the southern Idaho desert. I remember being there as a child and wondering how resonant it was when I shouted my name. During this trip, I was alone and therefore somewhat uninhibited, so I shouted my name, and was struck…

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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…

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Tales from the Treehouse

“But now ask the beasts to teach you,And the birds of the air to tell you;Or the reptiles on earth to instruct you,And the fish of the sea to inform you.Which of all these does not knowThat the hand of God has done this?In this hand is the soul of every living thing,And the life of all humankind.”Job 12:7-10I live in a treehouse. No, really, I do! It’s actually a third-floor apartment with a balcony overlooking a nice courtyard, but with a beautiful…

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An Act of Hope

We lived in Connecticut and our apartment complex was surrounded by oak and maple trees. The red and orange colors of the leaves were spectacular in the fall. Our home in Maryland had oak, sycamore, and maple trees. We also had an apple tree with pretty white blossoms in the spring. My favorite bushes in our yard in Maryland were the lilac bushes. Their fragrance in the spring filled the yard and surrounding area. I loved to cut bunches of lilacs and bring…

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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…

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By Our Love

"For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love." (1 Cor. 13:12-13). One could make a pretty good argument right now that hope is the greatest, but I know that love has been the strongest guidepost and will remain so for me…

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Time for Questions

Acts 4:32-37: 32 Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common. 33With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. 34There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. 35They…

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