Well, the last “amen” has sounded and I’m off for a week in the sun.

I love packing.  It is intriguing to see what are the essentials of my life.  The first and most essential travel good is Cooper.  That one I have covered.  Next on the choosing roster is books.  Anticipating the perfect reads for unstructured time is a romp.  I almost always pillage a book store while away, since books bought in exotic places seem even more delicious.  But, leaving home without companion reads is unthinkable.  Next in importance are what it is I will wear that will free and bless.  Given that I am expecting to live with the maximum amount of sun on my skin, the clothes aspect is easy:  not much.

Get-to-know yourself gurus talk a lot about what it is we pack in the bag that is our life.  Vacations bring that whole issue to the front line.  As for me, what I pack for vacation is magnification of what I am blessed to live in my life.

I live in the company of people who remind me who I am.  I live in the company of ideas and poetry given voice by others.  I live in the company of my own being and I adorn it as I choose.  That’s life.

I live.  For the next week or so, I will live in the blow of the wind and the warm of the sun.  I want for every pore to be open.  Not just on vacation, but through every day I am blessed to live.



Today’s Financial Peace lesson was entitled “Buyer Beware”.

Some of the powerful and not so surprising tidbits are these:

  • For each hour of TV watched, consumers spend $200 extra a year.
  • In 1971, breathing humans were exposed to an average of 560 ads per day.  In 2011, that number has jumped to an average of 3 – 4,000 ads per day.
  • We live in the most marketed-to culture in history.

Intuitively we know this.  We’re researched and profiled walking dollar signs for people who want us to buy our happiness their way.

As I listened, I had to laugh at myself.  After years of hearing my kids rave about their Apple computers and years of listening to the lovely sound of the Apple keyboard rattling ever-so-cooly under their fingers, I opted for an Apple MacBook Pro when my old lap top crashed.  And let me tell you, I would rave to anyone about the “Apple Experience”.  From the moment of walking in the door, the service is excellent, the vibe welcoming to even un-cool crones, and the sense of being a part of a distinct culture seductive and pleasing as heck.

I love it.  And, I’ve been skillfully manipulated to love it.

On of the other great bits I heard today was that lurking within us each is that screaming fit-throwing toddler we see regularly at grocery stores.  You know, the one who wants what he or she wants and fit throwing and want asserting commences until the embarrassed or frustrated parent gives in or throws that kid under their armpit and leaves the store.

We want what we want, don’t we?  And we can spin the most outlandishly indulgent and unwise purchase with great creativity; unless we summon the parent in us that knows well that getting everything we want will make us broken.

The list of things my inner toddler wants is so long and lovely.  So what I’m doing was begun by my daughter when she was here last.  She put a list on the ‘fridge (the high holy altar of home).  I add to it the list of things I figure I can’t (or really, the issue is I feel I shouldn’t have to) live without.

Something about doing that has helped me slow the purchase lust.  I look at the items on that list and they lose their power to make me “act out”.  Dining room set?  Lovely.  But crucial?  Nope.  It’s been fun, actually, to savor the making of decision and plan.

And since I am cool enough to have an Apple, I can be patient.



Recently I went to a church gathering that was not my own.  Meaning, it was put together by others and I was largely an unknown.  I had a role to play later in the evening, but for the first part, I was a woman walking into a church function alone.

It was hard.

I was hungry for faces to greet me, words of welcome to be shared, invitation to the meal to be offered.  I was swimming in a sea of culture and people who I did not know and I wanted in the worst way to turn around and run, not walk, out of the door.

Every church member should have to endure this wrack.  Every Sunday there are people coming into the building for the first time and they are not sure of the culture or climate or what is expected of them and if they are not greeted and warmed into the midst of community, no wonder they don’t come back

I wouldn’t.

Welcome the stranger, Jesus teaches.  Welcome welcome welcome welcome because you don’t know what they carry in their hearts and the courage it took to walk through the doors and the beauty they have to share and the ways they will shut down but good if they feel invisible.  Welcome the stranger because you too once knew what it was to be a wanderer; lost, untethered, hopeful and longing for connection.

It is in our faith DNA, this knowing of the pain of being stranger in the midst of community.

So too is the mandate to welcome (have I mentioned this yet?).

I didn’t run out of the room.  I stayed.  But I didn’t eat, because I wasn’t invited.

How many people are hungering and thirsting for the meal that is grace and they come through our doors and leave without being invited to feast?

No wonder they don’t come back.  I wouldn’t.


As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God.  My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. Psalm 42

Last night a group of us met at church.  We gathered around to savor the gift of the Beatitudes; the group of teachings found in Matthew 5: 1- 12.  They are a part of that great set of teachings known as the Sermon on the Mount.

Last night’s portion had to do with hungering and thirsting for righteousness with the assurance that such hunger will result in being filled.

Like so many words in our faith tradition, “righteousness” has become a hitch word.  So often we automatically include the word “self” in front of that righteousness word, and the result is a flee-from-it sense that we want none of it.  Self righteous people make for soul curl.  We’ve felt their scathe, and want nothing to do with righteousness.

But the unpacking of the word leads us to claim a longing that is real.  Righteousness has to do with knowing our hunger and thirst for Holy communion.  To be in righteous relationship with the Holy is to know our need for God and our thirst for God steep and we want that right relationship embedded in the word we resist.  To be righteous is to know our utter need for and dependence upon the Holy.

And, to be righteous is to know our longing for soul fill.  We find it in different ways:  The loves we embrace, the beauty we soak in, the savor of words and sound that hum our beings, the sweet sound of silence through which our God may breathe grace.

We are like deer that skittishly leave the wrap of the woods.  Thirsty we are, and tired of lurking in the shadows we are, and the sun is sparkling on the water of grace and so venture out we do.

Because our souls thirst for the living God.

We’re tired of being thirsty.


how to know

Wow, there are lots of headlines and lots of spin these days.

It seems as though the peeling back of veneer in Wisconsin has touched us all.  It has been a wake up call of sorts, calling us each to consider what it means to vote, to thrive, to be.

Never have I seen the number of Facebook posts dealing with the union scrap.  Commentators from around the nation are weighing in on the happenings in Madison and in many of the states in our nation.

We’re broken.  Somewhere along the way, we got lulled into the sense that we could happily borrow our way into middle class life.  For many, the wake-up call has been piercing:  foreclosed homes, college educations tenuous, jobs for entering youngins not forthcoming, and no clear sense of how long this readjustment time will last.

And who and what will be standing when we are on the other side?

For years we have believed that we didn’t have to really pay attention to what was going on around us.  We handed over power to those only too happy to take it up.  We mortgaged our future to banks and corporations only too happy to accept our allegiance.

And now?  Now we are coming to understand that money and power vested in faceless entities eventuates in abetting what faceless entities do:  they protect their power and their ability to wield it.

The facts are clear.  The divide between the wealthy and the poor is growing by alarming rates.  Is it government’s job to correct that?  If not the government of the people by the people, then whom?

In my fantasy world, followers of Jesus would “use the power that God gives us to resist evil, injustice and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves” (from our UM vows of membership) in order that we might right the growing fractures in our nation.

So how are we called to respond?

Lobbing opinions and playing pile-on serves us not at all.

What we are called to consider is this:  what will we do with the one wild and precious thing that is our life, our liberty, our happiness?  What will we do to insure that in this land of plenty our teachers and public servants are allowed to join voice?  What will we do to stand our convictions in such a way that they participate in building up rather than ripping apart?

Who are we in these days?  And how are we called to be?


Our church mission statement says that “We Seek to see the Christ in All”.

Sometimes the seeing is easy.

It seems like Jesus is all over the place these days.  From the cupcakes that are left on pastor’s desks (amazingly beautiful and ALMOST too pretty to eat) to the many conversations speaking heart, I am walking in wonder.

People are beautiful.

There seems to be an attitude in the air these days; an attitude of “why not?”.  Our sanctuary is being loved into new life.  Because we are in the midst of bringing a new organ voice to lead us in worship, we are ripping up carpet, putting down hard wood floors, soliciting favorite scripture verses and having the children and youth write them on the concrete to ground us (fear not, it will be covered with the new carpet put in this week) through the decades to come.  We will have a general cleaning party this Saturday when we all can get our hands on the place we call home and shine it up for its new life.

We have hauled pulpits from here to there on Sunday mornings.  We have adapted and made friends with chaos and we have embraced the unfolding of what will be.

Laughter rolls often within our church and the Spirit seems to be a loosened and sparkling presence.

It is one of those days in my heart where I wonder how it is I get to do this work.  We are many, heaven knows.  We are many of opinion and temperament and person.  And, we are one. One in the vision and power and presence of the Christ.

The issue for me throughout this redressing of our worship space adventure has been relationships.  Are we better for this adventure?  Have we learned things that further ground us in Christ?  Have we practiced forgiveness and grace and trust and discipleship?

I’m thinking we have had plenty of opportunity to practice.  That’s what life is for.  And I’m thinking we are better for it.

Every study you can ever imagine speaks of the clear good of being a part of a community of faith.  There are vexations by the boat load, God knows.  And, there are Jesus sightings that are shared and savored and marked and held and when one of us needs to remember what it is to feel hope in the Holy, Jesus in the form of a community member sits down and shares grace and we remember who we are.

It isn’t hard going to see the Christ in all.

It makes for holy sight-seeing.



My beloveds are out trying to find the reassuring clunk of metal under piles of snow.  Rachel needs to get to work.  Her car is in the midst of a snow mound somewhere.  This we believe.

We got socked with yet another snow slam.  The week before had been warm and the hope of spring was real.  As true Minnesotans, though, we knew better than to believe that the days of down coats were behind us.  We were right.

On Sunday next I am escaping.  Cooper and I will be in Florida for a week.  We’re assessing the book stock that needs to travel with us and imagining the way it will feel to smell air that has that lovely essence of growing things.  I am so ready.  About this time of year my skin longs for sun and my soul clamors for unbundled being.

But where else could I live but here?  The snow makes for great reminder of humility.  The clean cut of the air and the sense of gumption it takes to go about appointed tasks are great reminders that we live in the midst of a creation far beyond our manipulation and control.

I can be philosophical about all of this because awaiting me at the end of the week are warmth and sun.  I know it’s a privilege that years ago, in the thick of baby raising and life making, I only dreamed about.

Now, in my doddering older age, I get to frolic for a time.  So digging out cars, navigating snow dumps and summoning the energy it takes to meet the winter are temporary hurdles.  This too shall pass.

Do you suppose it’s too much to ask that it be melted by the time I get home?

hard work

Today I preached about living as Christians.

Not a new concept, but a challenging one.  It is relatively easy to wear the name of Jesus when things are going well.  When we have money in the bank and when the world is going along nicely, thank you very much, it is less challenging to live the teachings we say we believe.

But when life gets bumpy:  when political muck is thrown and anxiety is ratcheted in Madison and the Middle East, living the ethical teachings we are given by our faith is hard work.

And it is even more crucial in such times that we remember who we are.  The text this morning was from the book of Leviticus.  The teachings shared in chapter 19 are moral guidelines given us by a God who believes we have the power and heart to live in such a way that we love our neighbors as ourselves.

How will we live?  Will we enter into the disparaging-of-others fray, happily roiling up the indignation of ourselves and others, or will we remember that all createds are kin?  What does it feel like to walk in the shoes of the other?  How do we make a difference when the challenges facing our country, our communities, our families and our hearts are so vast?

We choose life.  Life in the way of Jesus is about building up, not gleefully tearing down.  Life in the way of Jesus is standing up and speaking against oppression and injustice; speaking our truth while never forgetting that the ways we speak and the ways we encounter those different from ourselves matters.

I’m troubled.  There is rage not too far beneath the surface of our lives.  It is precisely in such times that we ought challenge ourselves to not only pay lip service to the gospel.  It is time to try to live it, with God’s help.

It’s hard work.  God believes we can do it.


Fear not:  I am not going to blog about baseball, really.

I was thinking about baseball because we have had a guest in the house who played baseball in college and a bit in the minors.  In the course of our conversation he was laughing about his “baseball” ways of organizing life.  They include doing things in the same way every time in order to insure great performance.  Magical thinking and the power of ritual continue to ground his behavior.  He had pre game rituals and activities that were comfort to him as he courted success.  Years after leaving the field, he employs them yet.

We’re all the same way, aren’t we?  I was laughing to myself about that as I was setting myself up to write Sunday’s sermon.  I have my own baseball ways.  I love to collect my materials:  Bibles, commentaries, bulletin, pencils and my lap top.  I park myself in my thinking spot on the couch and savor the gift of reading and thinking and imagining what the text might have to say about living in these days.  I can write sermons in other places and other ways, but my sense of being held by my rituals makes me less anxious about whether the sermonic muse will deign to visit.

And I pray.  Crafting sermons is humbling, terrifying, and so very important.  I am never without awareness that the Word is so very alive and so desirous of heart dance.  I welcome the encounter as I seek to bring scripture to voice.  I am never done learning, that is for sure.  Weekly sermon crafting keeps me grounded and sniffing the air always for the showings of the Holy.

Not a bad lot, that.  So as I settle in to write, I give thanks for the chance to pander to my baseball ways.  The couch is strewn with books, the Word awaits, and I have time to be present.

I think I did everything right…


At a meeting today those present were asked to draw a card and respond to it.

My card had this question:  What blessing do you want to be a part of sharing?

My answer?  Welcome.  I want to be a part of a movement that shares the blessing of welcome.

My answer was prompted by two recent blessings I experienced.  One was the Freedom to Marry rally at the State Capitol.  There were hundreds of God’s children of faith gathered to speak about and respond to a vision of welcome to full participation in all facets of life, including the welcome to name sacred and covenanted relationships “marriage”.  The rainbow of beauty and heart in that rotunda lights my heart yet.

Last Sunday at church we held a luncheon for new and prospective members.  Gathered in the room were people ranging in age from their teens to their eighties.  There were same-gender-loving couples making life together seeking faith home to grow in and raise their babies in.

We ate and talked and shared and at the end, we stood in a circle, hands clasped, and I asked them to share what it is they are seeking as they throw in their lot with Richfield UMC.

Their answers move me yet.  They are seeking community, Jesus, and the people of Jesus who will move beyond the walls of the church and into the heart of the community with welcome.

Jesus invites all who are weary and heavy burdened to hitch themselves to the Holy and to Christian community in such a way that broken hearts mend and lives are transformed.

It turns out that our new members believe that through our church, they have found partners to help them plow the fields of their lives.  They welcome the yoke and the opportunity to experience and share the vision of Jesus.

Sometimes the gifting of parish ministry is profoundly humbling.  To welcome into our fold others willing to name their hunger and hope is amazing grace.

It is sacred trust, this building of the Body.

All are welcome.