bell tones

The bell tone of wisdom cut through my muddle the other day.

I have been trained to see things.  I began my paycheck life as a life guard, moved to serving near every kind of food ever imagined in near every kind of establishment imagined, became a mother of three, and then entered parish ministry.  I approach each Sunday with a kind of life guard’s vigilance:  I want to be sure that things are calm and safe and well tended.

So I see things like people interactions and set-up seemliness.  When things are amiss, I want to see that they are not amiss.

We have half an hour between services.  That half hour is spent shaking hands and greeting people and getting reset for another service in another space and it is often a chaotic time.

I noticed in my trekking that the coffee urn was empty (again!) and that while there was a full one in the kitchen, no one had made the switch.  So I did (again!).  I carried the empty to the kitchen and hefted the full and steamed into positioning it on its stand in the narthex and a fine soul standing near the coffee said this:

“You didn’t have to do that!  All you had to do was tap someone on the shoulder and ask for help, and we would happily help.”

Her words were like a ringing bell.  Gosh, a person could ask for help!

Rather than trying to do it all, a person could ask for help and indeed that is what life and gospel life at that is all about:  being willing to know limitations and the great good of leaning into the power of community.

Tonight is Maundy Thursday.  We’ll gather for worship to hear the telling of how it is Jesus knelt at the feet of his beloveds and tended them and how it is we are called to do likewise.

Some say that Jesus came to know this power of tending through the ways he felt the good of his own feet being annointed by Mary.

And so it is.  We feed, we tend, we bless.  And sometimes we are reminded that mutual tending is the dance of our faith. Asking for help is sign of knowledge of our limits and trust in our community.

It’s the Way.


We need to stop trying to fix up people so that the system works better, and start fixing up the system so that people work better.      Thelma Goodrich

I’m writing a sermon for Palm Sunday.  It’s the time when we remember that Jesus rode into the gates of power on a borrowed donkey.  Consistent with his teachings, his choice of mount had much to say about his notions of power.  Power: Holy power and communal power and individual power.  Power is meant to be mustered by people of faith;  not to “get along” in a world where more are in want, but to recreate with God’s help a world in which people work better.

Our systems are broken.  This is clear.  What is also clear is that we are wont to finger point in order to busy ourselves with righteous indignation.  In so doing we vent our anxieties and change nothing.  The systems remain broken.  Our world remains bound.

And the parade continues.  The parade that begins in cheering hope and ends in a slink away to muttering because really, it is easy to cheer but oh so hard to live these teachings brought to us by the donkey rider.

How do we change the system?  We remember who we are.  We are the followers of the one who named each as holy.  We are the followers of the one who maintained that we have heart and courage enough to create God’s vision for wholeness here on this God-blessed earth.  We are the followers who know our penchant for quick fixes and the thrill of other-condemnation and we pray about that.  We are the followers who choose to follow by opening ourselves to the message and to hope and to the power of living our values in community and the thrill of inviting the world to the table of grace because there is enough for all in the God vision taught us by the Christ.  Enough grace, and enough food, and enough compassion:  enough.

Sometimes the broken barbs of the system lodge themselves in our hearts.  We lose hope that there can ever be another way.

But then we take in a parade featuring a man on a donkey and we remember that while it is can-get-you-killed work, it is our work, this healing of systems that crucify too many.

Too many.

making ready

One of the gifts of ministry is that I get to experience the same worship service many times.

I get to experience it as the scripture text leads me in the crafting of a service that will move it into hearts.  I get to experience it as I work with our communications person to create visuals that will move the message.  I get to experience it as I write sermons and then, I get to experience it in community as we worship together.

So, that being the case, I can tell you that Good Friday and Easter worship (my colleague is writing Maundy Thursday) has already run through my being and I am glad for their touch on my soul.  Utter devastation followed by blasting new life is a rhythm as old as our souls.  Lived through the being of Jesus it is beat-of-heart intimate and real, this proclamation of messy and tenacious love.

There is much to make ready for Holy Week.  My house is coated in the fur of cat and dog, my table cloths needful of ironing (but, my mom is coming and I will put that precise woman to goodly works!), and the list of things to do at church to make ready is endless.

But worship?  It is amazing, trust me.  Or don’t trust me.  Come and feel for yourselves!



Tonight was amazing.

Unfolded in our sanctuary were sounds never before heard in that space.  The College of St. Scholastica in Duluth was in need of a concert venue.  Because the chair of the music department is soul kin from a past pastorate, she called to ask if Richfield would host their music department’s spring tour.

Host we did.  In the house were moms and dads and sisters and brothers and grandparents and church members.  Sharing music with us were vocal ensembles, a steel drum band, a hand drum ensemble and a drum line.

Amazing.  The director of the percussion ensembles made a comment about not being all too sure that a church sanctuary was the place for such reverberations.  It surely is.

The psalmists spoke often of how it is we are blessed to praise God with harp and timbrel and cymbal and praise God we did through the blessing of music spooled out by amazing young things.

I figure the echoes of this night will live in our sanctuary always.

Praise God, indeed.


If we want to have all our bases covered before we act, nothing exciting will happen. But if we dare to take a few crazy risks because God asks us to do so, many doors, which we didn’t even know existed, will be opened for us. Henri Nouwen

Crazy feels beguiling.  Maybe because it is spring, maybe because there is this sense around us that the budget woes of our nation are so big and the necessary communal heart to solve them so wanting.  Maybe it is because there has been a dash of crazy in my being always.

Crazy feels beguiling because being immobilized by a conviction that unless we have all things perfectly aligned we cannot act; that conviction is dead making.

I went to an international conference yesterday.  Through the wonders of video feed, I sat with a group of leaders of the UMC and together we wrestled with what it is that will create a sense of holy movement among us.  Like all other mainline denominations, we are stuck.  We are stuck in our wonderings about how it is a wildly good news movement of healing and hope has been stuck too long in buildings and protocols.  We were asked weigh in on what we believe will open the doors.

My hope is that we’ll get a little crazy.  My hope is that we will know the goodness of what we seek to share and get crazy in our willingness to share it in ways that will connect and my hope is that we’ll loose ourselves through the joy of living something alive.

I’m part of a church that is stirring with crazy.  We’re trying new things.  There are Vietnamese language classes going on every week, there are Al-Anon meetings and varieties of worship and honest connecting and pancake feastings and carnivals and what we are seeking to do is share the good news of a place dedicated to giving itself away.

Crazy is good.  God asks it of us.  I want more.



soul weave

I am preparing for a women’s retreat.

Thirty-one of us from church are spending a weekend apart from the things that claim and name us.

This year, we are learning from a yoga teacher the ways we might imagine and live integration of our beings.  This is no ordinary teacher.  Deborah is a friend of many years, and watching her unfold into the teacher she is has been constant reminder to me that we each are called and we get to choose to answer.  Deborah did.  She is now running a thriving studio, writing books, and crafting life in such a way that others come to soak in her presence.

We get to soak in presence.  The presence of each woman on the retreat is unique and remarkable.  It is no small gifting, this time apart.  We are presented with the chance to claim and name our own beings.

As I am readying myself for this year and the thirty-one who will make community for a weekend, I am reminded of the yearly groups who have gone before.  I have led retreats some twelve times or so.  Each time I am wondered; how is it God creates such complex and stunning beauty?  How is it we are allowed the chance to grow and learn and laugh together?

I’m aware that each woman who has gone on retreat through the years is with me yet.  I think of them as I pack and ready.  I remember and give thanks and pray that this weekend will bring rest and stretch for this year’s batch of beauty.

We walk in community always.  The chance to be apart to remember strengthens our being.  Each woman, unique and beautiful and seeking and open is woven forever into the story that is life.

Amazing grace, that.