What a kick.  We went to the state fair today.

The first thing encountered was this:  we got the senior citizen price for admission.  We didn’t ask for it.  It just happened.  This is a bit terrifying to me.  Cooper maintains it was the company I was keeping, but really, a senior citizen???!!!!

The second thing was something I had never seen before.  Tucked into one of the areas at the fair are some twenty microphones on poles.  All of the microphones face a big screen and on that big screen lyrics to songs scroll karaoke style.  People were – really, it is true – singing in public!  With gusto!  We bellowed a few with the rest.  Watching people of all ages approach a microphone and settle in for a good sing made my heart crazy happy.

The people watching was wonderful.  Folks were happy to be out and making that oh-so difficult decision about what sort of food stuff on a stick they were going to eat next.  As for me and mine, there were no stick edibles ingested.  We suffered not.

We hovered at the MPR booth and watched Amy Klobuchar be interviewed.  It was good to be in a place where people lofted cheers about liberal-leaning sensibilities.  We stopped by a booth where one of Rachel’s friends works on Franken’s staff.  He was deep in conversation with a constituent and would not break professional-style contact with him, no matter how we misbehaved in the background.  Our Adam is all grown up now.

We saw lambs hours old and piglets the same and babies in strollers and art and quilts and Minnesota loving the stroll that is life in this state.

And this “senior citizen” walked long and gratefully, delighted to have the chance to be alive and in it on this day.


who’s on first?

It is a morning of intentional deep breathing for me and for this living thing called my home.

In the next week two people are moving out and two people are moving in.

Rachel is vacating the nest she has lived in for two years.  She has been a most delightful roomie, breezing through the days with updates on life and adventures.  While working AmeriCorps, the third floor of our home was a cheap place to live (the coffee pot is always on, not a bad side benefit).  Now that she has a grown-up girl job in her field (pinch me!  It’s so fine!) she is moving into an apartment with friends.  It’s time and it is right and I will miss her.  Luckily she will be only five blocks away.  This I like.

Son Jameson is moving out.  He landed here six weeks ago after a near-year adventure in New Orleans working AmeriCorps.  At 21, his sense of play and need for friend gaggle is great, so having a house of his own is a near desperate desire.  He got the word yesterday that his rental dream house is his, so he will move this week.  He will be a mile or so away, able to come and go and congregate and music make as he pleases.  This is good.

With Rachel’s move in the offing, we decided to rent out the third floor, so on the 31st we will move into uncharted while familiar territory:  sharing our space, but this time, with a renter.  She will have access to the kitchen and will need to enter and leave through common space.  She is a nice young woman.  I think this will work.

And, frosting on the cake and almost unbelievable to my heart, my eldest daughter is moving back to her people.  Leah has been in Denver making life and learning much and having done her time, she is coming home to a great new job and a rejoicing fan club.  It hasn’t really sunk in yet.  I don’t have to steel myself for inevitable good-byes.  I get to see her and hear her and be with her and love her crazy from a much kinder distance.  She will live here for a time until she finds her own abode. Our house will be filled with her beauty and the fruits of her tiny bread-kneading hands.  She returns bringing with her Chela, a pit bull mix.  I’m trying to send peaceful energies to my creaky black lab and to the energetic and not-well-dog-socialized Chela.  May peace reign in their hearts!

So, a Saturday morning spent alone in this house soon to be stirred into changed and new life is a precious gift.

repulsive good

“I thank your ladyship for the information concerning the Methodist Preachers. Their doctrines are most repulsive, and strongly tinctured with impertinence and disrespect towards their superiors, in perpetually endeavoring to level all ranks, and do away with all distinctions. It is monstrous to be told that you have a heart as sinful as the common wretches that crawl on the earth. This is highly offensive and insulting, and I cannot but wonder that your ladyship should relish any sentiment so much at variance with high rank and good breeding.”

From a letter by the Duchess of Buckingham to the Countess of Huntingdon. Lady Huntingdon was a supporter of the Wesleyans.

So much has not changed.

I love the snippet of disdain shared above.  It is the response of a woman not too keen on being challenged to live the gospel.  To be lumped into the whole of humanity rather than cosseted by class was offensive and insulting to the dear soul.  She would have none of it.

How different is the response encountered today?

I natter on often through sermons and other writings about the significant challenge it is to live in the ways of Jesus.  Situated as I am in a middle to upper class congregation in the midst of a groaning mission field, a goodly portion of work goes into trying to peel back the walls of the church and our hearts to see the realities lived by our neighbors;  to see those realities, and to know them as our own.

There is push-back.  It’s human and natural to want to distance ourselves from pain, particularly when apprehending that pain means we take it into our bodies as our own.

Living the gospel means we are called to question all things that enslave and keep bound the hopes and bodies of our community.  It means practicing “impertinence” and “disrespect toward superiors” in order to explore how it is systems of government and culture countenance the gouging of the poor.

There are mutterings about the political nature of ministry and sermonic messages but I ask you, how can followers of Jesus “go along” with impertinence in check when the gulf between the rich and the poor widens and the aches of the displaced are so often silenced by derision and class cocoon?

I am blessed to be pastor in a congregation that “allows” such impertinence and challenge.  It isn’t always welcome, and it isn’t always appreciated.  But we know that what binds us is stronger and more powerful than the so-many forces that seek to silence the call to wholeness for all of God’s people.

On this day, I am grateful for a community that sanctions the speaking of the repulsive and saving message of the Christ.

past blast

One of the child scroungers who live in this house found a relic from my past.

It is a tape from a band their dad and I were in for four years.  The band was called “Northwind”.  We were a five piece band playing all the hot spots in Stevens Point, Wisconsin in the mid ’80’s.

Oh my.  I hear the tape and I’m transported to another place and time nearly 30 years ago.

That band was a flat-out hoot.  We were good.  We loved to have fun.  We played as a house band at the Holiday Inn in town, which meant that we played six nights a week until 2:00 AM, got up and went to work, and did it again the next night.  We played weddings and New Years Eves and company parties and in bars and making music with good people was good good work.

Watching my son experience this tape is great fun.  He’s trying to be appreciative between guffaws.

What it does for me is remarkable.  I’m torn between laughing, wincing, and weeping.  So much has happened in the between years.  Babies were born, cities moved to, degrees earned, and so much life lived.

But I think that if I were able to be on stage with those men again, I’d know every song, every harmony, and love every minute of making that music again.

But I’m not sure playing the trumpet was the grooviest best idea…


It is said that in some cultures the best compliment given a chef is a healthy burp after a luscious meal.

These days, I am stuffed full of the meal that is life and it is burping season.

My birthday was yesterday.  I began it with my beloved crafting strawberry pancakes. There were no other creatures stirring in my house (of the two legged variety, anyway) so we were able to begin the day quietly and sweetly.  The ground of a fine love is a very fine thing upon which to build happiness.  This I know.

I spent the morning doing my Wednesday things:  calling my mom, sharing bible study with my men’s bible study group, doing the sorts of things that an impending worship bulletin asks of me, and savoring the great good of the best staff in Christendom.

Lunch was shared with a dear friend with whom my heart has spoken honest and true for many years.  And then, my 21 year old son and I scooted around town on the pink scooter of happiness and found ourselves with our feet in the water at the end of the dock on Lake Calhoun.  Time with him is precious.  It was great gift.

The day was brought to a close with a great feast with kin.  Interspersed throughout were birthday wishes ala Facebook and cards and I went to bed stuffed with happiness.

Today was equally fine.  I gathered with an interfaith group seeking to mobilize people of faith to defeat the upcoming marriage amendment that seeks to squelch the rights of same-gender-loving persons to join in marriage.  I met at table with a wild and passionate children’s ministry team.  Earlier in the day I prayed and strategized with a fine crew of United Methodists who are seeking to build new faith communities.

Really, how does a person burp gratitude for so much?



flinch and grow

Here’s a quote I came across whilst sermon crafting:

“The chief fantasy most of us served as we left our parents was that we would be decent, moral beings, that we would not hurt others, least of all our children.  Who would have thought that just by being who we were, we would hurt our children, our mate, and ourselves?”  (Creating a Life, James Hollis)

Hollis maintains that our work in the second half of our life is to turn and face the places that we don’t want to trot out publicly:  our shadows.  Those places we most fervently and cleverly seek to hide are where our salvation lies.  They have much to teach us, if we would allow their wisdom.  There is soul gold amidst the oh-so-human muck of our being.

If, that is, we allow ourselves the compassion to know ourselves.

Imagine.  People get hurt and they hurt each other.  It’s the cost of being human, this hurting.  No matter how pristine our intentions or how tightly we seek to present only the lovely, our humanity does what it does – it messes in the emotional humanity of others.

Somehow, this seems to be surprising.  A bump in relationship happens and we are outraged or astounded or furious or hurt hurt hurt and we take up our stance of habit which can be tears or silence or ice or shouting or artful shunning or… you get my meaning.  There seems to be a sense inside of us that surely if people around us truly loved us, hurt would be no more and surely people would know the fine gold of our intentions and would never be hurt by our being.

Crazy making, that.

We hurt people.  They hurt us.  We can spend sleepless nights fretting about our woundings of our beloveds (why is it always at 3:00 AM that the recrimination gremlins frolic?).  We can drag the sack of our naughties behind us and know that it will grow to epic proportions.

Or, we could experiment with forgiving ourselves for the human ways we bumble about. We can explore ourselves with a sense of curiosity and oh, with a sense of tenderness.

And, we can turn to our beloveds and learn from them and with them.  Being in love and being a beloved of others provides us with the best teaching staff we could ask for.

Jesus had much to say about this thing called being human.  Love, forgiveness, grace and courage make for messy blessing as we explore ourselves through the tutelage of others.

Sometimes we give thanks for the flinch and the grow of life.



holy chaos

Our church is alive with the sound of children.

It’s Vacation Bible School this week.  Every night we are gathered for dinner followed by fun and learning for toddlers on up.  There are familiar faces; people who have long called Richfield their home.

And, there are new faces.  Folks who are brave enough to enter the building for the first time, allow themselves to grab sloppy Joes and sit at a table and meet new people while children are grooving on the party scene.

Tonight, one of our children approached me and told me very important news:  today is her dad’s birthday.  Could we sing Happy Birthday to him?  Of course we did.

Think on it.  This young heart loves her dad fiercely and believes that such a love is shared best in a room full of people whom she knew well would want to share in the joy of his being.

It is beautiful, this coming together of new and old, young and not-so-young.

Outside the doors of the church the stock market is tanking, political leaders are dodging and starvation and want are all too real.

By holding VBS, we are living beyond despair; we are living into the vision of Jesus.  We are gathering at table with people who become kin.  We are tending the future in our children.  We are sharing a vision for living in community based upon sharing what we have because we can and because our God calls us to bless.  We are raising up disciples of Jesus the Christ in order that our children might know grounding in care for creation.

Maybe they can help us to remember.



I have read much about it and I live it through my work, but no second-hand living can articulate what my being is grappling with in these days:  finitude.

I have a birthday this month.  I will be 54.  That number in itself is not all that noteworthy, but the awareness of limits on a body heretofore game for anything is sobering.  Sleeping on the ground in the BWCA was more remarkable to me in the morning than it has been in the past; remarkable meaning painful!  I carried canoes and toted packs and savored living in my body and in the savoring I was aware of creakiness new to me.  I will bear no more babies.  My laugh lines will bear ever more powerful witness.  And gravity…well, real it is.

There is a flailing around within me of late.  What is it I am called to do with the sweet miracle of the years I have?  I am in the life-cycle breath between launching children and welcoming grandchildren.  I am in the sweet place of gained confidence and earned life lessons.  I am seeking to listen listen listen for what it is the Holy calls to me to explore.  So far, the only answer I am given is “what is”; I am called to be present to what is.

My tendency is to launch myself into much.  I have dashed down roads to school and career and child-bearing and rearing of same and I have inhaled life and its fullness with great gusto.

I find myself in the familiar mode of scanning the universe for the “what next” of life.  I have written for catalogues for Doctoral programs (compatible with my pastoral schedule – I’m not leaving ministry!).  I am reading professional publications seeking the next fascination or adventure.  I am seeking seeking seeking.

But.  But perhaps this roily itchy time is the time to digest and savor the much of what has been.  Perhaps this is the time in my life when I will “afford” the Yoga classes I have longed for and the friendships I have tended shallowly.  Perhaps, after eight years in a church that has demanded constant juggling to lead I can take deeper breaths and trust that the Spirit breathes and frolics with greater freedom with and through a congregation pastored by a less harried woman.

I will admit to a bit of anxiety.

It takes greater spiritual discipline for me to “be” than to do.  It has always been so.

Perhaps this is the season for being present to the now; the precious irreplaceable now.

Perhaps, if you find yourself facing finitude and its provocations, you might join me in being present to what is.

No work for cowards, that.  I will welcome your company.

It is deep soul-mulchy work for this soul at this time: aware of time, honoring time, savoring time, loving time, trying-not-to-clutch-at-time, time.



call and response

Having no sermon to write tomorrow, I spent Saturday morning on a city stroll.

The Uptown Art Fair is going on a mile or so from my home.  It was pure pleasure to hop on the pink scooter of happiness, zip down to the happening, park at a bike rack and wander the streets.

The most fascinating art on display was of the human variety.  Folks were dressed in their beat-the-heat best.  Hand in hand, in groups or alone, the beauty hunters were fine to behold.

Also fine to behold were the various artists in their booths of soul work.  I’m not sure how they have the courage to sit and watch people pick over their offerings.  The appreciation shown would be wondrous.  But how to summon the strength to watch people walk on by without stopping to soak in the gift of your offering?

I found myself thinking about artists of many stripes;  preachers and worship leaders, for example.   Every time we pray over, craft, and offer the art of worship and preaching, we are vulnerable to the reactions of the community.  It’s hard not to take it personally.

But there is in us each a longing for soul expression.  So we muster the courage to nurture it and share it.  We bring that expression to our parenting, our loving, our writing, our painting, our lives.

We cannot believe that sharing such expression will not be met with at least one soul who recognizes our song.

On a hot Saturday in Minneapolis, the air was ringing with the power of call and response.