A friend posted a provocative image on Facebook.

It is a photo of a billboard.  On the billboard in huge print are these words:  Who stole Jesus?

It’s a question much on my mind these days.  I’m preaching a sermon series called “CSI: Christians in Search of Identity” and we’re asking “Who are you” (okay, now you too have the song from The Who stuck in your head for eternity).  Tomorrow we’ll take to our hearts the question of how we live The Way of Jesus.

I mean, the Jesus of Scripture.  The Jesus who insisted upon preaching good news to the poor, release to the captives, and freedom from oppression for all.  I mean, the Jesus who was intentional about sitting at table with those deemed outside the pale of polite society and taught his disciples that God’s vision for creation is built in just such ways.  I mean, the Jesus who believed we could live with heart and compassion and invited us to find communities of support in order that we might practice a bit.

The “Jesus” who is the front man for a  movement that proclaims hate without engaging in the hard work of love?  The “Jesus” that lends credence to the amassing and hoarding of wealth?  That “Jesus” can be stolen and hopefully never returned to this sorely aching world.

Jesus has not been stolen.  The teachings of Jesus have been domesticated and manipulated  and powdered and saccharined in order to justify piracy and complacency.

Perhaps the billboard ought best ask:  Who stole the Heart, Minds, Imaginations and Passions of the People of Jesus?

It’s not about “them”; those Jesus thieves.  It’s about us.


sweetest of days

There are days that give and give.

Wednesdays in the life of most pastors are near marathons.  We engage just about every facet of ministry that is engage-able.  And while the pouring out is real, the pouring in is profound.

Yesterday, I began my Wednesday as I always do.  At eight, a group of men wise and willing to engage gather around a table and chew on the Word.  We are currently studying the book of Isaiah.  “Study” is a one-dimensional word that isn’t quite accurate.  We are letting Isaiah challenge and bless.  The poetry is exquisite and the summons to just living clear.  The text prompts conversation topics wide-ranging and provocative.  This is good.

Following that, I was able to meet with a top-notch group of leaders.  We’re seeking a comprehensive look at how to tweak ministry.  It is so good to have hearts engaged around a common call.

Cooper and I were fed delicious food and fine conversation at a lunch with parishioners.  Jesus was on to something:  sitting at table together makes for powerful community.

I prepped for an evening class and then was off to meet with three others to craft a long overdue curriculum for the Annual Conference about how it is we have much to learn about the ways of poverty and its eradication.  It’s important and good work, this seeking to move upstream and stop the carnage that is want.

Back at church, students from the Hennepin County school of culinary arts were cooking up dinner (really, it’s the most amazing deal in town).  We sat down to a feast, and then adjourned for a class about Wesley and this thing called “grace”.  Reading Wesley’s own words around the table is powerful reminder that we are grounded in a heart full theology.

And then, full of gratitude for an engaged class and day, I arrived home to all three children in the house!  They were doing what they do:  making dinner, checking email, bouncing off each other and Cooper.  We settled into a movie and I savored the sweet hum of gratitude that sounds in me whenever I am snuggled in with my beloveds.

All in all, it was the sweetest of days.



blowing out the pipes

Last night there were nearly 400 people gathered at church on a Friday night.  We were there to celebrate a spectacularly enhanced pipe organ.

The air was charged with gratitude.  Those who gathered were current church folk, past church folk, and those who feast on the sound of a fine pipe organ.  In the house were those who had put their bodies and hearts to demolishing the old and building the new.  We knew each other to be compatriots in the great work that was going to be brought to our ears and hearts.

We weren’t disappointed.  From the moment organist Dr. James Welch began his concert, we were taken in.  The river of sound washed over us with all the voicings such an instrument can share.

My heart was near to bursting with gratitude.  For a century and a half, a scrappy and grounded crew of the faithful has sounded praise and lament from the corner of 58th and Lyndale.  Children have been raised, missions begun, hearts held and lives dedicated to the practice of living as disciples of Jesus.  We were at it again last night.

Any church is a dance, a partnership between the Holy and the human.  We gather to remember who we are in the midst of the chaos and competing claims of life.

Last night, the “who we are” was so clear.  We are a people committed to the power and possibility of transformation.  We need each other.

And so it was that last night we celebrated the with the sound of the flute and the trumpet what it is to be alive, woven, and generative.

Thanks be thanks be thanks be.



three days

It’s one of those things feared greatly:  a mammogram technician wanting more.

After the first go-round with my mammogram, it was decided that I needed another.  There was something there they needed a closer look at.  They commenced yet another flattening.  And then, they wanted an ultrasound done.

Shuffling from one room to another with heart refusing to engage with “what ifs” (yeah, right) it was determined that I needed a biopsy.

So, a day later I was back on the table for a slice and a snip.

And then the waiting commenced.  I had the procedure done on Wednesday.  I would find out on Friday.

The hours between were long.  While I knew the odds were great and my own sense of things positive, those words I long to keep far from me and mine:  “biopsy”, “cancer”, “abnormal”.  Those words would pop into my consciousness often.  The feeling of vulnerability was exquisite.

After making many phone calls on Friday, I got the news I longed to hear:  no cancer! Things are fine.

My life as I know it is handed back to me.

The mystery that is life and the wonder that is body health is too much for me to comprehend on most days.  On this day, I feel like I want to sit in the lap of the Holy and have a fine cry.

Tonight the organ at our church is being re-dedicated.  I will have a chance to sit in sacred space and open myself to the wonder that is resurrection; ongoing, always, eternal.

For now, on this day, the stone has been rolled away.  Alleluia indeed.


I spent Sunday at services of remembrance.

At church, we named the pain of 9/11, and allowed the space for grieving.  Preparing for that service, I joined the rest of the nation in remembering how the world shifted ten years ago.  The music played on MPR all week and the stories shared by those who were in New York on that day soaked into my soul.  The grief was raw and real.

Later on Sunday I went to an interfaith service of remembrance on the steps of the State Capitol.  Religious leaders in our varied regalia, singers and dancers, Heart of the Beast puppets and political leaders gathered with community members to name the pain and the hope, both.  It was good to be there.  I was not in a leadership position so I was able to be present and fully engaged at an emotional level.

Mondays are my day off.  Cooper and I got up and loaded the bikes on the car and drove to a bike trail that connects Cannon Falls and Red Wing.  We were out in the midst of a changing earth.  Leaves were falling, the air crisp, and the peddling fine.  We rode some twelve miles into Red Wing, shared a great cup of coffee and peddled back to the car.

For the first time since all my children moved back to Minneapolis, we gathered for a meal on Monday night, with the late addition of Cooper’s daughter who flew in from Kansas City.  We savored conversation, laughter and food.  I lost badly at cards.  We were family.

It was gift.  After being open to so much pain and death, the opportunity to move my body in the clarity of the air felt like a powerful affirmation of the gift that is life.  Sharing time with beloveds is the best celebration of living that I know.

There is a poignant awareness of the amazing grace of breath and love.

God help us to live gratitude.  There is so much we do not know.  Moment by moment we are given “alleluias”.  Whether bellowed or whispered, may we sound them through our being.


back to school

Maybe it’s the years of being a student.  Or the years of being a teacher.  Or the years of being a parent.  Or the years of being a pastor.  Whatever it is that conspires to open my pores to new adventures, it is most powerfully present in the fall of the year.

I love this time of year.

At the cabin, the sunlight is a molten gold.  The compunction to gorge on all that is summer loosens, and the time seems precious and sweet, worthy of a still savor.  In the city, it is fun to pass children on their way to school, hands tucked into their parent’s and hearts open to all that awaits in the year to come.  Living as I do with a football maniac, I am regaled by stories of training and games, and our television brings into our home the celebration that is football.

And there is church.  The scurry is on to find Sunday School teachers and the choir commences practicing and as for me and my house, we feature the accordian on Rally Sunday and what could be more festive than that?  It is good for the heart to anticipate reconnecting with kin in Christ.

Today I had my own “back to school” treat.  I gather with a group of amazing colleagues throughout the year.  We gather to share stories and joys and aches and to share in the pleasure of each other’s giftedness.  We have been together, some of us, for some seven years, so the stories of our churches, seminaries, children and lives are known and honored.  Today, after a summer hiatus, we came together. Just laying eyes on such fine folk was juice for my soul.

Somehow, this time of year makes me mindful of the learning I long to do in this classroom called my life.  In each person I encounter, in each moment given, the opportunity to learn about myself, life, and the Holy is offered.

I’m praying I have the sense to take life up on the learning that is offered.  Back to school it is, day by day by day.


moment by moment

It was one of those cherished oasis times in the midst of much.

Cooper and I were sharing coffee this morning.  Around us was the detritus of young adults moving out – Rachel today and Jameson tomorrow.  It was a breathing time.

Until I let the dog in and she was going nuts.  She kept trying to get out of her own skin and she took her misery into the living room where Cooper was sitting.  At first I thought she had gotten into a wildly improbable patch of burrs.  I couldn’t figure it.

And then I realized she was covered in angry hornets.  Twenty or more of them.  Bedeviling her for all they were worth and can I just say this:  Cooper is deathly allergic to hornet stings.

So there we were, this trio of the consumed.  Zoe was consumed by misery, Cooper consumed by the desire to help and the desire to flee, both, and I was consumed by the need to protect my beloveds from the terror of the angry hornets.

I shooed Zoe out into the yard again, figuring it would buy me some time to be sure that Cooper was not stung.  The hornet killing commenced inside but oh, when I looked at my sweet girl she was again covered with even more of the hornets.

I tried swatting them off of her but they turned their anger on me and were not too interested in leaving their fur hostess, so I got out the hose and even then they would not let go so it was a drench and pluck technique adopted by this pajama-wearing mama.

After a trip to the vet and a shot of Benedryl, Zoe is fine, I hope.  I’m to watch for hives.  An exterminator is even now at the house dousing that nest of death with move-out enticements.

But oh, the agony of it all.  Into the midst of the idyllic, misery can swarm in and deal terror.  My beloveds are safe on this morning.  I can laugh at the tableau of a dancing woman in her pajamas wielding a hose on her terrified dog.  I can give thanks for the ways the swarm is vanquished and the back yard made safe again.

But, as poet Jane Kenyon so powerfully states, it might have been otherwise.

We are safe for this moment.  Thanks be.