Alt for Norge – Galdhøpiggen

The next morning we woke up and went to a delicious breakfast buffet. We were told to wear our boots, snow pants, long underwear, fleece, hats, jackets – we guessed we were definitely going to be doing something in the snow.  Marshell had noticed a yellow helicopter in a field near the hotel and so we wondered if the helicopter had something to do with the shoot. Finally, they divided us into three groups and told us to go down to the field to wait. The helicopter was no longer there but very soon we saw it flying overhead and it came to land in the field. Beth, Guy, Kyle, and I were in the first group that would be going up in the helicopter.

We took off and soon were flying over the mountains – I’ve never seen anything quite so beautiful – white snowy peaks everywhere. The cameraman focused on Beth and Guy – they are definitely external processors and had a lot to say as we went zooming over the mountains. I said nothing – just soaked it all in. As we soared along, finally we saw some patches of color below and we could tell that was where the film crew was set up. We came to a landing and exited the helicopter. The helicopter then left to go and pick up the next groups of the cast. Beth, Guy, Kyle and I blinked at the sunlight and the snow and greeted the crew who were up there waiting for us. There was a tent set up where we could go in and get a little warm so we did that.

Finally, the whole group was there and then they took some shots of all of us by the helicopter and the helicopter taking off. They wanted it to look like the helicopter had just left us there in the middle of nowhere and we had to hike to figure out where to go – so we hiked up a tiny hill and there were twelve backpacks up there. They filmed us looking at the contents of the backpacks and putting on skis. I hadn’t been on skis for about twenty years.  I could hardly stand upright on them but I wasn’t the only one.  For a couple hours they filmed us skiing back and forth on the mountainside and they filmed us from every angle. It was cold but not too bad because we were moving around and laughing a lot.

Next, we filmed the part where we “meet” Henriette and she shows us the ice cave. The day started to get long now because there was a ton of waiting and being interviewed individually. It was very cool when we got to go in the room where they had displayed pictures with information about our families. My picture was of the Stavanger Cathedral and it said that my great grandfather, Julius Hetland, was baptized there. He is buried just up the road from where I grew up and it was so moving to see this connection with where he came from. I started crying – I couldn’t help thinking about how much it would have meant to both my mom and dad if they could have seen this.

Then, it was time for more waiting and more bits of filming. I remember at one point I had gone down to the tent to warm up for a minute but apparently the producers wanted us up in the ice cave and so Thor said to me, “Ruth, you have to go warm up in the ice cave now.” Of course, I dutifully went right away but as I was walking up the hill I thought about how that was kind of a messed up thing – to be “warming up” in a freaking ice cave.  🙂

It was getting to be 8 or 9 pm and we were still filming. Next we were to head over toward some tents that were set up about a quarter mile away. We laughed and joked on the way over there that they would never really make us sleep in these tents. It was cold and windy and we had been outside all day, I was shaking and starting to feel pretty bad.  I didn’t say anything – I just kept thinking it was all going to be done soon. Up until this time our accommodations and treatment had been so cushy.  We honestly never dreamed we would actually have to sleep in the tents – we thought they would just film us by the tents, eating the reindeer stew, and then take us somewhere warm.  But NOOOOO!

We found out we would be staying in the tents. There were little stoves in the tents that had to be filled with wood all night to keep the fire going – but the stove really emitted very little heat. We all had good sleeping bags but it was a very long night. I couldn’t get warm. The wind kept picking up more and more. I doubted we would experience many nights like this while on Alt for Norge – because I had seen all the other seasons and it wasn’t usually like this!  Maybe they were doing something different for season 5 – a sort of Survivor edition of Alt for Norge?  Time would tell. But for now, I was cold to my very core and praying for morning to come quickly.Alt_for_Norge__ses_5637978a


Alt for Norge – Roisheim

The next day we got up and were loaded onto a bus with the crew to head somewhere, of course no one would tell the cast anything about where we were going, they only told us what to bring with us. As we were riding along, I started to get excited because we were headed toward the area where my mother’s side of the family came from in Norway. I knew from watching the show that most weeks someone on the cast had something revealed to them about their family. I was a little teary-eyed at the thought of getting to see the farm where my great grandmother grew up. My own mother never got to see it and she always had wanted to do so. My mom died in 2011 and we always talked about making a trip to Norway together. My mom was the person I was closest to in the whole world and her loss is the greatest sadness of my life. As we rode along, I looked at the map and the gorgeous scenery and I felt so lucky that I was in the homeland of our ancestors.

Along the way we stopped in Lillehammer for lunch. It was a gorgeous day, but cool.  By late afternoon we made it to our destination for that day – Roisheim, a beautiful hotel out in the mountains not far from Lom.

I was going to be sharing a room with Candice that evening so we got our stuff moved into our accommodations. Roisheim has quaint cabins all over its’ property and hiking trails as well. Before supper, many of us went on hikes and explored the beautiful setting.  Part way up one trail we came upon a tiny chapel in the woods.  Guy took my picture by it – that was nice.


We had an excellent supper and wine. Before bed we were told what to bring with us and wear the next day. We wouldn’t be staying at Roisheim again and we knew that all day the next day we would be filming part of the first episode.  Where would we go? What adventures were in store? I was nervous but happy to finally be exploring beautiful Norway in such a strange and wonderful way.


Alt for Norge – Smile for the Camera

I meant to write many detailed posts about the time with Alt for Norge but I got derailed along the way. Now nearly two years have passed since I found out I would be going to Norway to be on the show.  Let’s see how much I can remember about the press photo day.

We woke up and had breakfast and dressed in the clothes that they asked us to wear. They asked me to wear a tan sweater and colorful scarf I had worn for my interview in Chicago and they said they would provide a pastor robe and stole for me to wear for some of our photographs.  It was obvious that they wanted each of us to look a certain way for the publicity photos.  When we got to TV Norge, we each went to makeup and hair and that was fun.  Brita brought over a pastor robe and stole they had found – and the color of the stole was even liturgically correct for the church season we were in!  Church-geek bonus!  🙂

For a long time we took turns posing for pictures – alone, in pairs, and in groups.  It was very nice. Then, we went over to the Folk Museum where more pictures were taken. They also took the film footage for the opening of the show.  I couldn’t wait to see how it would all turn out. When we weren’t posing or being interviewed, we were talking with each other or eating the delicious refreshments they set out for us in one of the buildings.The wind was starting to pick up and it was a little chilly and then it got really very cold. Finally, we went back to the hotel and had another great meal.

Already by this time I remember thinking how much I genuinely liked everyone in the group.  There was a wide variety of personalities but a real camaraderie was developing and I was so glad to get to know each of those people in the cast and all the people on the crew and the producers.  It felt so nice to be a part of something so cool and FUN!  I love my life as a pastor and wife and mom, but I hadn’t done something so carefree in a very long time.  I loved being told what to wear and when to show up and when to go to bed! I loved having food placed in front of me and not having to cook it. Each day was exciting and good…and there was much more to come.826x550alt for norge photo shoot

First Lutheran Church – Audubon, MN

First Lutheran Church in Audubon was established in the 1870’s. It’s a beautiful building and its’ tall steeple can be seen from far off as you approach the tiny hamlet of Audubon (population 519). For many decades, First Lutheran and my church, Saint Peter’s, shared a pastor but they dissolved that partnership in the 70’s.  Even so, we are partners in Christ and the boys and I enjoyed spending Wednesday evening with them as I preached at their Lenten service and their pastor, the Reverend Dean Grier, preached at Saint Peter’s.  Here are a few pictures of First Lutheran Church in Audubon. The Norwegian on their altar reads, “I am the Good Shepherd.”

Forgiveness Is…

“The term “forgive” is literally “release.” To forgive is not to say that what has transpired does not matter. Rather, it is to say that the wrongs that have occurred no longer define the relationship. Forgiveness or “release” means that there can be a different future, which is not defined by the past.” – Craig Koester

As a Hen Gathers Her Chicks – Second Sunday of Lent – Year C

This week I received a unique invitation through facebook.  Some of you don’t use facebook or computers – but those of you who do probably know that facebook is a fun way to share pictures and updates with friends instantly.  Anyway, I received the invitation through my friend, Tami, whose friend Rosey is having her fortieth birthday soon.  She said that as her birthday approached she was going to attempt to do one kind deed for another person every day for the next forty days and she invited all her friends to join her.  She called it 40 days of nice.  What Rosey didn’t expect was that her friends would pass on the idea to their friends and then those friends would pass it on to their friends and now there are over 1000 people in this facebook group who are intentionally every day looking for ways to extend a special kindness to someone else each day.  And oftentimes, members of the group will take a moment to write a post on the page for others to see what they did that day.  From shoveling their neighbors driveways to buying coffee for strangers, from Nebraska to Minnesota to the UK, a tiny groundswell of Nice began.

At first when I received the invitation I didn’t think I’d join.  I don’t know Rosey personally and although it was a fine idea, I figured I had enough going on.  But as I thought about it, the idea captivated me.  I liked the idea of being part of a movement of people not just doing good things when the opportunity happened to come our way, but taking it a step farther and looking for those opportunities.  There’s good energy in it.  And in a world full of brokenhearted people, a little nice, a little good energy goes a very long way.   A kind word, a thoughtful deed can provide shelter in the storm of life for others in ways that are magnified far beyond the action itself.  You know what I mean.  A cup of coffee and an hour of time shared with that friend whose husband just left is more than some caffeine and 60 minutes of the day.  It is a lifeline, a glimpse of hope, a safe place where strength is gathered to go on.  That mother with an infant whose driveway you just shoveled after the big snowfall – for her that probably didn’t just save her a few minutes, it very well could have helped save her mood for the entire day.  No, the more I thought about it, I realized that 40 days of Nice was sounding better and better.

And as I read our Scriptures for this week, it was the words about God being our shelter and comfort that spoke deeply to my heart.  The image from our Gospel of God desiring to gather to gather all God’s children as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and the verse from the psalm where the psalmist sings that “even if my father and mother abandon me, the Lord will take me in.”  In the old testament reading, the Lord appears to Abram in a vision.  Abram, afraid of never having a child, and the Lord lifts Abram’s eyes to the stars and gives him the news that God isn’t done yet.  Do you think there are a lot of stars in the sky?  Well, Abram, that’s how many descendants you will have.  God is not done yet.  What feels like a barren place, Abram, it’s more fruitful than you can even imagine. 

In a world of brokenhearted people, the news that God is not nearly done yet, the news that our God is able to comfort you and you and you even and especially when things seem the worst, the news that for the orphan, the widow, the lonely, the lost, the sick, the frustrated, of every age there is a shelter under God’s wings, a home you have right in God’s own heart – well, that is good news.  That is some very good news.

And it is a great comfort.  And a promise.  But I don’t think it stops there – unless this were a funeral sermon – and then it would be fine if we ended with God’s action and God’s blessing and God’s promise and comfort.  But this is no funeral.  No, it’s morning worship on a typical Sunday.  Today is today – or as Frederick Buechner liked to talk about it – today is the only day there is.  Yesterday is gone, tomorrow is but a hope, all we have for sure is today.  When we think about these 24 hours in that light it gives them a hint of urgency – and that’s good – because then perhaps we will take to heart the truth that we get to share, each of us, in imparting God’s shelter, God’s comfort, and God’s good news to one another.  What begins and ends with God, includes us somewhere in the middle.  God has made it so.  God has made us necessary in being shelter, in being comfort, in being hope to one another. Our words about God’s love are important but they begin to sound quite hollow to others and feel even more hollow to us if our hands and feet aren’t out in God’s world living that love.

This place, these pews, this pulpit, that altar rail – all of it is just a starting place, a launching pad sending us into the week ahead.  It’s a place to get our heads on straight, get our vision focused in the right place and then go on out, down the driveway and back into our lives to be God’s people there.  Speaking God’s peace there.  Sharing bits of kindness and moments of grace there.  Bringing things like hope and mercy  and justice along with us into stores and gyms and workplaces and hospitals and nursing homes and the pot o’ gold and school and wherever our paths lead us in the days to come.  We don’t leave this gospel of Jesus Christ here – no we put it in our pockets, place it in our purses, carry it in our hearts out there.  Everywhere.

And of course, it’s more than just being nice – but isn’t kindness a good place to start?  We may not know how to share all that the Gospel of Jesus Christ means to us with friend or stranger – but we remember Jesus did say something about loving each other – so yeah, let’s start there – and then see where it takes us.  A journey of a thousand miles begins with that first step – and so we take it in faith – trusting God guides us the rest of the way.

Sometimes I get so disheartened, brothers and sisters.  Sometimes my heart gets so heavy it feels hard to carry it.  I take note of all the bad things happening in the world, or good people getting sick or suffering.  I start to feel small and so powerless to share a good word in the midst of it.  And about right then the devil starts to whisper in my ear the statistics – the hard and cold numbers to prove his point – the Lutheran church is shrinking, the Christian church has slipped quite far from the center of family and community life it once was. And then if I’m not careful I’ll slip easily into a few too many nights when my brain is too full to sleep, a few too many times I’ll give in to the temptation to wallow in worry.

And I’d be terrified to tell you that sometimes I feel that way except that I think each of you might understand in your own way.  Life can get awfully big, far too unwieldy.

But every time my mind brings me to that place, it is never me that gets me out of it.  Left to my own devices I’d stay stuck in my head, or stuck in my worry.  No, it’s always been a word or action from someone else that jars me loose and sets me on the right track again.    Most of the time they haven’t meant to do it, in fact, most of the time they probably have no idea how their kind word or thoughtful action set me back on my feet, but they did.  God working right through them.  Angels with skin on, each one.

God gives us the power to be that for each other.  The devil uses subtle things to distract us from that power – making us too busy or too distracted or too whatever to really see each other most of the time – but if we pay attention, if we have our eyes open and our listening ears on – there is a world of healing and goodness we can bring.

Catharine Brandt tells a story in a poem she wrote about in the months after her husband died how she experienced profound loneliness.   One particularly difficult morning she called a friend and they talked for quite some time about old times, their children and grandchildren.  She said she began to feel lighter and better as they talked, like she had taken some medicine that was slowly working its way into her system and bringing healing.

Finally Catherine said, “I hope I’m not interrupting your day.  You probably have much to do.”

Her friend said, “You should receive a special blessing today.  Before I started work I asked God to bless my interruptions.”

She writes.  “God did bless me – blessed me with a friend who listened, who didn’t make me feel like an interruption.”

God has done great things for us – and by God’s grace – allows us to do great things for one another.   Be looking for ways to be kind.  Be looking for ways to show kindness to neighbors, to strangers, even to people you don’t like – imagine that!  It’s all a good thing – it’s all a God thing!  If we start today during this season of Lent I can’t help but think that when it comes, on Easter morning, the sun will rise a little brighter  because we will have honored the One who first showed us such great kindness.

When it’s Time to Go

I have loved each of my churches I have served. I remember each of them so fondly and hold such a dear place in my heart for each of them.

Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church of South Newstead in New York was a great place to learn how to be a pastor. There was a lot of energy there and people who were dedicated and active in ministry. There was also a bit of strife. It was a very happy call, until it wasn’t.  After three years, I got married and my husband and I set our sights on settling somewhere new together. It was time to go.

We were called to Colorado to a large church – First Lutheran in Colorado Springs.  I wondered how it would feel to be a part of a big church. I was up for the challenge and the change as an associate pastor on a large staff. We loved being in Colorado and had many friends both at the church and in the area because Colorado Springs had many people like us – fellow transplants. I met people who inspired me to run farther and I ran marathons – even up and down Pikes Peak. There were excellent people on the staff at the church and it was great to be a part of all the activity there. However, over the seven years there I kept feeling called toward something else. I tried to forget it – we loved that congregation (and living in Colorado!)  I worked hard to distract myself with writing projects and my children and working on a new degree, but I finally knew those distractions wouldn’t fix the restlessness and I couldn’t stay at First Lutheran. It was time to go.

We were called to Texas – a proud little Norwegian congregation, Our Savior’s Lutheran Church at Norse. I loved the people in my congregation so deeply. I adored the quiet country setting. I was enchanted with the history of that place. Walking over to the church on a warm night or sitting on my porch gazing at the cattle in the field, I often felt I could stay there forever. I felt peaceful, happy, and whole. My children thrived in the Texas warmth and were loved well by all their surrogate grandmas and grandpas at our church. For a long time, I really felt life couldn’t be better. But after five  quick years, the restlessness came back. We longed for our family and friends back in Minnesota, the reality loomed that the church wouldn’t be able to sustain a full-time pastor much longer, and while I personally couldn’t help aching for growth and change, that lovely little congregation was very happy just the way it was. It was time to go.

Now, God calls us to be in Minnesota, and here we are. It’s very good to be here and day by day, week by week, month by month, this place feels more like home. We’re happy that our story is slowly being knit into the story of Saint Peter’s.

So tenderly I hold it all in my heart: Each congregation, the faces of dear parishioners, the quiet of hushed sanctuaries, the gravesides, sunlight through stained glass, children stopping to give me a hug after worship, prayers by countless hospital bedsides, the benedictions, the ashes, the anointing oil, the lilies and poinsettias, the struggle and tears, the overflowing joy, the thousands of treasured, evanescent moments that make up this clergy life I get to live.

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What Pastors Really Think about While Preaching

I met with a friend for coffee today and we were comparing notes on how our Sunday mornings had been at our churches yesterday.  She was telling me about how she got a little distracted during her sermon and she had to stop for a few moments to collect herself while she was preaching. “Dramatic pause,” she said, and smiled.  I understood. Any preacher understands. Although we would like to always be 100% present in the words we are speaking and the spirit’s nudging in that moment, sometimes our minds do wander.  We laughed about how it would make a pretty humorous book if we were to collect the stories of what pastors have found themselves thinking about while preaching. It’s not always super pastoral…

On any given Sunday, while preaching, I have been known to be thinking:

1.       How to will my kids to look at me so I can give them a meaningful glare for wrestling in the front row.

2.       If that visitor in the third row who looks like the guy I used to send secret crush notes to back in high school could actually be the guy I sent secret crush notes to back in high school. (It was!)

3.       If I’m going to throw up in the pulpit or will I be able to finish my sermon first and escape to the bathroom during the sermon hymn.

4.       Good, Joe is here today, I need to pray with him after church because his surgery is coming up tomorrow.

5.       I can feel one of my knee-high socks sliding down my leg.

6.       Did I turn off the ringer on my cell phone?

7.       Only thirty minutes until vacation!  Woo-hoo!

8.       I don’t have any idea what I am talking about.

9.       John is sleeping again.

10.   Oh, there is Ole. It’s the first Sunday he is here after his wife died.  I want to talk to him after church.

11.   Oh crap, I skipped over the special music before the sermon. We will have to fit that in before the prayers.

12.   I think I need bifocals.

13.   I totally suck at this.

14.   I rock at this!

15.   I’m missing a page! Dear, sweet baby Jesus, I’m missing a page of my sermon!  Just keep talking…

16.   I see you yawning.

17.   This story is going to make so-and-so think I’m talking directly about/to him.

18.   Can they tell I totally recycled this sermon from six years ago?

19.   Dang, I wish I would have spent more time writing this/practicing this/praying about this sermon.

20.   Oh no, there is so-and-so. I forgot she wanted me to call her last week. 

21.   I don’t think anyone is listening.

22.   I think everyone is listening! You can hear a pin drop in this place!

23.   I need a Sunday off, like, NOW!

24.   Thank you, God, for this place/congregation/day/life.

Fellow preachers, how about you?

Love Each Other

34-35 “Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.” (John 13:34-35 The Message)

A few nights before my wedding, some friends and I gathered together and spent a few hours gluing hundreds of tiny pieces of paper to hundreds of Hershey’s kisses.  They were little party favors placed at each table.  Printed on the tiny pieces of paper were quotes about love.  Everyone had a different one.  I had so much fun finding all those quotes.  There were thought provoking quotes like one of my favorites from Toni Morrison when she said, “I didn’t fall in love, I rose in it.”  There were cute ones like the one I chose from Winnie the Pooh which said, “It isn’t much good having anything exciting like floods if you can’t share them with someone.”  There were words from poets – Oscar Wilde who said, “who, being loved, is poor?” and great leaders – Winston Churchill’s words to his wife when he wrote to her, “my greatest good fortune in a life of brilliant experiences has been to find you, and to lead my life with you.”

As I found these quotes and typed them up and then cut them into tiny slips of paper before my friends came over with hot glue guns in hand, it was a blessing to think about those words.  To think about reflections of love – some romantic, some cute, some bittersweet, some courageous and to think about the love I had come to know in my own life.

Chad and I weren’t engaged very long.  It was the end of April when he asked me to marry him as we sat at my kitchen table one evening.  And we decided we’d get married at the end of July.  My memories of the days and weeks before my wedding are some of my favorite.  That summer it seemed like the weather was always perfect, every meal was the best meal, every song that came on the radio was one of my favorites, everything was happy and good.  I knew I was living in the first bloom of love and I knew that love has many seasons…so I was going to just enjoy every minute of those quick days.

We are nine and a half years, two children, and about 1500 miles from that place and that summer now…and while I’m thankful for those first weeks and months of love’s first bloom, I’m much more thankful for the time that has passed since then.  The sharing of life.  In my memory it is a slide show of small and big moments:  loading a moving van in New York, buying our first house, seeing our boys being placed in Chad’s arms after they were born, standing by the graves of Chad’s parents and then my father, loading a moving van again and seeing the mountains disappear in the rear view mirror and our arriving at our new home here.  The seasons of our lives and the lives of the people we love unfolding all around us.

But that is how it is, isn’t it?  Love.  Some bits of it are about the romantic quotes, the sweet kisses, love’s first breathless bloom.  But true love is something different.  True love is what remains after the first bloom fades.  True love is the companionship through good times and bad.  True love is steady.  True love is built over a lifetime, only really recognized through shared experience and achieving shared goals and continuing to choose each other.  Continuing to care about the other’s cares.  Continuing to listen to stories you’ve heard before.  Continuing to keep building onto the village you’ve begun rather than leaving to start a new one.  I think C.S. Lewis said it best,  he said, “Being in love is a good thing, but it is not the best thing…Love…is a deep unity maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habits reinforced by the grace which both partners ask and receive from God…On this love the engine of marriage is run; being in love was the explosion that started it.”

Our gospel for today talks about love.  It tells us that love is not just a nice thing, but that it is something we are commanded to do.  Jesus says, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” 

It is a big commandment, because yes – it means those people whom we have vowed to love – our partners and children.  Sometimes that can be challenge enough – to really love them with a life-giving kind of love.  But this commandment doesn’t just mean we need to love those people closest to us – but to have real love for everyone we encounter. 

What does this mean?

It means that everyone – you and me, and the college kids jogging down Cascade Avenue, and the homeless folks at the bus terminal, the person driving too slow in front of you, and that stranger on the sidewalk, and the one sitting next to you at jury duty – everyone we meet has unsurpassable worth.  Everyone we meet, according to Jesus, is worth our time.  Everyone we meet, according to Jesus, is so precious that Jesus died so that they could have a chance to live and breathe and love. 

And so we treat each other with grace and goodness.  And so we go out of our way to help the stranger.  And so we risk our intricate schedules and let go of some of our fears to try to be the change we wish to see in this world.  Because when we do, we will begin to understand love.

I believe in many ways that God has given me children so that I will learn something about this.  Because I’m learning day by day that I can’t get too worked up about time or getting where I need to be too quickly when my children are with me.

I’ve told the following story a few times already in different settings so if you have heard it before please forgive me.  But it is a good example of what I’m trying to say here.

It had been a long day.  At four a.m. Jesse woke up crying.   Wintery roads, a day of meetings, and a stunning headache had frayed my nerves.  Soon, I could pick up my children from the church nursery and go home. 

 The phone rang – a parishioner in the hospital.  I said I would go see him that night but inside I was nearly crying.  I was so tired.  Motherhood and Pastor-hood were both such blessings, but my blessings were exhausting me. 

I decided to bring my toddler, Owen, with me to the hospital.  We visited the fellow from my church and then Owen pulled me toward the cafeteria.  He asked for some string cheese and I told him to find a table.

In a sea of empty tables, Owen plopped down at the one table that already had someone sitting at it.  The elderly woman smiled at him over her cup of coffee.  My heart sighed, the last thing I wanted to do was make small talk with someone.  I just wanted Owen to eat his cheese and then we could get home.

But I sat down and as Owen ate his cheese, the woman and I talked and after a bit she told me she was at the hospital because her daughter was dying.   In that empty cafeteria she told me about her girl.  She clutched a tissue in her hand but she looked like she was too tired to cry anymore.  She didn’t know I am a pastor but she poured out her thoughts right then and there to us.  I listened, and I knew the moment was holy because Owen, who is always moving, didn’t move a muscle.  He just sat there eating his cheese and considering the woman with his big blue eyes.

After a long while she said she had to go.  But before she did, she reached out and touched Owen’s hand and said, “He’s precious.”  I smiled.

As we drove home that night, I was still tired.  It had still been a long day.  But for that moment at least I remembered how beautiful it all is.  Every evanescent second.  And I was thankful that somehow Owen knew we needed to sit by that woman and hear her story that night.  I’m glad his vision is still clear enough that he can recognize the things I’m often too busy or too blind to see.

Love.  It’s about learning how to really see each other.  And not turning away once we do.  It’s about slowing down enough so that we have time for each other. 

How might you be better at loving your partner ?

How might you be better at loving your children?

How might you be better at loving your co-workers?

How might you be better at loving the strangers you meet?

These are questions we all need to consider not because I asked them – but because Jesus is asking them of us all.

(written February, 2011 – First Lutheran Church – Colorado Springs, CO)



The Bell tolled 91 Times

The church bell tolled ninety-one times this afternoon as we brought her out to the cemetery.  The wind swept like a brush through the grass and picked up bits of dust, carrying it far off over the cedars and live oaks.  “Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust,” I said and sprinkled the sand over her coffin.  I drew the indentation of a cross and watched granules slip into the grave below. I stepped aside as we silently observed the flag folded and presented.  She had been a Navy Nurse. The gun salute sounded.  The trumpet haunted in echo.

I thought of my mother and my father, their bones resting so far away.  I saw the man with the cane let his tears fall onto his jacket. We prayed an ancient prayer and headed back toward the church, still keeping watch over her dead all these years.