Black Lives Matter

To me, as a Christian, a pastor, and a member of the human race, it makes complete sense to post a “Black Lives Matter” sign in my yard. A fundamental part of my belief system is that Jesus calls us to look out for one another and especially those who are suffering. I can see how my own vision of life is clouded by being white. Even though I did not grow up wealthy and I have known suffering in life, I have still been afforded more opportunities and experienced less obstacles than others because I happen to have been born white. I am devoted to learning about this and growing in my understanding. And if posting a sign in my yard that says, “Black Lives Matter,” helps even one person of color to feel seen and heard, then it is a good and worthwhile thing to do.

My children and I also posted a “Black Lives Matter” sign in a local area where people are always posting signs. Those other signs are for all sorts of businesses and causes and many have been there for years. The “Black Lives Matter” sign we posted didn’t even last for twelve hours before someone took it down.

All I can think about now is: Why are you threatened by those three simple words? What can possibly bother you about lifting up the fact that a group of people matter?

I will not say a negative word about where we live or the people here. I know so many people here who are so generous and kind, who reach out and help anyone in need. After living all around the nation, my husband and I chose to come back here to live and raise our children. People here care about each other and the world in which we live. Many are deeply thoughtful about issues that matter.

In any area of the country, that sign could have been stolen. But why? Why are you threatened by those three simple words? What can possibly bother you about lifting up the fact that a group of people matter?

I do not understand.

Sermon June 21, 2020

There is a African folk story of Sankofa – the story begins with a bird named Sankofa. She grows up in her community being confident in herself and loving life. One day, she decides to sneak away from her village. When she does, she meets a bird who insults her and causes her to doubt herself.

Sankofa has to return to her village in order to find herself again and confront this “voice” of the big bird. She is supported by all of her friends and ancestors. When she returns to the bird with her own sense of self-knowledge, the other bird disappears.

When she returns back to her village, her image is carved so that other youth in the village can remember her and her story. Because she had forgotten from where she came, she is depicted with her neck turned backwards.

The “Sankofa” has become a metaphorical symbol used by the Akan people of Ghana, generally depicted as a bird with its head turned backward taking an egg from its back. It expresses the importance of reaching back to knowledge gained in the past and bringing it into the present in order to make positive progress.

I love that symbolism. It’s so important that we learn from the past.

Kaj Munk was a Danish Lutheran pastor and playwright – and was a strong opponent of the German Occupation of Denmark (1940–1945). Several of His plays were direct attacks on Nazism. Despite friends who urged Munk to go underground, he continued to preach against Danes who collaborated with the Nazis.

The Gestapo arrested Munk on the night of 4 January 1944, a month after he had defied a Nazi ban and preached the first Advent sermon at the national cathedral in Copenhagen. Munk’s body was found in a roadside ditch the next morning.

Munk preached and wrote against the injustice of his time. He said, “What is, therefore, our task today? Shall I answer: ‘Faith, hope and love’? That sounds beautiful. But I would say ‘courage.’ No, even that is not challenging enough to be the whole truth.

Our task today is recklessness. For what we Christians lack is not psychology or literature. We lack a holy rage – the recklessness which comes from the knowledge of God and humanity. The ability to rage when justice lies prostrate on the streets, and when the lie rages across the face of the earth – a holy anger about the things that are wrong in the world. To rage against the ravaging of God’s earth, and the destruction of God’s world. To rage when little children must die of hunger when the tables of the rich are sagging with food. To rage at the lie that calls the threat of death and the strategy of destruction peace. To rage against complacency. To restlessly seek to change human history until it conforms to the norms of the Kingdom of God.

And remember the signs of the Christian church have been the lion, the lamb, the dove and the fish, but never the chameleon.”

Munk’s words have been echoing in my brain the last days. I wonder if we Christians in the year 2020 are brave enough to speak against injustice in our own time? Have we learned from the past? Are we willing to rage against injustice – even though that might feel upsetting and go against our inclination to keep everything nice.

I like to keep things nice. I admit that. I have prided myself on being a nice person. I like nice people. I always thought being nice was a good thing – and of course it is…But it is imperative we don’t forget that this faith in Jesus Christ is about so much more than being nice. In the gospel for today, Jesus says, “Don’t think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” The word of God – while comforting at times can also be convicting. It calls us to take a hard look at ourselves and our actions.

As followers of Jesus, he calls us to work for a better world and justice for all. It calls us to be uncomfortable sometimes – to risk having not everybody like us in order that we speak up for what is right.  Jesus understands discipleship as a series of choices made daily – to follow Jesus or to chase after something else. Jesus desires our sole allegiance. He even encourages us to pick up a cross and follow. Make no mistake – a cross made of wood is heavy. It cannot be casually thrown over a shoulder along with other things. Instead, carrying a cross takes a certain determination and persistence. But in doing so, Jesus promises we find life. Not comfort. Not ease. Life.

We have too often confused being Christian with being nice. Being a Christian does not mean being nice – it means being filled with holy anger at injustice. Being a Christian does not mean being nice – it means calling out those who treat any life as being less than other lives – no matter that person’s race or what side of the border they were born on. Being a Christian does not mean being nice – it means refusing to accept what is wrong with the world and working to be the change we want to see in the world. And as we do, we come to understand the fullness of life Jesus offers.

Usually when I pray for people, I pray for the peace that passes all understanding – but these days I also pray for us to have a bit more holy rage. A good measure of dissatisfaction with the way things are and a deep longing to use our energy to work for justice and goodness for one another. I pray for us to experience a thirst to learn about other cultures and issues and problems that we may not have paid any attention to in the past.

There’s a famous quote that reads, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” In the spirit of Sankofa, that West African folk story, in the spirit of Kaj Munk, the Lutheran pastor who died rather than keep quiet about sharing the good news of Jesus Christ, Let’s learn from the lessons that life and history has taught us, and pray for the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, and strength to work for justice and goodness for one another.

Let’s pray – dear God, we pray you guide us in these times. There’s so much hurt all around and we pray for all in need. Teach us how to care for one another as all children of the same Heavenly Father. Help us to lay down our pride and be willing to be instructed in the ways of justice and what each of us can do to work toward lasting peace. How might we do that this week? Show us, Oh God.

God, we pray for all who are struggling in body, mind, or spirit. We pray for your healing presence to be with all in any need – those who are recovering from surgery or are healing from an injury. We pray for those who feel lost or despondent. Help us to uplift one another with kindness and caring concern.

Dear God, we pray for our congregation during this time of worshipping differently. Unite us with your love and grace. Help us to invite others in and reach out to those who may be feeling isolated. Draw us all near to you.

Oh God, for these precious summer days, for friends, for family, for long evening shadows, for the cool breeze on the lake, the laughter of children, the smell of good food cooking, honest work, music – and all the millions upon millions of moments that make life worth living – we give you thanks. May we never stop giving you thanks and praise.

We pray these prayers and the prayers in our hearts in the name of Jesus. Amen.

The Reverend Dr. Ruth E. Hetland

Holy Rage

Kaj Munk was a Danish Lutheran pastor and playwrite – and was a strong opponent of the German occupation of Denmark(1940–1945). Several of His plays were direct attacks on Nazism. Despite friends who urged Munk to go underground, he continued to preach against Danes who collaborated with the Nazis.

The Gestapo arrested Munk on the night of 4 January 1944, a month after he had defied a Nazi ban and preached the a sermon at the national cathedral in Copenhagen. Munk’s body was found in a roadside ditch the next morning.

Munk preached and wrote against the injustice of his time. He said, “What is, therefore, our task today? Shall I answer: ‘Faith, hope and love’? That sounds beautiful. But I would say ‘courage.’ No, even that is not challenging enough to be the whole truth.

Our task today is recklessness. For what we Christians lack is not psychology or literature. We lack a holy rage – the recklessness which comes from the knowledge of God and humanity. The ability to rage when justice lies prostrate on the streets, and when the lie rages across the face of the earth – a holy anger about the things that are wrong in the world. To rage against the ravaging of God’s earth, and the destruction of God’s world. To rage when little children must die of hunger when the tables of the rich are sagging with food. To rage at the lie that calls the threat of death and the strategy of destruction peace. To rage against complacency. To restlessly seek to change human history until it conforms to the norms of the Kingdom of God.

And remember the signs of the Christian church have been the lion, the lamb, the dove and the fish, but never the chameleon.”

Munk’s words have been echoing in my brain the last days. The question is whether we Christians in the year 2020 are brave enough to speak against injustice in our own time. In a world burning with racism so many still want to ignore the flames or say that the fire was out a long time ago. However, placid messages of faith, hope, and love are profoundly vacant right now. The word the church needs to be preaching and hearing and witnessing to the world in these days is clear – we need to hear the cry for racial justice. Those of us who are white need to admit the ways we have knowingly or unknowingly been complicit in furthering injustice. And we must speak up in an ongoing lament for and a piercing assault against what we have been. We must vow to do better. Church, the Holy Spirit is summoning us, pointing at her watch, and saying “the time is now”. Speak up now. It is not time for peace, church. Now is the time for holy rage.

May this fire in our nation mold us into something new.  No longer complacent. No longer content with what we have been. Dissatisfied with the futility of trying to be color-blind and instead striving only becoming color-amazed. Let’s be that. Let’s only be content when we get to that brilliant mosaic of color-amazed. Stir us, shape us, melt us, mold us Holy Spirit.

Pentecost

John 15:26-27; John 16:4-15 The Message (MSG)
26-27 “When the Friend I plan to send you from the Father comes—the Spirit of Truth issuing from the Father—he will confirm everything about me. You, too, from your side must give your confirming evidence, since you are in this with me from the start.” “I’ve told you these things to prepare you for rough times ahead.
4-7 “I didn’t tell you this earlier because I was with you every day. But now I am on my way to the One who sent me. It’s better for you that I leave. If I don’t leave, the Friend won’t come. But if I go, I’ll send him to you.
“I still have many things to tell you, but you can’t handle them now. But when the Friend comes, the Spirit of the Truth, he will take you by the hand and guide you into all the truth there is.’

I love when the timing of things comes together – like I always think it’s lovely that we remember Pentecost this time of year that is traditionally a time when changes are happening. Graduation, confirmation, people moving back from being away for the winter and some moving away for summer jobs, flowers and trees blossoming with life again, some of our normal routines ending and making way for different routines – it’s a season of change and motion. Like Pentecost – the rush of the Holy Spirit coming in, like fire, like a strong wind – moving and refining us, changing us.
Changing us. What do you think of when you think of change? I’ve always said I love change, seeing different places, doing different things. There’s something inside me that needs it, craves it. Lately I have been going through my closets and books, getting rid of a ton of stuff. When Chad’s parents died and my parents died, we ended up with a lot of their stuff – and they had ended up with a lot of their parents stuff – and over time, when added to our own stuff, it just got to be a lot of stuff. Some of that I needed to hold on to for a while after they died. I couldn’t quite bear to get rid of my grandmother’s waffle maker even though it weighed about thirty pounds and the handle had broken off the lid so it was pretty much guaranteed you were going to end up with some kind of burn on your hand every time you tried to make a waffle. But it had been on that old waffle maker mom would make waffles for me and we’d sit and talk forever over breakfast. And I couldn’t quite get rid of many of my dad’s books even though they were so old and musty. I didn’t need them, I had plenty of my own books…but those were the books that filled the shelves in my dad’s room and brought him comfort through years of sickness and being homebound.
But lately I’ve started to feel like I can let go of some of those things, release them. It’s been a surprisingly spiritual process, to let go, to make room, to create space. To remember that a waffle iron collecting dust in my garage doesn’t bring me closer to my mother whom I always carry in my heart. Some books I never open have nothing to do with what my dad meant to me.
And it seems like the process of getting rid of a few things is catchy because then I started to look at everything with a discerning eye and asking myself questions about it. Do I own that painting because I like it or because a parishioner gave it to me 18 years ago and I felt like I should put it up? Do I own two crock pots because I need two crock pots or because I might need a spare just in case?
Anyway, the change of letting go of these things has been really life-giving lately. But I was ready for that change. I gave myself time, I didn’t have to rush into it.
Some changes are nice, right? Like graduation or confirmation, weddings, promotions, etc. – you’ve been preparing for it, there’s lots of good stuff about it, it’s exciting and you get cards and cake. Change is good! Come, Holy Spirit, Come! Right on!
But sometimes, oftentimes, changes come that we didn’t prepare for. Changes come that we didn’t want or feel like we needed in the least. The disciples must have felt this when they ate that final meal with Jesus and he started talking about how he wasn’t going to be with them much longer but the Spirit of Truth would be. “What? He’s leaving us? Why is he yammering on about this Spirit – we need Jesus with us, our Teacher. Where is he going? Why does everything have to change?”

It was confusing for them then and confusing when a short time later there was the sound of the rush of a violent wind and tongues, as of fire, appeared among them and rested on each of them and all were filled with the Holy Spirit. And that Spirit allowed them to understand each other speaking in their own native language.
And it can be confusing for us now as we think about the Holy Spirit and what it means for us in our daily lives.
There’s this great Rabbinic story about three disciples who used to study with their master teacher on Sabbath evening. And one night the three disciples were walking home and one says to the other two, “I’m so sorry the Rabbi spoke with me the whole night.” Then the second one said, “What are you talking about, it was clear that the Rabbi spoke with just me.” Then the third said, “You both are crazy, it was obvious the Rabbi was talking only to me! And it is me who should be apologizing to you two.”
Just then, all three of them fell silent because they realized what had happened. The ancient commentary says, “So it is with Spirit, that each person swears the divine was speaking to just them.”
You know that feeling, don’t you? When a something someone wrote or sang or spoke seems like it was written entirely for you and for what you are going through in that moment. That’s the motion of the Holy Spirit right there.
The Holy Spirit may seem difficult to describe, and yet we know it. We feel it. It’s what gives us a glimpse of encouragement when despair is setting in too close. It’s that intangible thing that unites a group of people, bringing a sense of kinship and light and peace. It’s when a deep truth settles in your heart, and you know something matters.
It’s like love – you can’t reason it out or ever describe it fully, and yet you know it. When it touches your life, you are never the same.
The Holy Spirit, also referred to as Comforter, Encourager, and friend, is always with us. It’s here right now as we worship and will go with you as we leave and go our different ways later. It’s with our friends who aren’t here this morning – wherever they may be – sharing cups of coffee over breakfast, on a trip out of town, sleeping in. It’s with you graduates as you take your next steps now and each day become more of who God made you to be.
Sometimes it is what comforts us through times of difficult change, and sometimes the Holy Spirit is the very thing encouraging us to make the big change. It’s a mystery and as close as your own heartbeat.
Maybe that’s why it seems like we talk more about God and Jesus than we do about the Holy Spirit. The other two parts of the Trinity seem more well-defined – God created all the things and Jesus the Savior of the world – meanwhile the Holy Spirit is this misty, filmy, ambiguity.
But it isn’t really. In some ways, we know it best – but the Holy Spirit is just easier to feel than to explain – because it can’t be explained. The Spirit is poetry and music, not a speech. The Spirit is a whisper and a nudge, the holiness of holding a newborn and smelling their head, it’s the sound of the wind in the leaves, the way your name sounds when it’s spoken by someone who loves you most, it’s the taste of good food shared with friends, that sudden great idea that came to you when you were daydreaming during the sermon, it’s the sunrise, the sunset, a walk in the woods, your favorite song, the scent of fresh-cut grass – or anything that makes you feel truly alive.
The Holy Spirit is what brings the things of God right into our day to day – right into us, our very breath. Remember that the Hebrew word for Spirit, Ruach, it is the very same word for Spirit as for wind and breath. That’s right, breath. You breathing in and out right now, that’s holy. The Spirit of God alive in you and through you.
You see, the high holy day of Pentecost is the day of the church year when we seem to try to put to words what can really only be felt. It’s true. So, I’m going to stop talking – and let’s pray…

Scars

I have a scar on my index finger from a car accident back in 1996. One minute, I was cruising down a road near Parkers Prairie and the next my car was skating across glare ice until I landed upside down in the ditch. In the sub-zero November temperatures I assessed my situation. My glasses were broken. I had been in the midst of moving to a different apartment and so I had a bunch of my stuff in the back seat that was now blowing across the snowy countryside. Papers, clothes, a random tube of eyeliner. My right index finger was bleeding and as I looked closer, I noticed a bone, snapped and sticking out of the skin. I observed it thinking, “Hmmm…I would think that would hurt more than it does.”

I grabbed a sweatshirt that had landed next to me among the wreckage and wrapped it around my hand. I remember it all in slow motion – the nice farmer stopping to help me and giving me a ride to the hospital, then laying in an operating room with just enough anesthesia that I couldn’t feel them putting my finger back together, but I could hear the doctors talking to each other, one said, “That was a bad accident – did you hear her vehicle was completely smashed in? Did you know she is a seminary student – I think someone is watching out for her.” And the other doctor said, “Oh yeah – well if someone is watching over her so closely, why did the accident even happen?” Touche, I thought.

The wound has healed. But sometimes when I write too much or do a lot of work with my hands, that old broken bone in my finger aches and calls my attention to it. Nearly twenty years later I didn’t think it would still bother me, but it remains…a tiny, dull ache.

Years ago, I ran across a little article meant to explain to children about scars and why they form and what to do about them. I saved it because I heard wisdom in it not only for our physical scars – but maybe for others as well.

Dr. Brian Flyer, the author of the article, says, “A scar isn’t always a sure thing. It’s not so much how deep or severe a wound is that determines whether a scar will form, but rather the location of the wound and that person’s tendency to form scars.”

What sorts of scars do you have? If I asked you this question, I wonder what you would say? Would you pull up your sleeve and show me the mark on your elbow from your first time out on rollerblades? Would you tell me about the blemishes that remain from your bout with chicken pox? The interesting thing is that each scar has a story – and people are usually more willing to talk about the visible scars that remain on their bodies than the invisible ones that have hurt their spirit or their heart. The thing is – we all have them. The question is – is there anything to be done about them?

Maybe you heard about the United Methodist minister who had been in a serious accident and had to spend several weeks in the hospital. He had a lot of pain, and was given shots to reduce it. The procedure was always the same. When the pain got bad enough, he would ring a buzzer, and a nurse would soon come to give him the shot. One day, he rang for the nurse and then rolled over on his side (with his back to the door), pulled his hospital gown up over his exposed backside, and waited for the nurse to come in. When he heard the door open, he pointed to his right bare buttock and said, “Why don’t you give me the shot right here this time?”

After a few moments of silence, he looked up. It was a woman from his church! Following a brief embarrassing conversation, the woman left, and the minister—thinking about what he had done–started laughing. He laughed so hard that tears were coming out of his eyes when the nurse arrived. When he tried to explain what had happened, he began laughing even harder.

When he was finally able to tell the nurse the whole story, the wonderful thing he noticed was that his pain was gone! He didn’t need the shot, and didn’t ask for one for another 90 minutes.

You and I both know people who have been through terrible tragedy in life – illness, loss, chronic pain…and there can be a huge difference in the ways people let those sorts of tragedy affect them. Some become broken. Some show amazing resilience. But what a blessing, no matter what our natural response might be, when God grants us the grace to laugh even when things seem most grim. It may not solve the problems of life – but it makes them easier to bear.

Peter Berger calls laughter a “signal of transcendence” – a sign built into us so that deep down, even if our heads are telling us that there is no God, our hearts tells us different. Laughter tells us that life, despite its seeming randomness and chaos, actually has meaning and purpose.

However, while finding laughter in the midst of hardship is certainly wonderful, one might ask, isn’t there a way to prevent wounds and scars altogether? Dr. Bryan Flyer states, “The best way to prevent scars is to prevent wounds! You can reduce your chances of getting hurt by wearing kneepads and helmets – but even with protective gear a person can get hurt once in a while.” If this happens, you can help your skin heal itself by treating it well during the healing process.”

Enid was a woman whose husband had died unexpectedly two years before she sought counseling with Dr. Rachel Remen. Withdrawn and distant, she no longer cooked or looked after her garden or her house. Most of the time she sat in her bathrobe in the living room, looking out the window. She had been brought to see Dr. Remen by one of her daughters who had told her, “I lost both my parents the day my father died.”

Enid was a lovely woman in her early seventies, but she seemed as lifeless as the chair she sat on. Dr. Remen opened the conversation by asking her why she had come. “My husband has died,” she replied, “My daughters would like me to talk about it, but I do not think that I care to.” “No one could possibly understand.”

Dr. Remen nodded in agreement. “Yes, of course,” she said. “Only your husband could understand what you have lost. Only he knew what your life together was like. If he were here Enid, what would you tell him?”

She considered this for a long moment. Then she closed her eyes and began to speak to her husband aloud, telling him what life was like without him. She told him about going to their special places alone, walking their dogs alone, sleeping in their bed alone. She told him about needing to learn to do the little things he had always taken care of, things she had never known about. She reminded him of times that only he would remember, old memories that no one else had shared. And then she began to cry.

When her tears stopped, Dr. Remen asked her if there was anything she had not said. Hesitantly she said how angry she was with him for abandoning her to grow old alone. She felt as if he had broken a promise to her. She missed him terribly.

“Enid,” Dr. Remen asked her, “If Herbert were here, what would he say to you about the way you have lived since his death?” She looked startled. “Why, he would say, ‘Enid, why have you built a monument of pain in memory of me? Our whole life together was about love.’” She paused. Then she said, “Perhaps there are other ways to remember him”.

Afterward she said that she had felt that if she let go of her pain, she would betray Herbert’s memory and diminish the value of his life. She had begun to realize that she actually betrayed him by holding on to her pain and closing her heart.

There is no way to prevent the wounds that occur in the course of our lives. The cost of love and life is that we will end up hurt sometimes. But we help ourselves heal when we realize that every great loss demands that we choose life again. We need to grieve in order to do this.

Even so, we might still ask ourselves if scars are things we have to bear forever. Aren’t there ways to rid ourselves of them completely and start fresh? Dr. Bryan Flyer states, “Some scars fade over time. If yours doesn’t and it bothers you, there are treatments that can make a scar less noticeable.”

My mother had major heart surgery in 1995. At first after the surgery she always wore blouses with necklines that were high enough to conceal the top of the long scar that began just at the bottom of her throat.

Over time, however, she didn’t mind if people caught a glimpse of her scar. It’s like she almost became a little proud of it because that scar spoke of something she had been through – a tale that she lived to tell.

Could it be that we are wisest when we learn to see all of our scars that way? Not just the scars of surgeries we have survived – but the battle scars that life has given us. The scars that remain inside us from love lost, from all the hard stuff of life, even the scars that we hardly dare speak of because if people knew about them we think those scars would say something about us that we don’t want everyone to know. Scars left by things like failures, like bad choices made, like shame at something we said or did that we know was beneath us?

Could it be that a part of our healing is to be able to show the scars we have acquired – to not hide them but to say “See – see what I have been through. These say something about me. These scars tell you who I really am.”

Jesus himself knew that it was only by showing his ruined hands and feet to the disciples when he appeared to them after the resurrection that he could prove to them it was really him. He said, “See my hands and my feet – that it is really me.”

Let me tell you something – your scars are exquisite. Have you ever noticed how when you come to know someone as a friend – you may initially admire them for their strength or their bravery or their success – but they become real and dear and more and more beautiful as you begin to know the things that have caused them pain, the parts of them that have been broken, and the stories of their suffering?

There are so many reasons that we only show those parts of ourselves to those closest to us. We worry about seeming weak. We worry about people thinking we are fragile or incapable.

But I love what Paul writes in our second reading for today – he talks about a thorn given to him in his flesh and how he prayed it would leave him. We don’t know what this thorn in the flesh was. It could have been some physical ailment or maybe even an emotional ailment. Whatever it was, it troubled him and even though he prayed for it to go away, it didn’t.

And yet, he came to understand that even still, God could work through him – writing, “So I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.”

Trying to understand why the scar-causing things in life happen is futile, but we can find comfort in knowing that somehow, God’s strength, God’s provision, God’s grace can still shine through.

Joni Eareckson Tada is a woman who was injured in a diving accident in 1967 – the accident left her, then 17, a quad­riplegic in a wheelchair, without the use of her hands. Since then she has written over 50 books, and has become an advocate for all those with disabilities. She has been quoted as saying, “Deny your weakness, and you will never realize God’s strength in you.”

Tell me about your scars. Let’s be okay with being honest with each other about our flaws, our imperfections – because when we do, we’ll more readily begin to see all the beauty that God can still create even and especially in our brokenness.

Video Editing Software

We are having a lot of fun trying some new things with our worship videos now that the pandemic has made it so that my congregation can’t worship in person right now. We have been using some very simple video editing software but recently we received a grant to upgrade our software and equipment for our online ministry. This is a subscription I am looking into:

Adobe Premiere Pro CC | 1 Year Subscription (Download)

50

“O bless the Lord my soul – all that is within me –  bless God’s holy name.”

In just a few hours, it will be my fiftieth birthday. I’ve been spending the whole day today thinking back over the last decades. My twentieth birthday I think I was at home with my parents – spending a few days at home before heading to another summer at camp. My thirtieth birthday I was at my first call as a pastor in New York. I was single and my congregation threw me a little birthday party. Soon after that, Chad and I fell in love and we continued on this journey together. By my fortieth birthday we had two young children, my dad had just died, and I was in the brief lull between my call as a pastor in Colorado and moving to my next church in Texas. The boys and I were visiting my mom for a few weeks and the boys gave me a crooked little cake. And now I will be fifty. The last decade has flown by in hyperspeed. My boys are many feet taller. Mom died. I got my doctorate. I was on a Norwegian reality show. I moved back to Minnesota. I wrote two books, traveled to Norway three times, and the South Pacific, and a few big road trips, and collected a lot more silver hair.

I’ve tried to commemorate this occasion in various ways. First, I began a project while I was still in New Zealand back in February. I made a list of fifty things I wanted to do before my fiftieth birthday. It was a great list and I was having so much fun checking off items bit by bit. I was trying new kinds of ice cream, learning how to make new recipes, taking classes, making plans to meet people I admire, and complete difficult tasks. I completed well over half the tasks but then the pandemic struck and made a few of my items necessary to delay. The list will still be completed, but not before my fiftieth birthday. Then, I made a list of fifty things I Know – I thought it would be a fun writing exercise and a super blog post – but some of the most important things I’ve learned in the last decades aren’t things I’m comfortable blogging about or talking about. I’ve always been pretty private. I’m only ready to tell my stories and secrets when I am ready. I can’t be rushed.

In fact, I dig in my heels if I feel I am being rushed. I’ve always been that way. I don’t like to be told what to do and I will not be hurried along. I go at my own pace. I do what I want when I want. Stubborn. Steadfast.

But there’s something about turning fifty that makes me less proud of that quality – even though in the past it has served me well. Because I sense time getting shorter now. Anyone will tell you that the years pick up speed as we go – and I have begun to suspect that if I continue to demand to go at my own pace, to not be rushed, to pride myself on my steadfast nature rather than nurture the ability to move and be moved, well, it will not go well for me. I’ll age brittle and bent, not how I want to age – with my hair flowing long and free, laughter and wisdom brimming.

I want to remember my fiftieth birthday as the threshold of “yes”. A “yes” to motion. Less of my death-grip on control and measured responses and worry. More of letting go, exploration, and messy. Less of buttoned up. More of the scenic route. More of “why not try this?” Less of “this worked last time.” More of looking forward and appreciating what is right next to me. Less of ruminating on the past.

In two hours it will be my fiftieth birthday. I thank God for each year. Each person I have known. This life! The flowers, the meadows – how the grass looks like waves on a North Dakota prairie, how the snow sounds different on a really super cold day, how the smell of woodsmoke takes me back to a thousand summer nights, how listening to the Samples always makes me happy, how good friends and good food make life worth living, how glad I am that Chad and I found each other and decided maybe we did want kids after all because my boys are my heart, how I am such a disaster 68% of the time and yet my congregation loves me and lets me be their pastor, how the right turn of a phrase, or the sunlight setting just so, or plants pushing up through the earth in my garden, or the sound of the wind in the leaves – how any of it, all of it – is so beautiful! So precious! So good.

I understand the psalmist – “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth.” How can I offer up anything but praise for these years, this life? For all that has been and for whatever remains, “O bless the Lord my soul. O bless God’s holy name.”

And so, dear listener, for what or who do you give thanks today? What do you hope to have more of in the next years?  Less of in the next years? How is God moving in your life? What are you yet becoming?

Who know all that will yet be? But we know God is with us. God is with you, dear friends. “O bless the Lord, my soul- all that is within me – bless God’s holy name.”

Grace and peace to you, dear friends. In Jesus’ name – Amen.

The Works of Edgar Allen Poe – The Raven Edition

This book contains stories and poems by Edgar Allan Poe that became innovative literature discoveries at the time and extremely popular in its genre including: The Fall of the House Usher, The Gold-Bug, poem The Raven. Poe was one of the first American writers who wrote mostly novellas. Within twenty years Poe created two short novels,two poems, one play, about seventy stories, fifty poems and ten essays that were published in magazines and almanacs and then gathered in collection books. Poe was highly valued by Jules Verne, Arthur Conan Doyle and Howard Phillips Lovecraf who admitted his pioneer role in the genres they were popularizing. In his thriller stories Poe tries to show psychic side of the crime from the inside. He is not interested in social roots of the crime, but in unmotivated actions that go beyond normal behavior of a person in the society. Nevertheless, in a series of stories while describing the acts committed by characters under influence of “contradiction demon” or“perversion demon”, Poe puts in rational reasons. The character from the story The Black Cat understands that his brain is poisoned with alcohol, and as a result his mental health and temper were injured. But this reasoning is too plain and trivial for the thriller.Narrating on behalf of the criminal, Poe brings actions under the control of contradiction demon. Combination of plans puts volume to the stories the events are at the same time rational and not, motivated and incredibly paradoxical.

Edgar Allen Poe ( January 19, 1809 – October 7, 1849) was an American writer, poet, editor, and literary critic. Poe is best known for his poetry and short stories, particularly his tales of mystery and the macabre. He is widely regarded as a central figure of Romanticism in the United States and of American literature as a whole, and he was one of the country’s earliest practitioners of the short story. He is also generally considered the inventor of the detective fiction genre and is further credited with contributing to the emerging genre of science fiction. Poe was the first well-known American writer to earn a living through writing alone, resulting in a financially difficult life and career. This volume is a classic among American fiction anthologies.

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