Happy Halloween! And almost November…

Crazy how the months have gone.
I remember several times this summer thinking that time just floated by without me realizing how much time has passed.
And this autumn is no different.
October is almost over. Literally, in less than 12 hours it will be November. And Daylight Savings Time ends. Yup, turn back clocks an hour and get an extra hour of sleep. Yay!
But such is life. And I have many fun times planned for November. Who doesn’t love long vacations? But I have to admit that planning a vacation during this time of year is stressful when it comes to packing clothes. I mean, seriously. How many sweaters to bring? What coat or jacket? How warm should gloves or mittens be? How many pairs of pants or leggings to pack? What about tanks versus tees versus long sleeve shirts?
Oddly enough, I got the clothing figured out but keep debating about the jackets. Weird that that would be my biggest question.
And of course, needing to look cute while traveling in Europe.
Because who wants to stick out like a tourist?
(at least until I open my mouth and start speaking with the American accent)
But I hope to buy some super fun fashion from Europe so I can wow people stateside.



So it has been waaaaay too long since I posted anything!
Sad face for the chaos that has been my life that led me to veg out on the couch, take extra naps, or spend a lot of time losing myself in other stories (books, movies, tv shows, etc)

But I return to the interwebs 🙂

Here are some of my highlights over the last couple months:
– 4 performances of “The Importance of Being Earnest” in one weekend
– Surviving the holiday season(s) of Advent/Christmas and Lent/Easter
– actually completing my Lenten discipline EVERY SINGLE DAY!
– Being invited to lead the Bible study at the local conference’s WELCA gathering
– reunions at Presbytery and Synod Assembly (I love catching up with people in person)
– surviving the frigid temps of winter (again…)
– walking a 5k on Pi Day (thanks, Amy for joining me on 3.14.15!)
– signing up for the Puppy 5k and McVille Days 5k this summer
– joining the board of the local arts council
– getting a Fitbit
– being featured by my college as one of their “40 under 40” feature
– getting positive feedback for being unapologetically me!!!

A bit more info about some of the above highlights will be good to share

During Lent, I ate veggies every day! It was a challenge but awesome to be able to say I did it! Many of you are probably thinking, why? Why would you do such a thing (from veggie-haters out there)? Why would that be difficult (from you healthy people out there)? Well, I lead an unhealthy lifestyle. And sadly, the local cafes are typically unhealthy foods. Burgers, fries, etc. And at home, I’m lazy and have a carb-loaded, starch-based diet because it’s easier.

So the Fitbit shocked me with how little I walk. Fortunately, the weather turned nice about the time it (finally) arrived in the mail, which meant that I could take longer walks outside without my lungs freezing. Currently, I’m adjusting my personal walking goals to better my health and prepare for some awesome I hikes planned next month.
Also, I have been fascinated to see how poorly I sleep at night. Seriously, this thing tracks how many times I’m restless and how much I actually sleep. And needless to say, my sleep is poorer than I thought it was. Oops
But I’m also trying to pay attention to my resting heart rate as well. Yeah, I paid a bit more for the heart rate option to be included, but it’s totally worth it! Although when I see how high some days the rate is compared to others, I can look back and see what was going on that might have led to me being extra stressed out. My mom asked if these smart trackers also watch blood pressure. Not sure I’d really want to know that…

The comment about being me is probably my favorite 🙂
One of the biggest challenges I always face as a pastor is that I don’t fit the image of what pastors should do/say/think/wear
At synod assembly, I sat on the stage and helped lead worship (well, technically I lead the psalm). While all others wore their white albs (you know, those long white robes), I wore a white clergy shirt, short-sleeved black pinstripe jacket and jeans. Yeah, I wore jeans. I admit it, I was not like the others. And that was partly because of my stubbornness and partly because of something else at work. Stubborn because I had already left town before being asked to participate, which meant I did not have the alb and stole with. And refused to drive 2+ hours to get it. But I got comments afterward of how some appreciated the reminder that not everyone likes high church, that not everyone fits into the pristine mold that churches try to preserve, that sometimes it’s really hard to be the odd one out. And it was. It was not easy to look at others and think, “Crap, I really should have gone back or asked someone to bring my alb” and “I don’t want to be different.” But I am. I admit that I am far more comfortable not in the alb. A pair of jeans is truer to who I am than white robe. And it’s okay to not be like the others up front…

I was asked to interview for Augustana College’s (Sioux Falls) alumni magazine. The feature was 40 graduates under the age of 40. Different career choices, different locations, different majors. And I’m still baffled why me and not so many of my classmates or fellow colleagues in ministry. I had the same confusion a few years ago when I was asked to be part of a billboard campaign of “where you can go from here” type of recruitment. But if in the end I get to be gracious with my representing my fellow alums who went into ministry, then I will do so proudly. Because I’m not the only pastor (actually two of us were featured of the 40) and although I get pictured as an example, I am fully aware that others are probably far more gifted than I as they do the work to which God calls them. Odd, isn’t it, that exactly when I am chosen to be the example is when I am most aware that others would be just as good as (probably better than) me for the interview?

I led a Bible study for a gathering of women to talk about spiritual gifts. The person closest to me in age happened to be over 20 years older than me. She has children my age. She is my mother’s age. And the rest were older still. So I know for a fact that many were nervous when I got up to lead. I had a computer and PowerPoint presentation being projected while holding a tablet in my hands where I had the copy of the presentation for myself. I had ladies move from the spots they chose so they could see. And didn’t start until they moved. I had them writing on post-it notes. Bright pink and blue ones. I had them talking to each other to discuss questions. I had them asking me questions and challenging me (and others) with their thoughts about how I pushed them to think in new ways. At one point, I heard an audible gasp after collecting a pile of post-it notes then literally tossing them all on the floor (of the altar area…gasp!). And at the end, I posted those bright blue and pink squares on the walls of the sanctuary. And even though it was an hour-long presentation (because that is how long Lutherans can sit for Bible studies), I had these quiet Lutheran ladies coming up to me later and saying they wished it had continued. We all left with thoughts churning through our heads. I like messing with people and pushing them to think outside of the box.
Days like that are part of the reason why I am a pastor.

Well, my fingers are getting tired of typing, so I’m going to end this.


Over the last several weeks, I’ve been talking about prayer with two different Bible study groups. Here, in this post, I’m going to share what I taught and learned. I admit, all of what I share here has already been posted on my parish’s blog. But I’m sharing it here as well:

We start with the question “What is Prayer?”

The definition that can be found with a quick online search:
Prayer (noun) =
1. a solemn request for help or expression of thanks addressed to God or an object of worship.
2. an earnest hope or wish.
3. an act that seeks to activate a rapport with a deity, an object of worship, or a spiritual entity through deliberate communication

Prayer is, quite simply, talking to/with God. We talk to God. We share our cares, our concerns, our thoughts. But we ideally talk with God. This means that not only do we talk, but we also leave space for a response.

There are no right or wrong words to speak when we pray. In fact, some of the best prayers are those times when we lack words. Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans that the Spirit prays for us with sighs too deep for words to express (8:26).
Think of your reaction when you see something spectacular (like a fireworks display – whether man-made or God’s lightning). What is it that you say?
Or how about when you see someone hurting? How do you react?
What noise do you make when you are frustrated? Angry? Annoyed?
Every reaction, every sigh conveys emotions and experiences that are part of our conversation with ourselves, with our neighbors and with God. Being in communication is more than the words we speak; we also include the unspoken and nonverbal.
And since is prayer is by definition communicating with God, even our gasps of awe, groans of pain and sighs of frustration are prayers.

Next we ask, “Why do we pray? For what/whom do we pray?”

Here are some common types of prayer:

– Petition = we seek out and ask for what we need
– Thanksgiving = we share our gratitude for gifts and blessings that have been provided
– Worship/praise = we glorify God by stating what good things God has done and will do in our lives

The Book of Psalms is one of the best resources for prayers in the Bible. The 150 psalms each have their own special message to be shared. These are both prayers and songs. Many hymns sung in church are based on the psalms, but you can also pray them silently or spoken aloud.

Read the Psalms 4, 88 and 145 SLOWLY. As you read the psalms, pay attention to words and phrases that stick out to you. What rings true? Also, pay attention to your emotions as you read. Do you feel mad, sad or glad? Do the words lift you up or pull you down?

Here are some reflections:
– Psalm 4 – This is a prayer asking God to provide one of the most essential needs: protection. Note how the psalm begins: “Answer me, O God.” This is not a nice “Oh, when you get the chance…” This is a bold statement and (dare I say it) demand for God to take care of his child. The psalmist cannot even go to sleep without trusting that God will provide safety through the night.
– Psalm 88 – This is the most despairing of all the psalms. Most psalms end with some form of blessing or praise to God. This one does not. This psalm remains “depressing” and very realistic about the pain the writer is feeling. One of the biggest gifts of this psalm (and others similar to it) is that we are given words to express our pain. We do not always have to be bubbling over with joy, especially when life is not joyful.
– Psalm 145 – This is one of many “praise” psalms. Notice how this psalm talks about God and what God is capable of doing. But also, this is a psalm that invites the reader (and consequently speaker) to also declare what God has done and who God is.

The next question we consider: How do we pray?

One of the parts of prayer that we often overlook is what our bodies are doing as we pray. Think about your favorite prayer position. Are you standing, sitting, kneeling, laying down, walking around? What are you doing with your hands and arms? Are your eyes open or closed?
Just remember, there is no right or wrong way to pray. But paying attention to how we pray can help us focus on our prayer.

Try sitting still with your hands folded, head bowed, and eyes closed. How do you feel?
Try standing up with your arms outstretched, hands open and eyes looking outward. How do you feel now?
Try kneeling with your palms up. Or laying face-down on the floor. How do you feel?

So many times we were taught that the “best” way to pray is to remain still and bow our heads. That is a position to focus us as we pray, and it can work for some.
But it can also close us off.
Sometimes we need to have our bodies open so that we ourselves are open for God’s message. This is why so many people feel closest to God while wandering out in nature, not closed up in a room with head bowed down.

Recently, I learned a random fact: most of our brains are capable of handling 1.5 things at once.
This means that as we talk with someone, our brain is a) listening to what is being spoken, b) helping us to think a reply, and c) doing something else (whether compiling a to-do list in your mind or showing as a physical movement).
I think of this in regards to my “fidgety” fingers. While in the midst of a conversation (listening to words and thinking my response), my fingers are often busy playing around with whatever finds its way into my hands (jewelry, cell phone, pens, etc). I have also experienced shifting weight while standing, shaking my legs, doodling on paper, or tapping out rhythms.
While many of us can find such motions distracting, for the person involved, such movement may be necessary in order to focus on the conversation.

In regards to prayer, this means that we strive to use our bodies and our movements carefully and intentionally. This is why some people pray best while swaying. Others pray best while knitting or crocheting. Others paint, walk, or bake in order to focus while praying.

Prayer is not just a formula of words to be spoken: “Dear God, I need ___. Thank you for ___. You rock!”
Prayer involves all that we are (thoughts, speech, actions).
There is no right or wrong when praying. The most important thing is that we pray.

I’ve lost track of how many times people have asked me to put forth special requests to God.

Sometimes, I am humbled, honored and blessed to be entrusted with your concerns while other times I want to roll my eyes and ask “Do you really expect me to pray for that?!”
I am always willing to take time to pray for people, but I’ve learned to be careful and considerate with my prayers.

Sometimes, when asked to pray, I am taken aback and want to either giggle or groan, depending on my mood and the request.
For example: I might groan if you ask me to pray for a really hot, sunny day (mainly because I think anything over 75 degrees is unfit for humans and consider such prayers to be ridiculous). I might laugh if you ask me to not pray for snow, even though you live in North Dakota and it’s December (partly because I happen to like snow and cold weather and why would I ever agree to pray against something I enjoy?).
But I will faithfully pray that God sends the weather that we need and to watch over those who are out in the elements.

I draw the line with some prayers. We all have our limits, and even as a pastor I occasionally hesitate to ask God for some things.
I won’t pray for a sports team to win. I will pray for safety of players.
I won’t pray for you to win the lottery. I will pray that God will work through others to help you.
I won’t pray for the things that I believe are wants or desires. I will pray that God sees your need and gives you what you need.
I will not pray for what appears to be self-serving, but I will pray that God watches over all of us in all aspects of our daily lives.

So here is a word of advice: be careful what you pray for.
When we pray, we better be ready for the prayer to be answered (whether the answer is yes or no). Praying for a snow day because you want a day off might be answered with clear skies.
When we pray, we better be paying attention to exactly what it is that we pray for. Praying for health may not mean that a miracle cure happens or the physical ailment is “fixed” when health might be the emotional or spiritual acceptance of our own mortality.
When we pray, we better be ready to change. Praying for something and not receiving it could lead us to turning away from God (as we claim that since the prayer wasn’t answered how we wanted means God doesn’t listen) or else teaching us patience and trust that God provides, even if we don’t get what we want when we want it.

Whatever the prayer, I use honesty and caution.
Honesty because prayer is the time when we can share our deepest concerns and wishes with God, knowing that God sees into our hearts and knows when we are trying to hide.
Caution because God is paying attention, and sometimes we know what we ought to be praying for even if we don’t want to pay attention to what we feel deep in our hearts/guts should be our prayer.

After all, prayers are powerful and life-changing.

Blood moon lunar eclipse

i am up at a time i typically claim doesn’t exist on my clock
but totally worth it
#2 of the tetrad of lunar eclipses in 2014-2015
blood moon this morning
and i am praising God that the sky is brilliant
stellar, in fact
the sky is filled with bright stars and an unusual moon
i am in awe
and so grateful to live with little light pollution to take away from being able to see God’s work


Ah storms

So I type this on my phone since I have no electricity in my house, which means no internet on larger devices

As I sit with the only light from candles and an oil lamp, I have a few thoughts
1. I’m not sure how I would survive like this for a long time. I mean, I thought it was cool to have an oil lamp and several candles, but those are for emergencies and not daily use. What was the emergency supply back in the day? Or for people who still live without electricity?
2. I’m grateful for meteorologists who warned me hours before the sky darkened and turned green that bad weather was likely. I had time to charge my phone, laptop and tablet.
3. My electronic devices have hours of battery life but I was and am bored. Mainly because electricity shut off during a show I was watching on Netflix and I want to finish it…wow I sound spoiled
4. I like how my phone has apps that notify me immediately about watches and warnings even without me watching or listening to news and weather reports. On a side note, I also am alerted of amber alerts in the state
5. I’m not sure how much damage happened tonight, but I have one evergreen tree that might not have any more pinecones in it. Grass is littered with em.
6. I hope electricity comes back on soon. I have ice cream sandwiches I don’t want to melt.

With such thoughts rumbling through my mind as I listen to the rain continue to fall, I shall sign off and sleep since there is nothing else to do

going home

always fun to go back to south dakota
love to see family and friends
enjoy vising familiar sites

a couple weeks ago, i picked up krissa at the airport in sioux falls and we took libby and tucker with us for the weekend, went to a wedding rehearsal and officiated the ceremony, visited our grandparents who took around country roads and into nebraska, and was able to spend at least some time with sisters kendra and kiana and our parents in parkston

here are some snippets:
– sonic drive through has really tasty flavored lemonades
– kids are exhausting, especially when temps are over 90 but they really want to play outside
– i do love random road trips on gravel through the countryside
– it was weird seeing the chapel at fort randall near pickstown with a roof
– wedding was fun
– grateful that the extreme storms didn’t happen while we were back in south dakota (hail and tornados destroyed a lot the days leading up to our trip back to parkston)
– learned why the box elder at the end of the street always had bees nearby: hidden honeycomb inside
– love the mix of old, worn-down houses that haven’t had people living in them for decades surrounded by abundance of new life/greenery











july already?!?

so i have to admit that i often think up clever and witty blog posts several times a week.
but i’m always driving, so i never write them.
something about distracted driving being a bad thing…

but i’m taking some time today to reflect upon the craziness that is my life (at least this week)

i remember back in may thinking “thank you God that it is summer and the programming is over so i can now relax”
and then God was definitely laughing
because summer has been crazy busy

this is wedding season
i’ve had three so far, one tomorrow and one next month
i know that each couple is different (and i have seen extremes in the weddings i’ve had so far this summer), which makes for great stories and unforgettable memories.
as a pastor, i have to admit that i favor weddings that run like clockwork, the ones where people think about every detail possible so that when something goes wrong, no one worries because there is a backup plan. i also like the weddings that aren’t about the ceremony being perfect but instead focus on the fact that they are celebrating with family and friends as they begin a marriage (cause marriage is more than the wedding day).
if you ever ask a pastor if they prefer funerals or weddings, i bet most pastors will answer funeral.
the normal person doesn’t like the sadness at funerals, but we pastors feel called to be there in the midst of grief whereas weddings just irritate us when things get out of control.

i spend way too much time in my vehicle
when i picked out my suv, it had 46,000 miles.
it now has 131,000 miles.
i’ve only had it 2.5 years.
you do the math
but one perk of all that driving is seeing beautiful scenery.
and one perk of driving through scenery on highways in north dakota is that there are few people out driving, so i can stop and take pictures whenever and wherever i want to…
(a sampler of photos available at end of blog)

i’m a hero
at least that’s what i’m told whenever i donate blood, which i did on tuesday
it went well overall
i find it amusing when they cannot find my veins (weird, since i know they’re there…) but once they do, it never takes long for me to fill up the bag
this time i made sure to drink plenty of water several days in advance to make sure i wasn’t dehydrated (last time i was close to not being able to donate)

this week, i decided to be a wanna-be homemaker
what does this mean, you wonder?
well, let me tell you…
– i bought corn, shucked it, boiled it, cooled it down, sliced the kernels off then stuck em in the freezer.
– i did laundry and hung it on the clothesline
– i washed dishes by hand (seriously, using my dishwasher just leaves residue so i use it as a drying rack)
– i bought jars, pectin and fruit which i then prepared to make jelly/jam (i’m not sure what it is since it’s fruit that’s been pureed, not chunks like jam or only pure juice like jelly)…frozen jam, of course since i didn’t want to mess with boiling water
next on the list: re-potting plants. seriously i’ve got one that is looking sad as it’s grown so large that it’s roots are above the soil now…

i’ve become obsessed with npr’s tedtalk radio.
so addictive to listen to podcasts about random topics that make me think
i went to the website and downloaded all that i could
i enjoy the fact that in less than an hour, i can have my mind blown or be pushed to think critically about different things going on in the world or my life in particular
like one day, as i was driving, i was having fun listening to facts like a smile is worth 1000 chocolate bars in helping to improve moods
now i just have to remember to smile everytime i start to crave chocolate and hopefully that will help my dieting…

i’m sure there are plenty other things i could ramble on about, but i have a wedding ceremony to review for tomorrow.
here are the pictures from parts of my life over the last couple weeks:








so i have to admit that it is june, much to my shock.
i look at calendars and remind myself that it is not april.
or may.

it’s june, which means that summer fun has begun!

here are some highlights:
– green grass and pretty flowers and impressive thunderstorms. oh, how i love tulips and thunder…
– longer days with birds waking me up with melodies in the morning and the sun setting at a time i (as a night owl) consider to be a decent time
– planning for weddings (got 4 to officiate this summer). stressful yet fun.
– will be pastor of the week at the local bible camp, which should be a fun experience. first time spending several days at a camp (for more than overnight) since 2007.
– travel plans don’t have the standard clause “weather permitting” attached, plus it stays light so much later that i don’t worry about getting home by suppertime.
– i’m having tons of fun planning worship for 8 weeks this summer. that’s right, i took over choosing hymns and liturgy for a few weeks! pastor sherri gets her chance in august.

may day

this year i’ve been reminded numerous times about the tradition of may 1: may day baskets
i remember sneaking up to houses and leaving small gifts on doorsteps

but also on this day is national day of prayer (http://nationaldayofprayer.org/)
i started my morning with prayer even before i crawled out of bed (jumping the gun since all were to read it later at noon)
one of the many blessings of technology that travels with me wherever i go means that i saw the prayer when i checked email and facebook as soon as i woke up

now on to other things in my life:
1. my new niece. technically not related at all, but my host sister has a new little girl born in march and it’s just weird to say “host niece.” right now i’m working on a small afghan that will someday (hopefully within the next two weeks) be on its way to germany
2. my immediate family is fine, but the extended family is a bit more chaotic and full of hurts and blessings for numerous people. hurts like cancer, surgery, time in icu, distance from family and friends, etc. blessings like healing from hurts, lots of babies and a few weddings. i’m reminded time and again that birth and death are but bookends to the mess that is life.
3. my dog is looking shaggy. he really needs a haircut.
4. my house is messy. i really need to clean. like deep clean. with lots of elbow grease
5. still waiting for spring. i don’t see snow around, but the temps are still quite cool. grass is fighting to grow. flowers have the leaves but no buds/petals yet. but someday

out like a lion

i had such high hopes for march doing the “in like a lion, out like a lamb” since we started the month setting records for coldest temps on march 1
but no such luck
we ended march with an impressive blizzard
and i mean impressive
about a foot of snow fell
and winds were sustained with minimum speeds of 30 mph (gusting higher)
visibility in some places was zero, otherwise less than 1/4 mile

enough snow fell in one day so that i could not open my doors without pushing snow
and my doors sit several inches about the sidewalk (seriously have to step up to enter my house)

and to think the day before was muddy with water melting everywhere
i walked my dog wearing a long-sleeved shirt – no coat, gloves, earmuffs
but yesterday and today i had to shovel since snow was too deep for ziggy to even walk

a few days ago, the world looked like this:
note that the snow was almost gone

yesterday, the view from my front door:

today’s drifting: