Monday, October 29, 2007


"I never travel on 35W, especially since the construction started"
"It's too hard to get from our exit over to the Crosstown through all the lanes"
"How can you stand that commute everyday?"


Then, BAM! Our brand new van's rearend got rearended. Hard. By a bigass Dodge Durango. Ouch. So tomorrow, Sienna goes to the van hospital for a few days. We get a free rental out of the deal, and my chiropractic and massage treatments are covered for the duration of the healing process. Fortunately the boys weren't with me ... the system works, and already my back is a lot better ... but dang. I didn't need this right now.

On a much larger scale, this theme of being chastened by the hard realities of life is playing out in the lives of my fellow pastor Rolf Olson and his family as they mourn the tragic death of their beautiful daughter Catherine. Catherine had answered a Crag's list ad for a Nanny job, went to the interview, and was brutally murdered by the 19 year old sicko who placed the ad. I cannot imagine the anguish this family is going through.

Some weeks ago, our neighbor, Mark Loesch was randomly murdered as he took a late night ride on his bicycle. There are no leads. Just a man beat to death for going out on his bike, and a family that is, I'm sure beaten down with grief.

How careful do we need to be? How full of evil is this world? Not that I in anyway compare my little fender bender with these tragedies, but, I just want to say, it is sick that we must not only drive defensively, but LIVE defensively. I didn't know Catherine at all, and I only knew Mark in a neighborly sort of way ... but their lives and their spirits that live on attest to the fact that they would rather we live DEFIANTLY in their honor. It is so tempting to become timid when you witness the random evil of this world ... Jesus advised us: 'Be as wise as serpants and as innocent as doves ...' that's as sound advice as one can ask for in days like these.

Say a prayer for the families of Catherine and Mark ... and be bold! Be strong! For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Neither Life Nor Death Shall Ever ...

from the Lord his children sever. Don has gone home. He passed on Friday October 5. He hovered at that threshold for a couple of days, and all of his family members were able to come and spend some time with him. His funeral was beautiful... lots of folks from his parishes in Blooming Prairie and Farmington. It was a fitting tribute for a wonderful man.

At the family service the evening before his funeral, we gathered to sing and share memories; my favorite was singing the new (to me) hymn "You Are Mine" by David Haas. Tears washed my face as we sang,

I will come to you in the silence,
I will lift you from all your fear.
You will hear my voice, I claim you as my choice,
be still and know I am here.

I am hope for all who are hopeless,
I am eyes for all who long to see.
In the shadows of the night, I will be your light,
come and rest in me.

Do not be afraid I am with you,
I have called you each by name.
Come and follow me, I will bring you home;
I love you and you are mine.

I am strength for all the despairing,
healing for the ones who dwell in shame.
All the blind will see, the lame will all run free,
and all will know my name.

I am the Word that leads all to freedom.
I am the peace that world cannot give.
I will call your name, embracing all your pain,
Stand up, now walk, and live!

The funeral was a week ago, and we are slowly getting our feet under us again. There is such a surreal field of energy that fogs one in when grief sets in.

Eric and I took a 24 hour retreat last Friday/Saturday, stayed at a hotel, caught a movie, slept in, wandered the Minneapolis riverfront ... it was such a sweet break from the aforementioned fog ... made all the sweeter because we have a fresh perspective on how short and precious life is.

The boys are doing pretty well. Luke continues to process verbally ... Where is Grandpa? Why can't he shake my hand? (when we viewed him in his casket) Micah processes internally, so I'm never sure what his questions might be. We keep checking in ... letting him know we love him, offering safe space for conversation.

And, life just keeps moving along ...
It's MEA week, so we're juggling work and kid-care
We've got a "house cooling" Happy Hour at the Bungalow on Friday
WE'RE moving on November 10 (not quite in time for trick or treat in AV)
And the workloads for E and me didn't take a break for us last week!

On we go. I know Don is cheering all of his kids and grandkids on with a hearty "High-O!"

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

At the Threshold

These thin places were threshold places --
a border or frontier place
where two worlds meet
and where one has the possibility of
communicating with the other."
-- Peter Gomes

Eric's father Don is at the threshold. A friend told me recently that our family is in an enviable position, because we are approaching that holy time, that sacred space that only appears at the beginnings and endings of life in this realm. It is true that in these thin places we can almost feel the brush of angel's wings. We know we are in the presence of the Holy one.

And yet, we also live with the dreadful knowledge that we will never hear Don's wonderful voice again.

"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not let them be afraid." ~Jesus

Sunday, September 30, 2007

So Proud

The other day Micah asked if he could have some paper. "Sure," I said, "What are you up to?"
"I feel like writing a story" said he.

And here it is for your enjoyment; (borrowing heavily from the Toy Story movies) A 2nd grade story, told in 2nd grade phonetics:

Escape from the garbeg can

andy was getin to old for his toys and thru them away. they had to escape the trash can. buz landed on plante z. som of andys old spase toys cam tored him. destry buz lityer they sed. buzz manegd too deafet them with his laser. befor zurg knew it buzz was fliing away. woody had landed in the desert bank. bank robers were getting away. just then jesee and bulsi landed on woodys head. hi gies woody said. those bank robers are getting away said jesse. lets get them. ya said woody. woody and jesee hopt on too bulsis bake. ride like the wind bulsi they shouted. bulsi ran after the bank robers. woody throd his rope. the bank robers were cohte. Rex had landed in a plase were andys old dinosaur toys. A big one came tard him and calengd Rex to dino fite. Rex jumpt the attack then Rex swipt his claw at some cocunut trees. the cocunuts fell onto the big dinos head. then Rex did a claw attack and ran away. meanwile mr. patatohead had landed in the brkeible secshon. hands came toard him. he jumt. he dogd craocht and jumpt attack andefeted enimes with a broken boxer glove that he fuond. he escapet and fuond mrs. patatohead and baby patatohead. the toys met up just in time to cach litil boe peep on buzs bake. they flew out but zurg blsted at them. buzz doged the boms. the toys lifted the lid and trou it at zurg and flew away to the nxt book. the end.

The Turning

Well, it’s been a long three months. Since early July, we have had over 100 showings of our home. That’s a lot of cleaning and getting out of the way and wondering how long this is gonna go on. As the showings and interest started to slow down, and as the media keeps cranking out prophecies of economic gloom and doom, Eric and I were coming around to the idea that we may need to hunker down in Minneapolis until Spring and try again …

But then … came … a buyer! We accepted an offer on Thursday, and the same day went out with our realtor to look at homes in Apple Valley, because he was leaving town for 10 days, so we thought, why don’t we get one day of looking under our belts before he takes off?

So off we went, to look at some homes we’ve had our eye on for a few weeks, plus a couple of others that have come on the market. We looked at one of the new ones first. And, surprise! It was a beauty! So well maintained, had everything we were looking for … hmm. OK, let’s go and look at the others we like, and compare them. You know what? They didn’t compare! They didn’t have the nice sense of flow, the right kinds of spaces and yard for our family. So Joel, our realtor said, you want to go back and look at that one one more time? And we did. And it felt like home. And it was a great value. So we made an offer!

And here she is, our new home!

Our offer was accepted, with no counter offer. The current owners are members of my congregation, and when they saw who the buyers were, they chose not to counter! Talk about grace … We are so lucky. And we’ve learned that the neighbor across the street was on the call committee that interviewed and recommended me for ministry at SOTV! It is indeed a small world! We wanted to be ensconced in the community where I serve, and we will be! Micah and Luke will be trick-or-treating in our new neighborhood!

Friday, August 17, 2007

iPod jack: the New Cupholder

I love our new van! It has that combination of new plastic, carpet, somethin' somethin' that makes it smell soooo good. And it has an iPod jack! Yahoo! And at least 3 "power ports" (nee cigarette lighters). And a "mommy mirror" above the rearview. And special compartments for garage door opener, sunglasses, coins, and I don't know what all. And, yes, at least 12 cup holders. Oh, and it drives like a dream ... plenty of get up and go, handles great, quiet. I'm already so spoiled. And I'm not the only one ... the other night, Luke and I were heading off in my old 98 Prizm, and he howled " Mo-om, I don't want to get in that dirty little car!"

I need to name her. Sienna is nice, but kind of generic. She's already been up to the North Shore, across the state of Wisconsin, Lake Michigan (in the Badger Carferry - she's not quite chitty chitty bang bang!), and the state of Michigan (twice a piece) AND down to eastern Ohio.

So, life is good in the new van. Lots more to report on, but this is it for tonight.


Monday, July 16, 2007

Superb Minneapolis Bungalow! Cute! Cheap! Available!

Click here to see the web ad

Do I sound desperate?
It just dawned on me over the weekend that we're getting to the point now that if we don't sell soon, we won't be in our new school district by September ... so we might need to get Micah and Luke enrolled in schools, not knowing yet if they will be our neighborhood schools ... and it's kind of freaking me out.

We're still having showings almost daily, but no offers.
... but our house is really clean, and looks cuter than we ever made it for our own dang selves!

So, hi everyone. It's been a wack-o six weeks. Are you ready for a super long post? Go get yourself a drink, find a comfortable spot. We could be here for a while.

1. The House
I'm really proud of the fact that we did manage to get the house ready to sell, but we sure couldn't have done it without a TON of help. Here's a sample (though not an all-inclusive list):
For our paint-a-thon weekend, Mim was the Queen of Kilz! She prepped any and all surfaces she came near. Julie and Kelsey were the Trim team - Julie even taught Luke how to paint a door. Kelsey got all the spindles in the staircase painted a fresh coat of shiny white. Next day, we had a fantastic team - Murray on prep and trim, Jen managed the team of small ones (ages 4-10!) painting the boys' bedroom, I did the bathroom, and Matt totally rocked the hall and stairway - floor to ceiling! Meanwhile, Mark was tearing the playhouse down, and Luke was having a meltdown! He (Luke) got past it amazingly fast, though.

I was inspired by all that help and did the kitchen over the course of a few late nights, the trim on the front of the house (3 colors, lots of masking tape, and a bit of panicking on the ladder!) the porch floor ... and I'm sure more that I can even recall right now.

THEN, we cleaned, and sorted and packed and cleaned --- and we're STILL NOT DONE! It is an unbelievably huge job. So more saintly friends came to help. Sandy did her magic on the hutch --- the girl knows how to make wood sing---AND she washed windows and packed stuff! Cathy helped pack up junk in the basement, and staged the bookshelves. Mark came back and then he came back again to do a zillion handy-man things, the biggest and ickiest of which was replacing the ceiling tiles in the basement. Mark is my house fixing hero!!! Mim came back and kilzed some more.

So now, we're spending a lot of time tidying up the house and leaving for showings ... the good thing about this is that it's forcing us to just go out as a family for an hour at a time: play at the park, have a picnic - very good things to do when we are so task oriented the rest of our waking lives.

2. The Car
A couple of weeks ago, we noticed that Eric's car was making funny sounds. I heard a clicking type of sound. Eric noticed a louder engine sound. Then the oil light came on. Then our wonderfully honest mechanic at Ellwood, our neighborhood shop looked at it and pronounced it "mostly dead." So... imagine this in your best game show announcer voice: Eric and Diane You're getting a NEW Minivan!!!!

Our new moving-to-the-suburbs 2007 Toyota Sienna.

We were kind of planning to upgrade sometime around the time we sold the house... but this has been kind of a crazy add-on to the rest of our craziness. When we actually get it, I'll tell you all about how great it smells and its other features. I fondly remember the days when the only feature I really cared about was a cup holder. I think this model has, like, a dozen.

3. Please say a prayer for ...
Eric's dad, Don. The last few weeks have been such a long haul for the Sponheim family. Don has been in and out of the hospital and a care center with multiple issues. His health picture has been complicated for a long time, and now, all of his conditions seem to be worsening. Yesterday, his focus of care was switched to hospice care. Eric and his siblings are all trying to help Bev care for Don during the nights, but it is getting too difficult for them all to manage. Please pray for wisdom and patience to prevail ... Thanks.

So. Life is hard and busy and complicated. But - God is good and merciful and kind.

Over and out for now. I hope to update again in less than six weeks!

Monday, May 28, 2007

Gone to Kansas City

The last three weeks have been a marathon of house projects, packing, finding a nanny, and I don't know what else ...

I'm in Kansas City with my mom, taking a wee break from the above, and attending a cousin's (2nd cousin?) wedding. This branch of the family tree is so interesting! We all go back to my great grandparents on my mom's side. It's so amazing to look a perfect stranger in the face and see clearly that we are related, just by the shape of a nose, or a particular way of smiling. And what a marvel this Molton family is --- so literate and creative and brilliant, really. Patriarch Warren is a poet, minister, counselor (still practicing at 80!). Mom's cousin, Mary Dian (the matriarch) is equally impressive, also a practicing counselor, writer, and all-around delightful woman. You can imagine what their children grandchildren and great-grands are like! All of the children sang, played instruments and spoke eloquently at the reception. I hope this tenuous connection holds ... I'd like to see these folks again.

And now for something completely different ... the House Update!

The 'Done' List
- retaining wall -gone! beautiful grassy slope in its place
- old crumbling sidewalk - replaced
- floors refinished
- stucco refinished
- dining room, kids' room painted
- chandelier replaced
- 13 totes of kids' clothes organized
- yard sale done - tons of stuff carted away.
- many cabinets, drawers, closets purged & organized

The 'To Do' list
- lots more purging to do
- paint: kitchen, bath, hall & stairs, kids' other room, outside trim
- demo the old play house (Micah already kicked a wall out! Way to get us started, buddy!)
- hang new blinds and valances
- spruce up the landscaping

There's more, but for now, that's all I can handle thinking about. This is a very day-to-day, babysteps sort of process. We're having a project day on Saturday ... anyone who wants to show up and help out is welcome! Free lunch, dinner and drinks provided all day long!

The goal is to get on the market by June 15 or so. We went with our fantastic realtor (Joel Mugge, Coldwell Banker Burnet) to look at homes last week. We were flabbergasted at what's available in our price range! Even as we mourn the move away from our sweet city neighborhood, we look forward to an amazing, unimagined (before all this fell into place) future.

One more day here in KC with extended family, then it's back home to my very own family tomorrow, one more full day of house stuff, then on Thursday, my first day at Shepherd of the Valley! But I'm getting ahead of myself ... one step at a time baby, one step at a time.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

... Still Soaking!

And I'm pretty sure we're past the soft hands stage. We've moved right past wrinkly fingers to mush.

Yesterday I went to Westwood to pack up my office. I predicted 2-3 hours for this job. Hah! I was so wrong! I'm pretty sure I disposed of at least a small forest as I made trip after trip to the recycling dumpster. In fact on the last one, well after dark, I headed out the back door, and there, hopping out of the dumpster, was the biggest racoon I ever saw ... with her family of kits peeking out over the edge! Ay yay yay! I ran back in and slammed the door hard, leaving that last load for my friend Brian on the morning custodial shift.

Working in this office for the last six years, I'd forgotten how many stories and memories were tucked away in my files, bookshelves and drawers. Now I realize that all along, I was surrounded by them, and pulling them out felt sort of like pulling out a prayer shawl and wrapping it around myself. For all the stresses that come along with the work of pastor-ing, the deep connections with people, the opportunity to be a vessel for God's love ... it is so humbling, and it is such an amazing vocation. Aw geez. Now I'm crying again ...

For most of the hours I was packing, I had my iPod on shuffle. What a fantastic invention!!! Even after using this thing for over a year, I'm thrilled with the ability to pick any one of a thousand songs at the press of a button. So, I heard from all my girls: Shawn Colvin, Patti Griffin, Annie Lennox, Sam Phillips, Aimee Mann, the Indigos, Nelly Fertado, Corrine Bailey Rae, Ella Fitzgerald, Sheryl Crow, Nanci Griffith, Natalie Merchant, Suzanne Vega and on and on ... plus a few boys - John Hiatt, U2, Bruce Cockburn, Mark Knopfler, Van Morrison, Louis Armstrong and on and on again ... Surprisingly, today, the one song I can't shake from those many hours of listening? "Goin' to Carolina in My Mind" by James Taylor. It's the little tag at the end I can't get out of my head:
I'm gone ... say nice things about me ... I'm gone ... carry on without me ...

Tonight the congregation celebrated with us at a potluck (of course!) and I'm still floating from all of the sweet words of affirmation that were spoken, written in zillions of cards, and whispered into my ears as we hugged.

What a gift the church is. What a gift this church has been.

Thanks be to God.

Monday, April 23, 2007

You're Soaking in It!

OK, this is totally going to date me, but, remember Madge, the manicurist from the Palmolive dish washing liquid commercials? ("It softens hands while you do the dishes!") She would give her unsuspecting customers the spiel about how this stuff was magic --- and then reveal: "You're soaking in it!"

These days, I feel like I'm soaking in it. Not Palmolive --- just life. It's crazy right now. And in times when my emotions are all over the map and just rich, for some reason, I think of that phrase: You're soaking in it!

I've taken a new call! Phew! I can finally say it now in this public spot. The 2.5 people who read this blog already know this, of course, but for ethical, professional reasons, I haven't been able to blog about this huge thing that's been going on in my life for the last several months. Hence the relative quietude.

In fact, as things heat up around here, I may be turning to this space more and more just to process stuff.

I am in the midst of saying good-byes and winding down at Westwood, a place that has been a great church home for our family for almost six years. The career part of it has been mixed - lots of transitions, and interesting staff stuff - but overall, good. It's the dear dear people and the gorgeous worship and beautiful architecture that I will miss so very much. The refrain I hear is: "We are sad for us, but happy for you and your family." I, too, am sad to leave Westwood, and I will miss this community a lot.

My new call is at Shepherd of the Valley, Apple Valley, and I am so thrilled. The pastors, staff and call committee have been phenominally welcoming, and the call process itself was just a wonder. By the final interview, I swear, there was some kind of Holy Ghost power electrifying the air in that meeting room. By the time I left there, I was certain that no matter what the call committee decided, it would be God's will, and I was happy with that. The amazing thing is, they called me before I even got home to offer me the opportunity to have my name recommended to the church council! The chairman had his phone on speaker, and when I replied "absolutely" to this opportunity, the committee erupted in cheers! So affirming, and entirely cool. I start there May 31.

And between now and then, we are getting our lovely Kingfield Bungalow ready to sell. If it weren't so clear on so many levels that this move to Apple Valley is meant to be, we would be having a lot harder time with all of these changes. We love the city. We've been very committed to having Micah enrolled at Windom. The Spanish Immersion program there has been so great for him, and it looks like we won't find that in AV, sadly. But! We are totally riding the positives of the Apple Valley move: closer to Eric's work, closer to his folks, great schools, the opportunity for us to live and work and school and worship all in the same community ...

But to get there, we will be selling our house, buying a new one, finding a nanny, adjusting to a new community ... even though it's only 30 minutes away, everything will be new, so it might as well be cross country in some respects.

Don't know how much I'll bore you 2 or 3 with the details of the house processes, but I do know entire blogs have been dedicated to this. We will be having >$15K worth of work done on the outside of the house. And we're flying brother Jon out for 6 days of painting and fixing stuff. Can't wait to see how it all turns out ... and I know the improvements are only going to make us love this place more. Sniff.

But - a whole brand new house? And job? And everything? Just amazing to consider.

We're soaking in it.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Holy Week

It's the Tuesday after Easter, and I'm coming down with a cold, kind of like I always did after finals in college. 'Twas a wonderful week, though ...

On Palm Sunday, Micah got to march and wave palms at two services, not just one --- which, silly me, I thought he would love. Sometimes I forget that my eldest son is an extreme introvert with very distinct ideas about what is fun. The only way he got through the second go-round of palm waving was by looking forward to playing "Sponge Bob" on the computer in Mom's office afterwards. I am not above bribery. Plus, he'd already sung and sat very well through the earlier worship service.

During that first service on Palm Sunday, after the children had sung and paraded, I was at the lectern, reading the New Testament lesson from Philippians. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Micah sauntering towards me down the center aisle. As I continued to read, trying to act oblivious, he marched right up to the lectern and stood next to me. "Mom!" he whispered urgently as I read. "MOM!" (still whispering) ... fortunately by this time I was finished, and we were all responding "Thanks be to God." It's the first time in a while that either of the boys have charged the stage while I've been leading worship.

Maundy Thursday is one of my favorite services of the year. We didn't do the laying-on-of-hands absolution this year, though, which is something I always treasure receiving and giving. However, Jason led us through a ritual hand washing, which was very meaningful. Almost everyone present participated. Three pairs of people stood at stations with warm water scented with a bit of fragrant oil; as you approached, they reached for your hands, and washed them while reciting Jesus' command to 'love one another as I have loved you.' As an observer at the front of the sanctuary, it was so moving to see nearly everyone present submit to this ritual, and to see the smiles on their faces as they were cared for.

The stripping of the altar at the end of the service was accompanied by the reading of Psalm 88 by Brian Skellenger, a noted young actor in the Twin Cities. As he read, two families with young children carefully removed all of the paraments, and laid them on the pastors' outstretched arms. The children worked with such dignity and obvious pride. Finally they approached us and beckoned us to lean forward so they could remove our stoles. It was humbling and beautiful to have children perform this part of the service. Jason, Tania and I walked down the long center aisle in silence, bearing the liturgical garments.

On Good Friday, I preached at the noon service, which is one of the oddest times to preach, ever. See, the service follows right after a lovely meal we have for our seniors and home-bound folks, so they are all very full, and probably sleepy. Then, in our sanctuary it is REALLY bright; then, you have to remember that many of these folks won't be able to make it back for the Easter service, so you don't want to leave them with too much of a sock-in-the-gut Good Friday sermon ... Vewy, vewy weird. But it went OK, I guess.

For the evening, I wrote a service called "Sounds of Darkness" in which we broke up the passion story from the Gospel of John (apologies to the purists who think this is a bad idea). For each piece of the story, there was an accompanying sound effect, then silence, then a response. The responses included a couple of meditations, a drama, an anthem, and a few hymns. I found sound effects on the Internet, and we augmented some of them with live sounds. Overall it worked well.

For the first sound (after the description of the soldiers approaching to arrest Jesus), I found a recording of a military drill, where you could hear soldiers' marching feet, clanking of weapons, and a drill sergeant's voice barking out unintelligible orders. In my one-to-two minute meditation, I said that no weapon or army was as strong as God's love that came to us through Jesus' humbling of himself to death, and that in fact, God meets us right in the middle of that dark human impulse toward violence when he goes to the cross through Jesus. I then mentioned the 3,266 soldiers (as of that day) and tens of thousands of Iraqis who had died in the current war, because it is the military conflict most immediate in our consciousness these days. A gentleman who heard this responded with a letter stating that it was parochial of me to only mention the suffering related to the Iraq war, and not the suffering of millions of others in Sudan, Uganda, North Korea and elsewhere. I'm really not sure what his actual beef was, he also seemed to be critiquing my lack of background on the previous centuries of military rule in the ancient world. I need to contact him, but in the meantime, let me just say, when it comes to mentioning social issues in the pulpit, you're damned if you do and damned if you don't.

A few weeks ago, I preached on the Sunday closest to the 4th anniversary of the Iraq war. None of the pastors mentioned the war in preaching, prayers or announcements. We were soundly scolded for this neglect by a couple of parishioners. I guess I felt the weight of their criticism, and maybe I hoped to somehow right that ommission by mentioning the war in the context of Good Friday. And yet, at the same time, I don't think my mention of the way God meets us---even seeks us out---in the darkest places humans can create for themselves was an innappropriate thing to bring up on Good Friday, was it???

So. Then came Easter. Just glorious! At the largest service, we had over 900 folks there singing out their Alleluias! The moment I sat and just listened to that throng of voices is one I hope I never forget. Other high points of Easter: the installation of a beautiful liturgical art work, a canopy of Spring-colored cloths extending the length of the santuary, and all pointing to the large cross at the front. (I'll insert a picture soon.) and hundreds of flowering plants, and my own dear family in the second row, and four couples I've married in the last year or so showing up for the first time since their weddings ... a bright and lovely day.

After putting up my feet for a while in the afternoon, we gathered with the Sponheims at Don & Bev's. Good food and good company. I love when the cousins can spend some time together. Micah and Luke only have two, so we treasure them. Easter egg hunts, baskets, the requisite squabble over who got more or better goodies ... it's all part of the deal. And it is good.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

The End of Winter

You can't really tell in this picture, that looks so barren, that life is bursting out everywhere. The bare branches are filled with birds, heralding the arrival of warmer weather. The lake is melting, turning bluer every moment, and scores of geese fly overhead, honking their way to the nearby lake that is already open. One morning, fog rose off the lake in a white, mystical layer, with the blue sky peeking through, and another layer of white, then blue ... captivating.
Green Lake, Spicer, MN; March 24, 2007
Underneath the frozen waves heaved up on the shore, you could hear water trickling, and once in a while a *pop* as ice cracked and gave way.

I spent last weekend with 70 women (every shape and size and color and age - 19 -80!) at our church's women's retreat. The wondrous Cathy Malotky was our speaker, and she led us in celebrating the fact that God had created us, with all of our lumps and bumps and so-called imperfections ... we prayed and laughed and worshiped and danced and drummed! It was soul-enriching, and exhausting and very very good.

Leading campfire with my buddy Kim

"For each child that's born, a morning star rises

and sings to the universe who we are"

Our elders blessed us

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Happy Birthday to Me!

...belated, of course!

Here I am, getting birthday kisses from two of my favorite guys.

It's sad (but not uncommon among busy families, I guess) that there are no pictures of Eric and me together. In case you wondered, we are still married!

My mom gave me a digital camera for my bday, so I'll be uploading more photos now. Yippee!

My birthday featured the first of two back-to-back winter storms, so Eric's and my plans to go out to Brix were scotched. We did, however, head over to Westwood, for a Kids Against Hunger meal packing event. Our line featured Mim & Linden, Annette, Elsa & Kjell, Sandy Lepp, Micah and me. All told, the event yielded 116,000 meals for our friends in Tanzania. So Cool! The reality is, it only makes a small dent in the needs there, but it is good for us to keep making dents.

In the middle of our meal packing shift, the organizers approached me with a megaphone and invited me to speak a bit about Kids Against Hunger, and say a prayer (designated pastor, don'tcha know!?) I've never prayed into a megaphone before. After my little spiel, a couple of the organizers surprised me with a cake!
So, yeah. I'm getting, um, mature. And that's a good thing, right?

Friday, March 2, 2007


What climate crisis?
Folks, we have been dumped on! This pile of snow is now partially melted, but it was about 6 feet tall.

Snow Cave

Just about to go down the hill!

And now ... this week's Lukisms:

  • "Why did Micah blow up?" (After Micah had a bout with vomiting)

  • Looking at the carmel-y colored snow we were shoveling... Lukie: "That looks like Micah's head!" Me, after a few seconds to think about it:"Because its sort of yellowish like his hair?" Luke:"Yeah"
  • Spying a picture of Rickie Lee Jones on a web site I was reading ..."Hey Mom! That's you on the computer"

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Ash Wednesday

A few moments I want to remember ...
- standing in the sacristy, wondering where these black, black ashes come from? They look nothing like the gray ones we made from burnt palm leaves. I also recalled the white ashes that were the remains of my father.
- creating a slurry of olive oil and black ash to smear on the foreheads of the faithful
- at noon today, following worship, a roomful of older folks, chatting and laughing over bowls of warm soup, while the ashen crosses on their heads danced in the sun ... a sort of Pentecost. Take that, death and grave!
- Walking through Lunds this afternoon, black cross on my head, black coat, clerical, pants and shoes ... People were quite wary of me. Looked the other direction when they saw my ashes and gave me a wide berth if we happened to be walking toward each other. I felt like such a bad-ass!
- this evening, drawing crosses on white porcelain skin and old leathery skin; on the brow of a woman whose young husband had now become ashes himself; and on the forehead of a redheaded teenager who when I said "Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return," leveled his gaze at me and said, "Is that in the Bible?"
- at the end of a long day, stopping at Burger King for one of my favorite indulgences: a frozen Coke. African American BK employee leans her generous self out the window towards me: "What's up with the black cross on yo' head?"
"Um, it's Ash Wednesday, in the church" ... I begin, thinking, "how do I abridge all the meanings of this day?" but it's enough. "Oh, all right" she says, and the window folds shut.

It is enough ... to know that we were created from the dust, and that when we return to dust, and all of the moments in between, our God is with us.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Oscars, Schmoscars

So, I've had this tradition for many years to try to see every Oscar nominated best picture, and all the flicks with actor/actress nominations AND foreign films and documentaries.

15 years ago, I could actually pull this off. Now? I'm lucky to catch a few. And, these days, I'm much more picky about what I will let into my life, in terms of violence, gratuitous sex, etc... So! My Oscar Quest goal has narrowed considerably.

Here's what I've seen, and my thoughts on award-worthiness, for what it's worth:

1. Best Picture

  • Little Miss Sunshine ~ I LOVE this movie! It is so quirky and endearing; and even though there are a few crude things, the overall message is one of such sweetness ... even hugely dysfunctional families can be full of huge love.
  • The Queen ~ E and I have been trying to see this for months! Hopefully we'll get it in before the big night.
  • Babel, The Departed, Letters From Iwo Jima ~ Sorry. Can't do these. Too bloody intense(abbreviated as 2bi in the following entries).

2. Best Actor - can't comment yet - most of these are WAY 2bi for me

3. Best Actress

  • Penelope Cruz in Volver ~ She absolutely glows in these Pedro Almadovar films. And what a fun picture! Chicks rule! I would love for her to win this one.
  • Dame Judy Dench in Notes on a Scandal ~ turns in another fabulous performance. By the end you hate and pity her in equal measure.
  • Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada ~ She looks amazing, and, of course, kills in every scene she's in, but this was a cake-walk for Meryl. Let somebody else have a chance this year.
  • Helen Mirren in The Queen ~ see #1.
  • Kate Winslet in Little Children ... I'm sure she's also wonderful - I'd love to see this film as well, but will probably end up waiting for the dvd.

4. Best Supporting roles:

  • Alan Arkin and Abigail Breslin in Little Miss Sunshine ~ How cool would it be for little Miss Abigail to walk away with this one? She is just a treat. Arkin was hilarious, but not outstanding. It seems odd to me that Toni Colette (whom I adore) was not also nominated in this category for this film
  • Eddie Murphy and Jennifer Hudson in Dreamgirls ~ Loved this movie/musical, and I truly believe they deserved their Golden Globes in the category of musical --- but I don't know if these performances stand up next to the other nominations.

5. Best Foreign Film:

  • Water ~ was gorgeous, but soooo sad. Forgive me for making a gross generalization, but it seems that almost every film or book I've encountered that takes place in India is just ... tragic.
  • Pan's Labyrinth ~ Had the opportunity to see this one, but backed out because of its surreal nature. That stuff just gets into my psyche and doesn't leave me alone.
  • Don't know if I'll see any of the others ...

6. Best Documentary

  • I predict Al Gore will win this one, but that some sort of election fraud will occur ... I'm interested in seeing Jesus Camp but haven't gotten around to it yet.

Not Oscar-nominated, but worthy films in my book:

Cars ~ We've been living and breathing this movie for months (since all the tie-in merchandise made great potty-training prizes!) and I'm still not tired of it. I just love the characters. Mater cracks me up every time. Guess I'm just a good ol' girl at heart!

Charlotte's Web ~ Absolutely does justice to the book. I'm so thankful for films like this to offset the sarcasm and silliness of Spongebob, Scooby-Doo, et al.

The Holiday ~ Once in a while, E and I like to indulge in a romantic comedy, and this one is an especially good example of the genre. I love me some Jack Black, and thought it was so cool that he was cast in a quasi-romantic role. Kate Winslet is also just a wonder to behold.

Prairie Home Companion ~ Fun to see all of our Midwestern caricatures up there on the big screen, but a little bit disappointing, too. Kind of like seeing a movie of a favorite book, and not having it fit the pictures that were in your head.

Well, that about wraps up my humble opinions ... Can't wait to watch the red carpet and revel in the excitement of it all!

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Greetings from the Infirmary

Now that the pneumonia is resolved, Luke is the healthiest of us all. The rest of us have this incredibly stubborn cold that is finally abating. In other health news, I had dental work done yesterday on a bridge (that earlier required a surprise root canal!) and my copay is now up to $1600 ... This is the bridge that I got when I was 14. (I'll spare you the long, gory story) It has served me well for 30 years, so I guess replacing it shouldn't be too much of a surprise. But, dang!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

I'm the Only One

Today is Luke's birthday. He is four now. Oh my goodness, the baby years are slipping away so quickly ...

Luke has a habit of jumping around like Tigger, even if he's not excited about anything in particular. And sometimes he sings the Tigger song in his best Tigger-ish voice.

The wonderful thing about Tiggers is Tiggers are wonderful things!
Their tops are made out of bubbah! (sic)
Their bottoms are made out of strings! (sic)
insert a bunch of gibberish .... then triumphantly:
I'm the only one!

Fittingly today, Luke dispensed with the whole thing except for "I'm the only one!" as he hopped around anticipating cake and presents. I love Luke's hop. I love Luke's beamish outlook on the world. Happy birthday, son. You are the only Luke. You are a gift.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Rude Awakening

I awoke later than the usual 6 bells this Sunday morning. My duties were light at church (only an interview at the 6th grade Sunday School on what it's like to be a Pastor) -- so I slept in a bit. The first sign that something was awry this day was the sound of what I call Micah's "wheedling" --- a sound somewhere between a whine and a cry that is totally forced, and completely aimed at annoying the person who is denying him his current wish. The situation was dealt with, and then along came Luke.

His cheeks were completely flushed, and his hand was over his left ear. I swept his hot hot body up into my arms and carried him to the bathroom for a dose of Motrin, promising that Daddy would take him to the doctor, and I would check on him as soon as I returned from church.

Having given all the necessary instructions and insurance cards to Eric, I flew out the door, now running late. As I walked up to the garage, the side door was open ... and the car door was hanging open. "Did I forget to close that after I unloaded groceries last night?" I wondered. Then a split second later realized what had happened. The console was all busted up, the ashtray on the passenger seat, and the cup holder in pieces on the floor. The front panel of the stereo was gone.

Ran back to the house, gave Eric the bad news, and then ran off. Nothing like leaving a mess in your spouse's lap. I felt terrible; couldn't concentrate ... At the 6th grade class, I shot off my answers with rapid-fire delivery, and one of the girls' only "question" was, "Wow, you talk fast." So I tried then to slow down and be in the moment, rather than worrying about Eric and the boys. But my head and my gut were in a twisted mess.

Worship was a gift. At the 11:10 contemporary worship, an African American family had come, and their participation in the music, their total, visible engagement in the service reminded me of why we were all there. Songs that might other times get on my nerves, "Yielding," "The Sweet Sweet Presence of Jesus" suddenly spoke to my spirit and soothed me. Pastor Kelly Chatman preached on the wedding at Cana. Jesus invites everyone to the party, and he makes gallons upon gallons of wine because he wants everyone of us to get our groove on! What a playful, refreshing take on that story.

The news from the doc is that Lukie has pneumonia. I always feel a twinge of guilt at a diagnosis like this, like, how did this get past me??? He honestly has been his cheery sociable self, except for a nagging cough for a couple of weeks. We spent a lot of time on the couch today, read lots of stories, ... the Zithromax is kicking in, and he'll be fine in a few days, hopefully in time for his fourth birthday on Wednesday.

So, life goes on ... I must admit that instead of the violation I expected to feel in the face of the break in this morning, I feel a bit smug. Ha ha, no stereo for you, thug! And honestly? I'm glad the doors weren't locked, because this single-minded thief would have smashed them to get what he wanted. The police confirmed that. If we want to keep thieves out of the garage, we need to install a steel door with a huge bolt (or three). At the moment, it hardly seems worth it. None of our garage stuff -- hard-earned as it is, seems that important to protect to that degree. Now on our house ... with precious lives enclosed, that's another story.

And at the end of this weird day, I still feel incredibly blessed.
And don't you love the sound
Of the last laugh going down?
- Mark Knopfler

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Lutherans and Biblical Hermanuetic

I reluctantly left the Saturday morning nest today to be present at a Minneapolis Area Synod Council meeting. Expectations were low as I settled into the Fireside Room at Woodlake Lutheran Church, but I was given a couple of gifts today.

First of all, my very own copy of Evangelical Lutheran Worship inscribed to me by Bishop Craig Johnson himself. Very cool.

Secondly, a very stimulating talk by Dr. David Lose, professor of Homiletics and Academic Dean at Luther Sem. In one and a half hours, David whirlwinded through a history of Biblical interpretation, leavening it with humor and brilliant insights. At points, Dr. Lose's eyes glistened with emotion as he witnessed to his understanding of the scriptures. I can't possibly capsulize all that he said here, but a couple of points that rung especially true:
  • The most offensive thing Jesus did was to forgive sin. We would rather die than admit our need for forgiveness ... God will not accept that. Jesus conquers death, and comes back with the very same message: "Peace be with you," (i.e. I forgive you)
  • The church is about telling the truth twice: The first truth is the condition of the world: I know you. The second truth is simply, I love you.

Lose goes on: "We most deeply want a relationship in which we are deeply known, BUT we all deeply fear being deeply known. Yet we can't be loved fully without being known fully. To be truly known is to be vulnerable to the point of death." Dying to self, Dying to pride, dying to the lies I tell myself and you about who I am. And then real love can breathe life into this dead soul.

Good stuff. The room felt electric after Dr. Lose spoke. Our intellects and hearts were completely engaged and spoken to.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Snuggling In

Well, here is is, the first really cold day of this Minnesota winter. What better time to batten down the hatches, snuggle in with my laptop and start a blog?

Actually, I've resisted the urge to do this for a long time. It's always seemed a bit narcissistic to me. But a few friends have pioneered this strange land before me, and have inspired me. So -- for whatever reason, I'm feeling the need to express myself, so here goes!

Today was a wonderfully domestic kind of day. I love an at-home day to catch up on the dishes and laundry ... putter around and drink hot beverages ... set up the hundredth configuration of the Island of Sodor for Luke's train fantasy ... write overdue thank you notes.

The only time we ventured out into the 4 degree weather was when Luke and I headed over to Micah's school for our Friday ritual ... hanging out in the lunchroom with about 100 totally wired Kindergartners and 1st graders. Luke, for some reason, loves this. He looks forward to it all week. Not that you'd know it when we are there. He clings to my legs while I walk around and assist children with milk cartons, orange peels and all manner of ecologically unsound packaging. Must be the energy of all those lovely, diverse children. Or the free chocolate milk.

When Micah got home from school, we three went immediately to the basement, where we slid in the Mary Poppins DVD, got under a blanket,and munched popcorn. I love this about the bleak midwinter. It is perfectly OK to hibernate and waste a couple of hours cuddled up on the couch. "Savor it," my friend Penne, a mom of teenagers advised me. Excellent advice.

I must mention here that not only am I new to blogging, I'm also new to the wonder that is Netflix. How amazing is it that you can queue up hundreds of movies that you want to see, type in a password, and for a nominal fee, ta-da! DVDs come to your door! I never have to go to the skanky video store again! I can do all my decision making (that always took forever at the video store) in the comfort of my own home. Granted, I have to wait one day for the DVD to arrive ... but for a movie loving, nay, movie-starved gal like me, this is a dream come true. So Mary Poppins goes back tomorrow, and up next in two days: The Devil Wears Prada. I love it.

So ... no deep theological insights. No psyche-probing meanderings. I'll save those for another day. I'm just getting my feet wet. Stay toasty.