Monday, November 25, 2013

Watch and Wait in Color

December 1st this year marks the beginning of Advent (convenient, right?!) This Advent, I will be praying with my beloved seminary, the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg, following their Advent Prayer Star devotional. You can find the daily lessons and prayers here:

Each day, after you have read the lesson and prayer, I invite you to pray in color as we watch and wait for our Lord to come. Use the image below as your guide, or create your own. I invite you to write a theme word (as printed below the image) in each section of this star ornament, and color in one section each day, praying as you go. Consider this your blank canvas:

Here is an example of a completed prayer in color:
The theme words come from the seminary's photo challenge:

Post by Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg.
Here is the link for the Advent Star texts:
If you would like to learn more about praying in color, you can go here:

If you would like to learn more about praying in color, you can go here:

Let us watch and wait together.

Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Luke 21:5-19, 26th Sunday after Pentecost C, November 17, 2013

Grace and peace be unto you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen.

First, a story from the Gather magazine. Alize has endured a lot. She is middle aged, married, and living in Chicago with her two children and two grandchildren. With six mouths to feed, every dime counts. She does her best to keep the family apartment clean, the bills paid, and their bellies full, but sometimes their meager income just doesn’t cover it all.
Worse yet, Alize’s refrigerator broke. Her landlord doesn’t have the money to fix the fridge, nor the money to return her deposit. Without a deposit, Alize can’t move to a new apartment. So, Alize is stuck without a fridge to keep her food safe. She uses coolers to keep a few necessities cool, but she can never stock up on refrigerated goods. She can only buy enough for one meal at a time. Alize is trapped with no apparent way out.
Jesus says to Alize, by your endurance you will gain your soul. Jesus says to her that there is hope. Jesus is able to work through Bethel Lutheran Church’s free kitchen to feed Alize and her family. For one meal a week, Alize does not need to worry how to purchase only a meal’s worth of food. For that one meal, Alize can release her burdens to God.

Second, a story from the Lutheran magazine. Faith Lutheran Church is a middle sized congregation in Lavalette, New Jersey. Lavalette is the town just north of Seaside Heights, where the boardwalk burned just two months ago. Being on the islands off of New Jersey, Faith Lutheran felt the worst of Superstorm Sandy over a year ago.
Much of the building needed serious work, as did the houses of the members, too. During the following year, Faith Lutheran’s 400 members and 200 other volunteers ripped out the walls and floors, cleaned the mold, pressure washed the exterior, and installed new everything. They did what they could on their own, yet removing the mold and rewiring the building had to be done by professionals. The cost to rebuild this church was over $100,000.
Jesus says to the people of Faith Lutheran, by your endurance you will gain your souls. Jesus tells these people that he will give them hope. While all of these people were helping to rebuild the church, they also rebuilt their faith in God. Through their new friendships within the congregation, many new members joined the church – even before reconstruction was finished. In this congregation, the people trust God to help them find new life after tragedy.

The final example comes from Stories of Faith in Action. Followers of Christ is a Lutheran worshipping community inside the Nebraska State Penitentiary. These people have committed some horrible crimes. During their time in prison, they have realized how wrong their actions were, and they are now desperate to receive God’s forgiveness. They are desperate to change their lives so that they can become the people God wants them to be.
Jesus says to the people of Followers of Christ, by your endurance you will gain your souls. Jesus tells them that their repentance and change of heart is all that he needs to forgive them. Jesus shows God’s grace to them every Saturday evening when Followers of Christ welcomes community members inside the prison to worship with the inmates.
Although the process for the community to enter the prison is uncomfortable, complete with background checks and being patted down, everyone knows that it is worthwhile. These community members help the inmates to feel connected to the world outside their walls. Once these inmates are released from prison, Followers of Christ helps them to adjust to their new lives. With God leading them, these released men and women hope never to return to the penitentiary.

Each of us has stories from our past of the challenges that we have faced and the people who helped us through. So also, our congregation has also faced challenges in our one hundred sixty plus years together. Our own choices and other unexpected causes have pushed us off our feet and held us pinned to the ground. We have faced times when there seemed to be no way forward. It is in those moments when Jesus’ words of encouragement bring us hope: By your endurance, you will gain your souls.
In our gospel lesson today, we hear Jesus describe some terrible things that will happen before the end of the world. We will endure much heartache as individuals, as communities, as a nation, and as a world. Our family members will turn against each other. Our towns will become corrupt. Our nation will collapse, and our world will be in turmoil. Wars will rage, and natural disasters will destroy our land.  Jesus says that we must endure all of this.
In these times of terror and tragedy, we hear Jesus’ words of hope: Not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your souls. Jesus tells us to endure the worst of what we will face because these moments can become important for us. In these moments, we have the opportunity to share the Good News. When we face our enemies, we can find good within them and share the love of God.

Like Alize, we can embrace the ministries around us. Like Faith Lutheran in New Jersey, we can work together towards a common goal. Like Followers of Christ in a prison, we can walk with the least among us and share the love of God. We can do this because God first loved us.
When Jesus says, “By your endurance you will gain your souls,” he means that we must live out our lives on this earth. Every day we live in hope of the resurrection. We will gain our souls because Jesus will give them to us. Our endurance is not a merit that pays for our souls. Instead, Jesus gives us life eternal freely. This gift is for us. This gift is for the world.

Let us rejoice in this promise of life everlasting. Let us rejoice in the new life that we experience in Jesus Christ. Let us rejoice, for our suffering will end, and Jesus will reign. Amen.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Tatting Joy

When I first learned how to tat, I was overjoyed. Tatting is such an old craft, and so few people know how to do it anymore. I love how simple the craft is, yet it looks so extravagant and delicate. Moreover, tatting takes so little space! Two shuttles and two small balls of thread can fit in a coin purse!

In the beginning, I was certain that crocheting would continue to be my primary crafting form. For three years, I only tatted at meetings and conferences, and I only made crosses. The same cross pattern, over and over and over again. I made different color combinations but always the same cross.

Now, I am overflowing with crosses. I have more than I need, yet I still want to tat at conferences. What to do? Explore new patterns, of course! A simple search on Pinterest opened my eyes to all of the possibilities. Sure, modern people don’t need hankies or pillowcases edged in tatting. And who uses doilies anymore? What I found was jewelry!

This is the jewelry set that I auctioned off at the Harvest Feast. I adapted one pattern into a bracelet, earrings, and a necklace. I would love to make more like this! If you would like me to make you jewelry, let me know. Send me an email ( I don’t want to start an Etsy account yet because I can’t commit that sort of time to tatting.

I have tried a bunch of different patterns, and the ones below are my favorites. Each of the samples given below can be made in two different colors of thread and two different colors of beads. Each of them can be a bracelet, necklace, or earrings.


Opposites Attract




Monday, November 4, 2013

All Saints Sermon

Luke 6:20-31, All Saints C, November 3, 2013

Grace and peace be unto you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen.

When I first read the lessons for this All Saints Sunday, I must admit that I was confused. Why, on a Sunday that we remember all who have died, do we hear about blessings and woes? Why are we hearing about the rich, the oppressed, and enemies?

Why do we care whether we are blessed or cursed when our loved ones are no longer with us? I suppose that I expected something more like what we hear at funerals, something that promises that God will be with us always.

When I next read this lesson, I was so desperate to find my place among the blessings and escape the woes. How poor do you have to be before you can be blessed? If I read the blessings when I am hungry before eating a meal, am I more blessed than when I read this lesson on a full stomach? Jesus says blessed are those who weep. Although I grieve for my Uncle Bob, for Arlene, and for Tom, my days are not consumed with tears. Am I weeping enough to be blessed?

I could not bear to put myself among the woes. Even so, I can easily pay my bills every month. Does that make me rich? I never need to skip a meal. Does that make me full? If I am usually fairly happy, does that qualify me as laughing? When you compliment me after a sermon, does that mean that people are speaking well of me? Does that mean that God will curse me later just because my life is pretty ok right now?

Then I read the Gospel lesson in Greek, and I saw how foolish I was. The blessings and woes are all written in the plural! Jesus didn’t share these blessings and woes to bless or curse us individually. Instead, Jesus uses these to share the true nature of the kingdom of God. In these few words, Jesus shows us that the kingdom of God is a place without poverty, hunger, sorrow, or fear. Instead, the kingdom of God is a place full of laughter, joy, and full bellies.

Jesus blesses those who are suffering as a way to reassure them that it gets better. Sort of like the It Gets Better online video project, Jesus assures all who can barely make it day to day that their suffering will end.

Do you not have enough money now? There is no poverty in the kingdom of God. Anyone hungry now? There is no hunger in the kingdom of God. Is your life consumed with tears, sorrow, and pain? There is no grieving, no depression, nor any sorrow in the kingdom of God. Do you feel rejected by those closest to you? There are no bullies in heaven.

One of the crazy side effects of suffering, as terrible as it is, is that it brings us closer to God. For those who suffer, they can only go to God. For those who aren’t suffering, they feel that going to God in prayer is optional. With enough money and food to keep them content, they do not think they need God in their lives. And because of this, they will suffer in the end. For all of those bullies who mock you and laugh at you now, they will someday learn how terrible they were to you. They may even come to regret it.

Now, hear these blessings and curses again. Instead of trying to decipher whether you fit into the blessing camp or the woe camp, listen to what Jesus is saying about the kingdom of God:
"Blessed are you who are poor, for the kingdom of God belongs to you.
21"Blessed are you [all] who hunger now, for you [all] will be satisfied.
"Blessed are you [all] who weep now, for you [all] will laugh.
22"Blessed are you [all] when people hate you, and when they exclude you and insult you and reject you as evil on account of the Son of Man!
23Rejoice in that day, and jump for joy, because your reward is great in heaven. For their ancestors did the same things to the prophets.
24"But woe to you [all] who are rich, for you [all] have received your comfort already.
25"Woe to you [all] who are well satisfied with food now, for you [all] will be hungry. "Woe to you [all] who laugh now, for you [all] will mourn and weep.
26"Woe to you [all] when all people speak well of you, for their ancestors did the same things to the false prophets.
(Luke 6:20b-26 NET)

Again I wonder, why does the lectionary have this lesson assigned for All Saints Sunday? Because this lesson gives us hope. In these blessings and these woes, we see how counter cultural the kingdom of God is. In the Gospel of Luke, the kingdom of God is often portrayed as being here, but not yet.

The kingdom of God is already here on earth because some people are able to escape poverty and become part of the middle class. Yet the kingdom of God isn’t completely here because the rate of poverty in our country and in the world is staggering. The kingdom of God is already at work among us as we feed the hungry, but we can’t feed them every meal. 

The kingdom of God is at work in our world because so many people can escape their grieving and their suffering. Sometimes they even become better people because of it. Yet, God’s work does not reach every corner because there are so many who cannot be relieved of their suffering or their grieving. When we see people who are merely shells of whom they used to be, we know that God’s kingdom is not here yet.

When we see parents, teachers, and other community leaders stop innocent children from being bullied, we see the kingdom of God at work. And yet, there continues to be too many suicides. Too many children cannot escape the people who hate them.

The kingdom of God is here on earth but not fully enacted yet. However, the kingdom of God is beautifully complete in heaven. Tom and Arlene may not be with us anymore, but they are with God. They will never experience poverty, hunger, or bullying again. They will never suffer in any way because they are reunited with the God that they love so much. They will be able to experience the full extent of God’s love in beautiful new ways.

Even as we grieve for Tom, Arlene, and those we love, we trust in Jesus’ promise of the resurrection. We trust that if we experience a death like his, we will experience a resurrection like his. We trust that God will keep us safely on this earth until our time comes. And when that does, we hope that we will be reunited with those we miss.

No matter what, the scripture speaks the same message: God is with us always. Amen.