Standing With and Not Against

I thought I was all out of words after blogging all month for the Write 31 days challenge. But turns out I am not out of words…not by a long shot.

As I sit and watch out my window, I see the rain slowly trickling down.It’s a bitter cold North Dakota Fall day. Only a few hours from me, on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, there is much happening. Water protectors trying to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline. Police officers who are simply trying to uphold the law and do their jobs. And Construction workers who are trying to do their jobs too. In all actuality, no matter how this turns out real people will be affected by this event.

This morning, I woke up to my Facebook feed full of friends checking in on the Standing Rock reservation. Now many of them are not physically there, but it was one way that they could show support for their native american brothers and sisters. I cannot help but think of the words of Martin Luther when he stood and said “Here I stand, I can do no other.”

To say this is a complex issue in our state is an understatement. Yet I know that we are called to live out the words we hear in Micah 6:8 “But what does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, love kindness/mercy and walk humbly with our God.” But what does justice look like? Do each of us see justice differently?

I have never really seen myself as a social justice warrior but I indeed have felt and answered the call to be a minister of word and service who picks up her basin and towel to wash the feet of all God’s people. And so I find myself…in a complex spot..standing with my native siblings while they try to protect the water. But also yearning for peace in the midst of it all. A dear friend is in law enforcement and not only is he in danger, but his family is too. And so I find myself asking the question “Is violence the answer?”

I understand that violence is truly what often is what will be reported. Yet doesn’t our God call us to be united in bonds of peace in this broken world. And on the other hand, we haven’t been good at seeing the other; at seeing our native brothers and sisters, our black brothers and sisters, and so many others. Perhaps this is the only way that we will get woke and begin to listen to, love, and truly respect those that we often have considered to be standing on the outside.

In this world, I yearn for unity and justice for all. I yearn for my LGTBQ friends to never again be questioned for who they are and to be truly welcomed in the church. I yearn for my black/brown friends to step out into the world without fear that they might be shot and/or killed. I yearn for all of us to be respected and loved fully and completely without exception in this broken world. I yearn for all of us to remember the words to the 8th commandment found in Luther’s Small Catechism which says “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”

Too often it seems to me that we forget to look at our neighbors “in the best possible light.” Today alone, I have seen people being reprimanded for checking in on the reservation even though they are not physically there. They have been told that they are lying. But I also have seen people accused of lying on the other side of the issue as well. Is that all we care about—lies, etc?

Martin Luther himself wanted to enact change and so he nailed 95 theses onto the castle doors at Wittenberg. To be honest, I don’t think I have the strength or power to reform the church by myself. But as a united body of Christ together, I think some amazing things could happen (and have already begun to happen. Here’s looking at you Decolonize Lutheranism peeps!) Many of us are tired of not fully living out the words that we confess, proclaim and sing. All–every race, gender, nationality, etc–should be welcomed!

I know that especially here in North Dakota not everyone agrees with the water protectors. But what if we sat down and truly listened to one another? What if instead of slandering one another we saw each other in the best possible light? What if our actions began to transform and reform the church in new and exciting ways?

Many won’t understand why one side doesn’t understand the other side. Many will think that their side is the ultimate truth. Yet isn’t truth relative? True truth is knowing that God calls us to “love our neighbors as we love ourselves” despite our own differences and disagreements.

There is a part of me that struggles with the idea of violence and why someone would want to be arrested for a cause. Yet sometimes it seems to me we have to make gigantic waves to get the world’s attention. And today, I am putting aside my own agenda, my own white privilege and standing with my native american brothers and sisters; not physically but in the ways that I know how.

Because God has brought some pretty incredible people into my life in this past year who are ready and willing and able to be amazing reformers in this world. And knowing that I am not alone, I simply shout out “Here I stand. I can do no other”.

For whether it be an oil pipeline or whatever it may be…God reminds me–reminds all of us—that we need to stand on solid holy ground advocating for justice, mercy and kindness in this broken world.

“Here I stand, I can do no other.”

The Transformative Word

When I started my Write 31 days challenge, I said it felt like a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book. As a child, I remember either getting to the end of one of those books and being really disappointed. Or sometimes I would go back and choose a new ending until I got the one I wanted. Or finally I would get to the end and be satisfied with the ending. As this month comes to a close, I’m extremely satisfied for where God led this series. (Good thing I trusted where God would lead me and YOU!)

God showed up in big ways this month as I looked for and found the Word made flesh in this world. It’s all around us. We just have to look for it. It’s in the simple acts of kindness and love that we show one another. It’s in the brush strokes, camera shutters, musicians sounds, and the writer’s words as the artists and dreamers make the Word flesh and alive. It’s in the gathering at the table and breaking bread together. But most of all, it’s in this precious love letter; the Bible that Christ gave to each of us. And God calls us to remember to make the Word made flesh in this broken messed up world.

When we are able to do that, it seems to me that we are all changed. During this month, I’ve felt God honing and making my own words (and even actions) more powerful. I’ve sat down to write words and been surprised again and again at the ways my own words embody the Word made flesh in this world. Because the truth is that every single one of us are holy story sharers who embody the Word made flesh in this world. And you never know how God might transform your words to make the Word flesh in this world.

I’ve seen it through so many of you as you too have participated in the Write 31 days challenge. I’ve learned new ways to pray and seen how prayer is another way the Word is made flesh in this world. I’ve seen it in Jesus and the many names he has been given. I’ve seen it in the story of so many of Jesus followers. I’ve seen it in the words of favorite songs as they bring the Word to flesh. And these are only just a few. The truth is that God uses each of us to make the Word made flesh in this broken world.

There is a holiness in knowing that as Gods beloved children, we are called to use our gifts in this broken world. There is holiness in seeing the Word come alive in our words and actions. There is holiness in knowing that in the words of Gungor, “He makes beautiful things out of dust. He makes beautiful things out of us.” There is holiness in knowing that the true Word is alive and moving in this world as we continue to share this beloved story as we make the Word flesh in this broken messed up world.

And so as this month comes to an end, my hope and prayer is that we continue to make a difference as we embody the Word made flesh in this broken world. That we remember and don’t forget who and whose we are as we live the Word and share its stories in this world. Because from the very beginning, in the stench and stealth of the manger, the Word was born into this world to transform it in new and amazing ways. Let’s not ever forget that!

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”–John 1:1

Here I Stand

“Here I stand, I can do no other”

This weekend, we celebrate the Reformation in the Lutheran church. Next year, in 2017, we celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. Martin Luther was all about changing and reforming the church. This movement began with good ol Marty nailing the 95 thesis or rather 95 rules to the castle doors in Wittenberg.

Today, my heart, soul, and mind wonder if it is time for another reformation of sorts. Who do we welcome into our buildings and pews? Last weekend, several friends and colleagues gathered in Chicago for the inaguaral gathering of #decolonizelutheranism. (To read their beliefs, head here!) I followed along on the Twitter stream and the livestream whenever I could. What I saw unfolding was the Holy Spirit moving and breathing as in that place, the church we all dream of was happening. A church where all are welcomed; no exception.

“Here I stand, I can do no other!”

I have to be honest friends. I’ve had to step away from social media, FB, etc this week in light of all that is happening here in ND in regards to the Dakota Access Pipeline and Standing Rock. The reality is real people will be affected no matter what happens. Oil workers/families who will lose their livelihood. Protestors who will have to eventually return to their homes. Police officers and law enforcement who will forever be seen as evil because of the acts of some of them. Farmers who are losing income because of where the protestors are standing.

One of my friends husbands is a highway patrolman. In my heart of hearts, I know that he would never hurt anyone. Yet that’s not the picture the media is portraying. Yesterday buffalo stampeded down the hill to the protest sites. Many believe it was of God (which I’m not denying). But others also report that the protestors drove them onto the site.

“Here I stand, I can do no other.”

I’m honestly embarrassed by some of the comments I’ve read. We are forgetting that we are all beloved children of God. We need to treat each other with respect and “love our neighbors as we love ourselves!” It’s who God call us to be in this world.

For when we are able to stand together, despite our differences, the Word is made flesh as we love each other fully and with no exceptions. We are united as one body who embodies the Word in this broken world.

“Here I stand, I can do no other!”

The Stories Our Prairies Tell

I’ve always been a lover of the North Dakota prairies where one can honestly feel the heart of this land. A prairie wind so deep that you can feel it in the very depths of ones body. In the heart of this land lies the places where many of us call home including our Native American brothers and sisters.

Honestly in these days, one cannot live in the state of North Dakota without having ones eyes and ears open to what is happening at Standing Rock. Even just today, as I was waiting for my frappucino at Starbucks, the voices around me where continually talking about the protests and the Dakota Access Pipeline.

In this state, you will hear those on both sides of the issue; those who proudly stand with our native siblings and those who have seen the impact of the oil industry on our state. The oil industry, in all honesty, provided some jobs in our state. It’s hard to not ignore that. But the oil industry has brought with it bad stuff too. I remember when I interviewed for a call in the heart of boom country and my father being scared at the possibility of his single daughter living alone in the midst of oil country. Yes, it seems that the oil boom has slowed down, yet one cannot drive through this state without seeing oil barracks pumping away.

So to say this issue is complex is an understatement. There are so many layers. Police officers who are simply trying to keep everyone safe and uphold the law as they live out the oath they promised to live by. Protestors who are advocating for what is right as they try to protect their and our water for the next generations. Other protestors who stand and pray for a peaceful end to this situation.

Many of my friends and colleagues who are watching from the outside of this state are feeling an urge and pull to listen to our Native American brothers and sisters. In fact, I know of several trips being planned to come to the Red Warrior and/or Sacred Stone camps. These friends come to learn and stand alongside the water protectors.

To be honest, I don’t know much about the Native American culture, only what I’ve been taught and experienced in my 38 years of life. I remember working at a bible camp and participating and leading a day camp in Cannonball. I learned a lot about our native siblings that day. I remember sitting and having a father play hymns on his guitar for us. That memory is engrained in my heart and soul as it taught me a lot about who our Native brothers and sisters are and about their culture. Yet I still have a lot to learn!

My heart is weary as I see all that is unfolding. In fact, tears are streaming down my face as I write this post; tears crying out for Gods justice to reign. I’ll admit that I’m also embarrassed by many of the comments I’ve heard and read. Too often it seems to me that we forget that we are all beloved children of God especially when we don’t understand those that are different than us. God calls us to “love our neighbors as we love ourselves!”

I may not always be good at loving my neighbors. In fact, more times than I care to admit, I fail at that! I get wrapped up in my own white privilege. But I’m sure going to try loving my neighbors as I love myself. Because when we are able to do that, I believe we all will be changed and transformed for the better–a transformation that will forever shape the stories of who and whose we are.

So tonight, my friends, my prayer is that we listen to each other especially our native brothers and sisters as this situation will forever shape the story of these beloved prairies. For I believe, these beloved prairies will whisper God’s love, grace and mercy if we truly listen to one another and open our hearts, minds, eyes and mouths to all God’s beloved children.

“But what does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, love kindness/mercy and walk humbly with our God!”–Micah 6:8

“Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”–Ephesians 4:3

As a writer, I often have to process through words and this is my attempt to do that. Please know these are my thoughts and only my thoughts. I want to continue to learn and understand. I want us all to be the best stewards of the land we can be. But most of all I want us all to love one another as beloved children of God; even and most especially when we don’t agree with one another. 

Who is Welcome at the Table?

I am linking up for Five Minute Friday.  This is also Day 28 of the Write 31 Days challenge. The FMF is hosted by Kate Motaung on her blog Heading Home. Today’s prompt is “eat.” We would love to have you join us. Just hop onto Twitter on Thursday evenings and follow the #fmfparty. Hope to see you 

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink. I was naked and you clothed me.”

If you have been here at all during this past month, you know how the Word is made flesh through our relationships and through the breaking of bread together. God calls us to all come to the table and eat and drink and be merry together. I realize not all believe everyone is welcomed at the table but the truth is we are all beloved children of God called to make the Word made flesh in our world.

I have been thinking a lot about the table this week especially in light of all that is going down in my state with the protests and all related to the Dakota Access Pipeline. My heart and soul are weary and praying for God’s peace to reign as together ALL are welcomed at the table of grace where all are fed and nourished by the bread of life that feeds us all.

Eating in itself is an act in which we can feel and touch the great goodness of our God. Think about all the times you have gathered with your friends and family at a holiday meal or sat and chatted with a friend over coffee. I don’t know about you, but it is in those places that I am reminded of the ways that I am blessed and that God provides for all of us.

God calls us all to shine God’s light in this world; in the midst of this broken messed up world. “Let your light shine before others that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” How can you glorify your father in heaven and who can you invite to your table to eat and drink with you?                               

For when all are truly welcomed to break bread and eat together, the word is continually made flesh in the world.

Hospitality at the Table

“The heart of hospitality is about creating space for someone to feel seen and heard and loved. It’s about declaring your table a safe zone, a place of warmth and nourishment.”–Bread and Wine; Shauna Niequest
Have you ever experienced a place where you have felt these very words lived out? Where you truly feel loved, and accepted without exception? For me, I can think of a few places where I have seen this embodied. Through my friends who welcomed me into their home when I first moved to Minot. Through all the communities I am a part of especially the diaconal ministry community, #SlateSpeak and others. Through my friends who organized, planned and led #decolonize16. As I watched the livestream, I saw the ways in which everyone was being welcomed in with open arms.
I think so often it can be easy for us to get caught up in comparing ourselves to the other. Yet God calls us to “love our neighbors as we love ourselves.” Too often we fail at that though, don’t we? We don’t always see our neighbors in ways in which they feel seen, heard, and loved. God calls us to fix that.
I am reminded of the text that was heard in worship this past Sunday “For those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Are we not called to be humble and show humility to one another? Just the other day, I saw this lived out on my Twitter feed. A friend made a comment on his Twitter feed that caused a lot of replies and comments. In realizing that he had struck a nerve with many, he rethought his words and apologized. This is one of the very things I appreciate and love about this friend. He embodies humility.
Humility=”a modest or low view of one’s own importance; humbleness”
Who can you invite to your house; to your table; to create space for them to be seen and heard and loved? For in doing so, you embody the Word made flesh as you break bread together just as Christ broke bread with his disciples on the night before his crucifixion. There is so much beauty when we sit down and break bread together; knowing we are indeed seen, heard, and loved in this broken world.
At the table, as the bread is broken and the wine is poured, the Word becomes flesh through fellowship where ALL are welcome; and ALL are seen, heard, and loved!

Let Your Light Shine

“Let your light so shine before others that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Sacrament of Baptism; Evangelical Lutheran Worship Book, P. 231)

Every time there is a baptism, we light a baptismal candle and hand it to the family and state these words. In these words, we are reminded that as God’s children we are called to glorify our Father in heaven and be God’s hands and feet in this world as we serve God’s people.

How often do we light our baptismal candle, but forget to live our lives so that we glorify our Father in heaven? I know that I am a good Lutheran; simultaneously saint and sinner. In other words, I don’t always look at my neighbors in the best possible light. I don’t always stand up and advocate for what I believe is right in this world. Yet God calls me to shine God’s light in this world and glorify my Father in heaven.

A few months ago, I began a tradition of tweeting some of my friends a short sweet tweet reminding them they are loved. It started as a one time thing, but then I realized how much I loved doing it. So every week or so, I send out a quick tweet. It always surprises me how my words often are just what my friends need to hear at that moment. Just the other day, a friend replied with the words “You are a light on my Twitter feed.”

I hadn’t thought much about it, but it made me stop in my tracks and think about who God has called me to be as a beloved child of God. After sitting and reflecting for awhile, these above words from our Baptismal service popped into my brain. God was reminding me that I am called to be the Word made flesh in the ways that I can shine my light and glorify our Father in heaven.

As a good Lutheran, I am thankful that God’s grace is sufficient for us all and that my life and faith are not dependent on doing good works because I fail at that every day…when I don’t admit my own white privilege, when I am silent when I should be vocal, and in so many other ways. Yet God’s grace calls us to try again and again to shine God’s light in this world and glorify our Father in heaven through the good works that we are able to do.

For when we shine God’s light in this broken world, the Word is made flesh again and again through our own acts of goodness, love, and mercy in this world. So my friends, may you let your lights shine before others so that we may see your good works and glorify our Father in heaven.”

Holy Story Sharers

A story locked deep in a little girl’s heart for eighteen years; only shared with those who are the closest to her. Then one summer day, as a teenager, the lock is finally unlocked and her story is finally unleashed into the world. As an adult, she now looks back and wishes she would have unlocked that lock much sooner than she did. But now she cannot not share her story because it has shaped her into who she is.

A brave woman who now shares her story through the words of her self-published book. A brave woman who can’t help but stand up for and advocate for those who daily live with a mental illness. A brave woman who captures her story in words spoken aloud or typed out onto a keyboard. A brave woman who shares her story in hopes that it will help someone else.

Author Brene Brown says, “The bravest thing you’ll ever do is tell your story.” A truth that we all need to hear because the truth is we are all theologians. We are all holy story sharers. Because in sharing our stories, the Word is made flesh again and again and again through our own intertwined stories.

It saddens me that it took me so long to unlock the story that I was holding close to my chest and deep in my heart. Yet in opening up that story, I have seen the beautiful ways that God has taken my brokenness and turned it into something magnificent. And in doing so, my story has been weaved together with other beloved children of God who also understand what it is like to live with a mental illness or live as a daughter, son, granddaughter, grandson, etc of someone who daily lives with a mental illness.

In sharing our holy stories shaped by a God who loves each and every one of us (no exception!), we see the reality of who we are as beloved children of God. We see each other as God’s children “fearfully and wonderfully made.” Too often, it seems to me that we get caught up in seeing each other’s differences and our own privileges that we forget that we are all brothers and sisters in Christ knit together by Christ.

What would happen if we opened our eyes to see and our ears to hear ALL those around us? Would we not realize and see each other as gifts in this world? I believe we would. Because when I have sat down and opened my ears to holy listening, I have seen and heard the beautiful magnificent gifts of brothers and sisters in Christ that God has brought into my life.

“When we tell our stories in a safe community, all those things that separate us go away.”–Sarah Markley

God calls us to be theologians; to be holy story sharers; holy story sharers who embody the Word made flesh when we share our own stories of brokenness and resurrection hope in this world. Holy story sharers who understand that our own stories can (and DO) proclaim resurrection hope! Holy story sharers who aren’t overcome by fear but rather by hope and cannot help but share their stories in this broken messed up world.

Together, as holy story sharers, the Word is made flesh as our God of both life and death redeems each of us through our own stories of brokenness. “Behold I make all things new!”

I am also linking up with Holly and Testimony Tuesday, Kelly and the RaRa linkup, Jennifer and Tell His Story, Holley and Coffee for your Heart and Kristin and Three Word Wednesday.


To the Artists and the Dreamers…..

A writer sits at her keyboard typing away; letting the words spill out onto the page.

A musician strums their guitar; sweet heavenly sounds permeate the air.

A photographer captures life and love; finding a way to capture life that we cannot always see on the other side of their camera lens.

A painter strokes their paintbrush against the canvas.

A videographer captures their subject’s story through their video camera.

A poet weaves words into stanzas creating beautiful poems.

Each artist creates using the gifts that God has given them. And in doing so, the Word is made flesh through the very artistic expressions God gives each one of us. That Word is manifested in so many various creative forms.

The gift is that God calls us to be artists and dreamers who live and love to find ways to share the Word made flesh in this world. Whether that be through our camera or video lens, through our music, through our paint strokes, through our words and in the many ways God calls us to create in this world.

Have you ever watched a painter or a musician or any artist in their element? It is almost impossible to put into words. The artist finds themselves escaping from this world into their own world creating and bringing the Word made flesh back into our world. So often the artist has this way of making us feel like we are at an event even when we are not.

The artists and the dreamers capture life through the Word made flesh in all they say and do. So often, the artists and dreamers are those behind the scenes who find ways to continue to capture the Word made flesh in our world.

So to the artists and dreamers, thank you….thank you for finding ways to capture the Word made flesh in this world. It is pure gift in this broken messed up world!

I am over at Mandy’s today talking about finding friendships when one is a leader in the church. I even give a shout-out to the my social media friends. I would love for you to come visit me over there.