Jesus Didn’t Settle!

I am linking up for the Five Minute Friday. The FMF is hosted by Kate Motaung over at our Five Minute Friday website. Today’s word prompt is “settle” We would love to have you join us.

It’s the day of grief; Good Friday. (But really what’s so good about today?) It is the day that Jesus is turned over to the Roman officials. It is the day Jesus says, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing.” It is the day Jesus breathes his last.

Friends, I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be here. There has been so much brokenness and sadness and grief along this Lenten journey. Yet that is exactly why I; why we need to be here. We need to stand at the foot of the cross watching as Jesus gives our life for ours.

We need to stand here mourning, letting the salty tears fall from our eyes. Salty tears that we can taste and see and feel along our faces. Salty tears that remind us of who and whose we are; beautiful beloved children of God, called and claimed by God.

The truth is we may know the end of this story, but we can’t have Easter without journeying through Goood Friday. For three days, we must stand at the foot of the cross, waiting and watching as our Lord is crucified. Easter will come, but not before we grieve and find ourselves trembling at the foot of the cross.

“Where, you there when they crucified our Lord? Where, you there when they laid him in the tomb? Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.”

I need to be here today, at the foot of the cross. Because Jesus didn’t settle for me; for us. He gave his life for us and knew that God would have the last word. Death would not have the final word, God would!

The Image I Will Carry With Me

Egg salad sandwiches, funeral potatoes, scalloped potatoes and ham! These are just a few of the spread that we sometimes see; depending on the culture at a luncheon after a funeral. It is also often the foods that are sent home with the family members of the deceased. As a young child, I didn’t have much experience with death. My maternal grandfather died when I was in college (August 2004) and my maternal grandmother died in February of 2008.

As I have grown older, I have seen more and more death. Yet too many of these deaths have come before their time. A friend who was taken by cancer. Another friend who died in his sleep after, more than likely, of a massive heartache. Another teacher/mentor/friend taken by cancer. And another professor/friend who finally succumbed to death after living a good life.

Death is a part of the journey of life. It is all around us which is why the words we hear on Ash Wednesday are so powerful. “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” I will admit that as those ashes are placed on my head or as I place them on the heads of those near and dear to me, I have a hard time imagining that death might take them; whether by a freak accident, by cancer or another illness, or however their lives might end.

This week, we journey to the cross experiencing Jesus’ own crucifixion and death. I find myself wanting to grieve along with all of God’s people. I want to indulge in funeral food. I want to cry tears of grief and mourning. And in all honesty, I want to remember what this week is truly about; what Christ did for each and every one of us.

“For God so loved the world, God gave God’s only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life. God did not send God’s Son into the world to condemn the world but in order that the world might have life through him.” (John 3:16)

Although even in our grief, these moments of joyous celebration are now tinged with sadness because those we love who have passed away are no longer with us. Yet Easter morning still comes! Jesus is still resurrected from the grave, but he also bears the scars of the cross. We too bear the scars of grief and loss in our own lives and celebrate that ultimately death does not have the final word. Yet sometimes that is hard to see when death looks like winning. But that is the beauty of the theology of the cross.  Knowing that, I can’t help but think and reflect on these profound words from Clarence W. Hall “Easter says you can put death in the grave, but it won’t stay there.”

In other words, God ultimately wins. God is waiting to welcome each of us with arms wide open and declare “Well done good and faithful servants.” God is a God of hope who continually walks with us. And I will forever cling to that promise because I have seen it with my own eyes opened. As one of my seminary professors shared, our friend Ben’s funeral was one of the holiest moments of his life. I wholeheartedly agree.

Coming to the empty tomb, the image of hope and holiness and the promise of resurrection hope that I will carry with me to that empty tomb is the image of 80 plus of my friends/colleagues along with Ben’s wife Mara and daughter Elizabeth standing around Ben’s urn; arms linked with the person in front of us or beside us. It is the image that I will carry with me when the Lenten journey seems so very long. It is the image that I will lift up when I lose someone else dear to me. It is the image that will help me triumphantly declare “Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. Allelulia!”

It is the image of hope that reminds me again and again of who and whose we are. Jesus walks with us and promises to never leave us or forsake us. I believe that now more than ever. For 80 plus, a tangible cloud of witnesses will journey together and share stories of who this beloved child of God is with his daughter. But also a cloud of witnesses that will continually believe in the power of the resurrection not just today but every day of our lives on this earth.

Linking up with Kelly and the Ra Ra linkup, Jennifer and Tell His Story, Holley and Coffee for your Heart, and Kristin and Porch Stories.


Our Heavenly Home (A Review on A Place to Land by Kate Motaung)

“And we will come back home; And we will come back home; Home, again! And we will come back home; And we will come back home; Home, again! And we will come back home; And we will come back home; Home, again!”–From Now On Lyrics from the Greatest Showman soundtrack (produced by Greg Wells, Alex Lacamoire, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul)

Just two weeks ago, I found myself traveling on a train returning home after our friend Ben’s funeral. My friend Bryant shared a story that resonated with me. On their way back from the funeral, their three children were in the backseat on their electronic devices. Bryant and his wife L were listening to music as they reflected on the day. All of a sudden, from the backseat, all three of their kids piped up and belted out the above words from this song from the Greatest Showman. I can just picture these three bright eyed children gleefully and joyfully singing out these words. A beautiful reminder of what we are given to share in this life.

Before I left for that trip, I began reading my friend Kate’s book “A Place to Land.” The book is the story of Kate’s journey with her mom’s cancer while living on another continent. It is also the story of being torn between the home she grew up in and her new home in a new place. It is a journey that pulls the reader along through all of its ups and downs, twists and turns.

Kate’s words were also a gift to me in the midst of my own grieving. Losing a friend or anyone we love is never easy. But it is especially hard when they leave us way too early. Kate’s grace-filled words remind me that Ben was now reunited with our heavenly king and was now in his eternal home. A place we all will get to go to eventually too.

“Every day I’m only one step closer to eternity (A Place to Land; Kate Motaung).”

Often when I find a book that speaks to me, I find that it is hard for me to escape the words on the page. I sink in and want to journey along with the writer. A Place to Land did that for me! And I believe it will do it for so many of us. The journey of grief is one that most of us are not strangers to in our own lives. It helped to know that others had been on the cancer journey too. In fact, we are part of a beautiful cloud of witnesses scattered across time and space.

This beautiful cloud of witnesses is claimed as God’s beloved children through the waters of Baptism. In both life and death, God calls each and every one of us by name and calls us beloved! Beloved children of God who have a home waiting for them beyond their earthly home.

“Home is more than just a place. It is a promise (A Place to Land).”

This book is Kate’s families story. It is a story that pulls us all back to our heavenly home. A heavenly home that beckons and calls us back. And when we trust in that promise, we know that our homes here on earth are only for now and we can triumphantly declare “And we will come back home.” For God is waiting to welcome us to our heavenly home!

I am linking up with Holly and the Ra Ra linkup and Jennifer and Tell His Story!


I’m So Ready!

I put on my alb, tied the cincture around my waist and draped my towel. As we were waiting in the entry of the church, I placed my hands inside my pocket. I pulled out a pocket full of tear stained Kleenex from Ben’s funeral. A smile came across my face for a brief moment as I remembered celebrating Ben’s life together with so many of my beloved friends a few weeks ago. It was a bittersweet moment.

Then we processed into the sanctuary waving our palm branches. As we celebrated Palm Sunday, with the palms spread out for the king, I was reminded again of the reality of this Holy Week. A week that begins with Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, then his last supper, his crucifixion and death, and finally to the empty tomb. An extravagant reminder that death does not have the final word.

I’ll admit that this Lent, a huge part of me wants to run directly to the empty tomb. Yet I need to walk through this Holy Week experiencing every aspect of this week. I need to wave my palm branches high announcing the arrival of this king. I must sit at the Lord’s Table knowing it is for all of us. I must cry out as Jesus was crucified. I will tremble knowing what Christ has done for me; done for all of us. And then I will wait and come to the tomb on Easter morning to find the empty tomb.

This Lenten wilderness has been so very long. There have been so many times I’ve wanted to collapse onto the road; weary, so very weary. Yet today, as we celebrate Palm Sunday and Jesus entry into the city, I can’t help but see glimpses of that resurrection hope. A beloved Wartburg Seminary professor commended to God’s care on this very day; a fitting entry into God’s kingdom. My friend Ben’s favorite team winning their game (Rock Chalk Jayhawks!) Children joyfully dyeing Easter eggs. Simple signs that new life is on the horizon.

And with these simple glimpses and having traveled down this Lenten weary road, I’m so ready to walk down this road to find the tomb empty on Easter Sunday. I’m ready to triumphantly declare, “Christ is risen. He is risen indeed! Alleluia!


The Routine of Words

I am linking up for the Five Minute Friday. The FMF is hosted by Kate Motaung over at our Five Minute Friday website. Today’s word prompt is “routine” We would love to have you join us.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.”–John 1:1-4 (NRSV)

My fingers click against the keys as words spill onto the page. A gift bestowed upon me by God. The routine of words that carry over into #fmfparty and #slatespeak on Thursday nights.

It’s a llittle crazy, but every Thursday night I pull up Twitter on my phone and IPad. I follow along. Listening, learning, engaging with online communities. Another gift that God has shown me.

Through words, we tell stories and speak of life’s realities. Sometimes our routines of life are disrupted by unexpected events. The sudden loss of a friend. Realizing that Lent this year has made you weary. The joy of new birth. And the list goes on.

Yet in the occurance of these events, it is the routine of words that help me to process; that help me to remember that my words, our words embody the love of God shown through God’s one and only son Jesus Christ; the very Word made flesh.

For is in the routine of words, that I find new life.



Weary and Worn


According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, the word “weary” is defined as “exhausted in strength, endurance, vigor, or freshness.” My friends, I don’t know about you, but I am feeling especially weary as we meander down this Lenten weary road. There has been so much death around me; around many of us.

In October, a seminary classmate/friend died. In November, my favorite high school English teacher, drama director and mentor died. Just a few weeks ago, my dear friend Ben died. And then today, one of my beloved seminary professors also died. I don’t need to look very far this Lent to be reminded of those words we hear every Ash Wednesday “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

Throughout life, we experience death in a variety of ways. But sometimes, like this Lent, people are taken before their time while others live a good and faithful life. The reality of death is that it is painful, hard, exhausting and grief weary. Death also reminds us that, as my friend Bryant said in his sermon last week, that we are given these people to love on this earth. But ultimately that heaven and being united with Jesus is the end goal because we are God’s beloved.

I will admit that is hard to see when people are taken from us way too soon. We would much rather have them with us in this world. We find ourselves proclaiming “This sucks!!!” Because the reality is that the world is filled with cancer and other illnesses that take those we love away from us way too soon.

So this Lenten weary road is filled with grief for myself and many others. I find myself wanting to collapse onto the road. Yet I know that if I get back up and keep meandering and trudging along, I will make it to the empty tomb on Easter Sunday. I will see and be reminded that “Easter says you can put death in the grave, but it won’t stay there (Clarence W. Hall).” Only God has the power to overcome death and the grave.

However, the tears are still wet upon my face. I find myself wanting to take the pain of death and losing someone dear to us away. I cling to the promises that we are all beloved saints; called and claimed in the waters of Baptism. “You are a baptized child of God; whatever else you are remember that you are that, for that is the basis of whatever else you are.”

Both in life and death, we are intertwined with the community of saints before and after us. I will forever cling to the image of 80 plus of us linked together as we stood around Ben’s urn and commended him to God’s care. A tangible reminder of the cloud of witnesses linked together in time and space.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.”–Hebrews 12:1-2 (NRSV)

Trusting in this promise, I will do my very best to lay aside every weight and sin that clings so tightly. Yet on this Lenten weary road, with tears still wet upon my cheeks, I will continue to journey to the cross and then eventually to the empty tomb. A reminder once again that death does not have the final word, but that God does. And because of that promise, I can picture heavenly racquetball matches soon taking place, broken bodies restored to wholeness, and so much more. For it is at the empty tomb, that my tears come not for death, but for the promise that life and resurrection hope that emerge out of Jesus’ own life, death and resurrection.


Sunday Blessings 206

(1) Awesome host and hostesses. Thanks MK and AK.

(2) Seeing beloved friends!!

(3) Celebrating and remembering our friend Ben. Beer and Hymns for Ben!!

(4) KB picking me up at the train station.

(5) Visiting with another passenger on the train .

(6) MO coming to my rescue by bringing coffee while stranded in Minot for 4 hours.

(7) A nice card from a parishioner

(8) Texting with my faves

(9) A gorgeous Spring day

(10) MK drawing me a pretty picture which is now on my fridge.

(11) A great day off

(12) Solid sleep

(13) Popcorn.

(14) Seeing the movie I Can Only Imagine!!

(15) A little PLN!

(16) Halo Top Lemon Cake Ice Cream

God Provided!

I am linking up for the Five Minute Friday. The FMF is hosted by Kate Motaung over at our Five Minute Friday website. Today’s word prompt is “provide” We would love to have you join us.

God provides!

This week God provided so much.

God provided….

–Friends to mourn together.

–An incredible cloud of witnesses who stood together to commend our friend to God’s care.

–Amtrak who got me safely to my destination.

–Gracious hosts who went above and beyond the call of duty

–Bagpipes played for our friend.

–That silly Wartburg Seminary shield packed full of so many memories.

–Hymns sung loudly

–Hugs, hugs and more hugs!

–A local brewery who opened just for us so we could celebrate and send our friend out the way he would want; through Beer and Hymns.

–My friends two year old daughter asleep on her mom’s shoulder throughout the service….waking up during the Words of Institution.

–Memories that capture our friends joy and zest for life.

–An incredible community to support and walk alongside one another.

–Holy holy tears!

Through all of life’s journey, through the ups and downs, God provides! And I’m so thankful for the ways God provided for my friends and I this week.

A Road Weary Traveler

I am a road weary traveler.

Throughout these days of Lent, this particular road of Lent seems so very long. I feel like I am traveling along, but have made no progress. I am stuck between the limbo of life and death. My favorite high school teacher lost her battle with cancer in November. In addition, since October, two seminary classmates/friends have died. I still feel like we are standing on the road bearing the reality of death in the midst of the chaos and brokenness of our broken world.

Not that long ago, the ashen cross was marked on our foreheads with the words “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” This Lent, it feels like that cross is still wet upon my forehead. Yet it was over three weeks ago when those words were said and the cross marked on my forehead. This week, the reality of death set before our very eyes once again. A beloved pastor and servant of Christ taken way too soon.

On this weary road of Lent, I have found myself saying frequently “This sucks!” Words that embody the reality of the theology of the cross. The theology of the cross calls a thing what it is. Death is all around us, but sometimes death occurs way too often. I am weary from the grief so many of us are carrying. I am trying to stay strong in the midst of yet another loss. Yet my heart hurts still and I just want to collapse on this Lenten weary road.

So often, in this world, we want to skip over Good Friday straight to the cross. We would much rather stay up on the mountain on Transfiguration Sunday. But we must come down. So this Lent, I will come to the cross. But then I will be more than ready to come to the tomb on Easter Sunday to find it empty; to know that death never ever has the final word! For only God has the power to overcome death and the grave. “Easter says you can put death in the grave, but it won’t stay there.” (Clarence W. Hall)

This Lenten weary traveler is ready to see and hear the Easter promises triumphantly declared. “Alleluia. Christ is risen. He is risen indeed! Alleluia!” And I know that this Lent especially I am not on this road alone. There are many others who are standing on this weary Lenten road waiting for the Easter promises to be revealed. We are deeply yearning and looking to see Jesus standing there next to us.

Photo Credit: Jacob Sorenson 2018

On Tuesday, as we stood around our dear dear friend’s lego urn, approximately 70 plus of us linked with Ben, Mara and Elizabeth; interwoven as an incredibly tangible sign of the body of Christ; I couldn’t help but begin to see that perhaps the Lenten weary road we are standing on isn’t so long after all. For around that urn, a tangible symbol of God’s love and the love of our friend was embodied in that time and place. A reminder once again that God’s love ultimately wins.

And so I will continue to meander and trudge my way down this Lenten weary road ready to come to the cross on Easter and proclaim with all the saints that Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. Alleluia! However, this Lent, I may be more weary and worn from the journey to that empty tomb!

I am linking up with Kelly and the Ra Ra Linkup, Jennifer and Tell His Story, Holley and Coffee for your Heart, and Kristin and Porch Stories!



An Incredible Cloud of Witnesses (For our friend Ben)

Today, I sat in a sanctuary with many others who knew and loved our friend Ben. Tears fell from my face as I grieved this friend, but also as I saw the faces of the many he loved so deeply. Voices lifted loudly in honor of this dear child of God. Then it came time for the commendation and I along with 60+ other rostered leaders stood around Ben’s urn as we commended him to God’s care.

Voices of all shapes and sizes declaring in these words, “Let us commend Ben to the mercy of God, our maker and redeemer. O merciful Savior, we commend your servant Ben. Acknowledge, we humbly beseech, a sheep of your own fold, a lamb of your own flock, a sinner of your own redeeming. Receive him into the arms of your own mercy, into the blessed rest of everlasting peace, and into the glorious company of the saints in light.”

That image will forever be engrained in my heart and soul as this cloud of witnesses gathered with Ben’s wife Mara, their daughter Elizabeth and so many others. Each hand extended to the person in front of or beside them. But I also know that this cloud of witnesses was extended far beyond those sanctuary walls as so many from the Wartburg Seminary community rally oranged for Ben and joined us from around the world.

Today was indeed a celebration of Ben’s life. As Nate said, Ben loved us and we loved Ben. Today embodied that love in so many ways. A love that was grounded in Ben’s faith and the claim that he is a beloved child of God. Ben was really good at reminding us of that. My heart aches and will for awhile because this friendship was a gift to me and to so many others.

It can at times be hard to capture friendship in single words or phrases, but for my friendship with Ben, it is easy. Ben was one who had a huge heart and loved big. As Bryant shared, Ben taught me that there is always room in our hearts for more. As I looked around the room this afternoon, as we toasted and sang in Ben’s honor, my heart ached because my heart is full of so much love and it still aches for another loss; taken way too soon. But I’m going to try my best to let my heart expand that love because Ben taught me that too. He always made you feel loved and welcomed…without question.

In the midst of death, this Lent seems so very long and we are more than ready for the Easter promises of resurrection hope. And as we stood around Ben’s lego urn, I believe we saw a glimpse into that Easter morning. A cloud of witnesses proclaiming that death never has the final word. Thanks be to God!