Saying Something

This should have been here a long time ago.  But there were the excuses.  Perhaps you felt them too…

I don’t want to rock the boat.

I don’t want to be misunderstood.

I don’t want to hurt my relationship with insert name here.

I don’t want to affect my job.

I don’t know what to say.

However, silence speaks.  Silence names that the status quo has more importance than what could be said.  Silence is not neutral.  This past week, on Sunday June 14th I shared a blog post within my sermon via our online worship that should have been posted here several years ago, reflecting on the death of Philando Castile and a visit to his memorial.  The above excuses gave me pause from posting the blog when originally written, but now I realize what my silence says.  I have included what I feel I should have been spoken, should have been posted, at the end of this post.

In the last two weeks, I have been to another memorial.  The memorial to George Floyd.  The location of his death was the black pavement of the street.  The walk down to Chicago and 38th came after dropping donations at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church of SE Minneapolis, MN.  The combination of these two experiences compels me to type.  For two days, churches in our conference quickly collected donations and then caravanned north on I-35.  Prior to our journey to Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, I saw the pictures of broken windows and smoky buildings of the neighborhood in posts and newscasts.  I heard the newscasters speak of boarded up shops and gutted grocery stores.  But it is different when you see it.  In the safety of my vehicle, I entered the line for drive-up donation drop-offs and my heart went to my throat.  The lawn of Holy Trinity was filled with people, those quickly unloading cars in assembly line fashion – masked with physical distancing, those greeting people at tables, those lined up to what may be their only source for diapers, toilet paper, and their next meal.  The need was so great.  An organized but overwhelming sight.  On the day, Friday June 5th, during this particular shift, I noticed the skin tones of those who were volunteering and those who were receiving and the disparity that we know is so very real and true was symptomatically visible.  There are so many beautiful stories of people of all walks of life coming together in this moment, helping their community, embodying resiliency.  I am also very aware of my ability to drive to the donation center and to drive away.

That is why this blog posts exists. Because it felt sickening to have the ability to just drive away to my intact, safe home and, once out of the Cities, past numerous well-stocked grocery stories and shops open with their shining glass windows.  The reality of so many in Minneapolis right now is not my own.  Yet the discrimination, the degrading of human life, the disparities, the acts that brought about such a crisis also exist where I live, where I serve, where I spend my time.  What has silence done?  In the last five years of my life I have become more aware of how I have benefited at the sake of others.  I have benefitted from the degrading of other people.  From the land on which I grew up, once occupied by Native peoples, to the products that are made cheaply due to the use of prison or underpaid labor, often by persons of color.  The list goes on.

In the services I lead as a pastor, we routinely pray for peace and justice but the images of the past weeks force me to ask, “How active have I been to really evoke the change I pray for?”  I am aware of the disparities in our criminal justice system in which persons of color are more likely to be incarcerated than whites for similar crimes.  I am aware of the loophole in the 13th Amendment that allows slavery to continue in prison settings.  I am aware of the privilege I have to choose whether or not to say something about racial disparities and discrimination when, in reality, it is the water in which each of us swim and we know some are more likely to drown in it.

And so I write, even with my missteps and mistakes to break my silence.  With phrases I could have penned better or paragraphs that could have more nuance because I refuse to just drive away.  I refuse to let this be a happening that fills the air and just settles to the ground.  I have work to do in order to bear justice and peace.  I have work to do in order to be a better human being to my fellow human beings.  Seeing the memorial of George Floyd at the end of the block, I prayed as I did at the memorial of Philando Castile, but this time the prayer was for me.  Let me be changed.  Let me not be the same.In the coming weeks, I intend to do some intentional work on my own racist enabling and I invite you along. I am including an article with suggestions on this work.  A list encouraging white people to do something.  This is a hard list.  This list will not work for everyone and there are other suggestions out there.  There are things on this list I cannot yet do or support, but within it we may be able to find ways we can do our own work of understanding the systems that brought about the memorials and destructions we have witnessed. Perhaps through our own work we can bring about the answers to long-prayed prayers.

75 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice:

I plan to watch the documentary 13th, to read The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander (a book yet untouched on my shelf), and to speak with local law enforcement to understand better their current training.  I also wish to make a commitment to myself that when I hear something that degrades a fellow human being I will not be silent.  I will do the messy work of trying to be a better human being.  I will screw this up.  I will make mistakes.  I will have to apologize.  But that means I am doing and saying something.

If you are interested in supporting community aid efforts in the Twin Cities there are many websites with updates and extensive lists including the homepage of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church of Minneapolis and The Current Twin Cities radio station.

May we all be better human beings to our fellow human beings.


Originally written in 2018 while at my Doctor of Ministry in Biblical Preaching Residency in St. Paul, MN:

Bring Your Flowers

My first week of residency, I posted a picture of the test plots of the University of Minnesota.  The plots are a landmark around here and an easy way to describe the location of the Air BnB we are renting.  However, I would like to mention another landmark, one which came into being in 2016, the memorial for Philando Castile.  Philando, a man, who was African American, shot as a result of a traffic stop when he was pulled over.  There was a four-year-old in the car when he was shot.

I will not get into the details of the incident or the case.  But given our class Preaching Race and Reconciliation and the fact that I pass this memorial every day when I go to class and every day when I return it has become a touchpoint of my learning.  I have to name it.  This community continues to grieve the circumstances that brought about his death.

On Thursday of last week, our class took a field trip, and visited the memorial.  Now this had been on schedule for several days.  For me, as one who is still in the first year of grief for the loss of my sister, there was a sense of empathy in addition to what this event says about our relationship between human beings and the state of race relations in our country.  There is a family who no longer has a brother, a son, a friend.  I do not know their experience of American life and I am sure it is different than mine.  But I am familiar with loss.

I wanted to bring flowers…

That is what my family does when we visit a cemetery and wish to remember someone.  I really wanted to bring flowers…

But then, I got worried.  Could I do that? Or would that be seen as some sort of bandage on a gaping wound?  To have a white woman who never knew this man bring flowers when I was there as part of a class experience?  I wanted to be respectful and wasn’t sure how.

I looked upon the memorial from the other side of the road during walks while here these past weeks. I have done so several times, never quite bringing myself to cross the road.  It felt vulnerable to do so.  Why?  I’m not sure.  Am I afraid I will look like the crowds photographed at lynchings over the years of history?  As this is how Castile’s death has been described by some.  I do not know the intricacies of the event but I was indeed curious about the memorial and wanted to see it.  I was saddened by a death that did not need to happen.  And I am aware of how it represents the fear and hesitancy with which we interact with so many human beings who share this world with us.  It is a memorial to a brother who was killed.  And it is a marker of how deeply entrenched assumptions about race are in our country.

So quietly, Thursday morning in class, I asked my classmate, a fellow doctoral student, who is African American, if, in her eyes in would be okay to bring flowers.  She said yes.

So I skipped chapel and bought flowers.  That afternoon I brought flowers.  They were real flowers, they will wither and die.  I am sure someone will eventually remove their dried petals from the grass at Larpenteur and Fry.  But even if that memorial fades, there are some things that will be forever changed.  Including me.


I hope you too, in a world that seems so divisive find a way to bring your flowers.




The Three Minute Sermon


This is not how I normally do sermons. Still, last week in class we were asked to prepare a three-minute sermon in ten minutes.  This is not how I normally prepare.  Hours go into the reading the text multiple times throughout the week, study, preparation, processing, manuscript writing (and rewriting) and then finally preaching.

However, this past week we were asked to view an artifact (I will explain that in a moment), find a scripture inspired by that particular artifact, and write a sermon in ten minutes and then take turns preaching.  The sermon was to be only three minutes long.

My class this last week was Preaching Race and Reconciliation.  Prior to the beginning of class each student was asked to post an artifact, something that arouses a conversation or question regarding race in one’s context or world.

I have included two of my classmates’ artifacts at the bottom of this post.  The first, is a picture of an African American woman shielding a member of the Ku Klux Klan from harm.  The second was an article from the New Yorker revealing the long American history and continual presence of lynching in our country.

I have a text and a sermon for each one of these artifacts.  It is raw and unedited.  Scribbled in my notebook and it amazes me which scriptures came to mind.

For the first image: John 14:8-12 (Jesus shares with his disciples that those who believe will do even greater works than those they have witnessed)

The second article: Luke 2:8-20. (The visit of the shepherds to the manger in Bethlehem and how they shared all that they had heard and seen).

I would not, nor should I ever write an actual sermon in just ten minutes but the speed round nature of this assignment does lend itself to one benefit. You do not have the time to finesse your words out of fear or second guessing oneself and you do not have the time to tip-toe gently.  You open yourself to a raw understanding of what comes out of your head and your mouth.  It reveals much about where you are in relation to the topic of race.

Each person who volunteered to preach their three-minute sermon received feedback, honest, and yet compassionate, feedback.  The feedback included commentary on images  or words that could be misconstrued as supportive of racial discrimination of violence.  That is hard to hear.  But without such a raw sharing and raw feedback we will never hear it.

I invite you to take a look at the artifacts my classmates shared…. What scriptures comes to mind when you see them?
(note: this is a long article and so our class did not read it but instead wrote sermons on the comment of the student who brought it to our attention. The student said something to the effect of “I didn’t know and if I hadn’t come across this article I still wouldn’t know about this.”

The class Preaching Race and Reconciliation has been one of the formative I have ever taken and one of the most exhausting.  The class has opened my eyes to many painful things about the history of our country but also opened my eyes to what we can actually do to enact hope and make a better future.


My sermons on these articles in a nutshell:

First Image:  As his disciples, Jesus gives us the power to do what he did, to embody love.

Second Article:  The shepherds go and tell all that they had heard and seen, we need to do the same in order that the reign of God may be more fully seen in our world.

A Scary Sermon….

IMG_7615 2


I don’t like scary movies.  I don’t like scary movies so much so that if I do not know the synopsis of a particular film I will ask the genre, ask how gory it is, and ask if it would be “Jeanette friendly”.  I don’t like being scared, worried, or on edge if I don’t have to be.

Yesterday, in my doctoral preaching class, Preaching the Word in Context, my sermon was scary.  Even though the text that I had chosen wasn’t a scary text.

I preached on the book of Ruth and I was scared.  If you know the book of Ruth or even a bit of the story it doesn’t come off as a scary story.  Nowhere in the text is God smiting people.  There are no plagues of frogs or mention of blood.  In fact, (and thanks to those who helped me check) in the children’s bibles that are throughout the pews of the congregation I serve, the story of Ruth is so “children friendly” it makes the cut in both bibles!  Multiple pages dedicated to this lovely story with a happy ending!  Truth be told, the children’s story is really nice and goes something like this.

Naomi needed to move.  Instead of going alone, Ruth, Naomi’s daughter-in-law, goes with Naomi.  Through God, Ruth helps Naomi find food and security in a new land and Ruth even gets married!

There are other details that some children’s bibles may include or skip over.  The reason they had to move?  Famine. The reason Naomi was alone? Because her husband and both her sons had died.

If you’d like to find the full story as told in the Bible (New Revised Standard Version) feel free to click the link below.   The point I tried to make in my sermon yesterday is this, it is indeed a beautiful children’s story but when you read the whole thing in the Bible it can also be a hard story, a scary story.  The verses are filled with episodes where characters cannot see the ending, cannot see how it will all turn out, cannot see that things will be okay.

For me, in real life. That. Can. Be. Scary.

 How about you?  A new job? A new home?  A transition to a different time?  Changes in your family?

Would you ever describe them as scary?

Unsettling to say the least, when you can’t see the ending?

Unsettling even if you have been taught that God is with you and will be there.

I preached a sermon this week I thought I would never preach and yet it was the only sermon I had in me for this time and place.  I looked at the story of Ruth, thinking of those children’s bibles and confessed the following to my classmates and Old Testament professor.


“The pages [of the children’s bibles] note there’s trouble but things turned out fine. Many of those children story pages put one toe in the troubled water and then leap to when the waves calm down, to where the augmented chord resolves, where the frown is turned upside down.”
Have you ever told just the children’s story?
Of Ruth?
Have you ever just told a children’s story?
Of your own?


Right now in my life I am in the midst of a journey where I cannot see the ending.  I am a pastor.  I am a doctoral student.  I am in grief.  I continue to grieve the loss of my thirty-six-year-old sister and the changes that it brings.  Numerous moments remind me of her, even the picture on the bulletin at chapel (notice the dark haired girl with her own set of wheels in the picture above).  As I read the book of Ruth this week, numerous times, I am very aware of the days when I simply hop over the verses and lines of the story I’m in depending on where I am at and who I am with because it is so very hard.

 So how about you? Do you know someone in the midst of a hard story to tell?

Do you yourself have different “editions”?
Verses you skip over or don’t want to read aloud about your life?

I think we all do.

This was my sermon yesterday in one sentence: For me, the Good News of Ruth is that God is faithful in the midst of the hard story.  In the midst of the journey, in the midst of the hard stuff, when we are unsure, worried, or tired, God is there with and through the hard stuff in real tangible ways. Not just at the ending or in the pretty children’s bible versions.

 I preached about loss, about being in the midst of the story, about how even though it is rough, there will be glimpses of God in the midst of the hard stuff.

I don’t know if I’ve been so close to crying while preaching a sermon in my life.  I don’t know if I’ve ever preached a sermon that made several people come close to crying or have tears too.

I don’t know if I’ve ever been so scared to preach a sermon that was so raw and yet felt the sermon God put in me.   Yet even in the midst of how scary that was, I am convinced and felt, in the conversations that followed and even in the mist of preaching, that God showed up.

There is something holy about being open and honest about a scary story that has yet to be tidied up into a “children’s version”.  There is something even holier when noticing that God is there in the people who are willing to hold that with you.

Even in the scary version.
Thanks be to God.



A prayer that has been a mantra for me in many ways through this time….(and was printed at the top of my sermon manuscript)
O God, you have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown. Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

A link to read the scary story of the Book of Ruth online….

And the girl I still miss who continues to show God’s presence in my life…


Test Plots


Above is a picture of the University of Minnesota test plots that happen to be in my backyard.  Well, not necessarily my backyard but the backyard of the Air BnB (a home we are renting for the month of June in Falcon Heights, MN) while at my third and final residency at Luther Seminary.

Today begins my third and final year of residency at Luther Seminary in pursuit of a Doctorate of Ministry in Biblical Preaching and today I think test plots are appropriate.  My understanding is that these test plots are a way for the University to test different varieties of crops under different circumstances.  The soil and conditions are carefully monitored, all for the purpose of producing the best product for actual fields and agricultural production.

Guess what my cohort, my class is doing?  We are gathering to learn about ourselves and this year intensely study our own congregations and their communities so that our understanding and our sermons can help produce the best fruit in our own fields, the congregations we serve.  We have come to St. Paul to spend time in our own test plot.

I also find it interesting that these test plots of the University of Minnesota were here and being used over many years.  I drove past them as I came for my first week of school at Luther Seminary in 2007.  I have been preaching since before that time and yet my work to hone my craft is not done.   Like the test plots, in different ways I come back again and again to study, practice, and shape this important part of my work and church life.

I notice not all the beans are up (yes, dad, I checked, its beans).  One of the joys of this time at school is that we will share and examine what is fruitful about preaching and honestly look at what “doesn’t grow”.  That is important work too. Looking out at the test plots I think this will be a good sermoning spot.  So here we go and here we grow!


Scripture Soup

FullSizeRender 2In all honesty, it was a bit more like a deck of cards than recipe cards.  But just keep reading and we’ll see how the cards play out (pun intended).   My second intensive course for my Doctorate of Ministry Program, year two, was an elective, Interpreting and Preaching the Book of Acts.  On the first day of class, this past Monday, our professor walked around the room with pieces of paper, flared and face down like a hand of cards.  We each picked one.

On the face of each card was the citation of an obscure scripture verse from the Book of Acts.  Mine?  Acts 18:12-17.  Doesn’t bring a story to mind?  It didn’t for me either.  Don’t feel bad about it,  I had reread the entire Book of Acts and hung out with a few Acts commentaries in the last month and had no clue what this scripture was about before looking it up.  The fun part?  Most of us had no clue what our scripture was about after looking it up.

In these verses, Acts 18:12-17, here is no mention of Jesus by name.  No mention of the Holy Spirit.  The only character some of us may recognize is Paul (he doesn’t get to say a word in these verses).  Did I mention that the religious leaders are angry at Paul, drag him in front of Roman officials and when they don’t get their way beat up one of their own, not Paul, in front of government higher ups?

Are you tempted to look up this crazy story yet?
Anyway, our instructions from our professor: Have a sermonette (short sermon, not super polished) prepared by Thursday on your chosen text.

And I did.

And in the process of sermonating (the process of creating a sermon, a legitimate and commonly used word if you are a student studying preaching) about an obscure passage scribbled on a card, I had the opportunity to explore what basic components a preacher can work with to create a sermon from lesser known parts of the Bible.
What is the whole book saying that can inform this passage?
What happened right before or right after the passage?
Who are the characters in this moment and who could they represent or reflect?

You couldn’t rely on commentaries.  Many did not work with these particular scriptures much.  You couldn’t rely on what you did last year, since these were not part of any lectionary (a specific list of texts used over time) we were familiar with.  We needed to look at these texts with fresh eyes, new eyes, since we had not really encountered them before.  Yet, each of my classmates, as well as I, had a sermon to preach from those cards this week.

And it reminded me of recipe cards.

I preach.  I also cook. After a while you get the sense of the components that go into a particular recipe, say soup, and from then on you can explore new territory. You need a base, often a starch, some herbs, some veggies, a protein.  It’s surprising what can come together, what odds and ends can make a pretty decent soup.  Then when you encounter some unfamiliar vegetable in the supermarket you might say to yourself, “I haven’t exactly used this before in soup, but that doesn’t mean I couldn’t use it. Do we allow ourselves the opportunity to explore the little known territory that can enrich, in soup and in scripture?

My sermonette was four pages long (big font for preaching) and it was not fully complete.  There was more I could say from this little obscure passage.  And that was perhaps the most joyful part, the wealth of creativity and insight I saw amongst my classmates that was faithful to Acts as a whole and how each little card held a scripture that in it’s own bizarre way, could preach.

A great experience, so much so, I might pick another card.

P.S.  If you were curious what I preached on for Acts 18:12-17, I preached about owning our problems and as followers of Jesus, if we own our problems then what guidance might we have in working with them.

Image One? Or Image Two?


Have you ever sat in an optometrist chair and have the optometrist ask you to choose the clearer image or letter during an eye exam?

You hear a calm voice ask, “Which is clearer?  One? Or two?”
You name either “one” or “two” and then are asked again.
Now, which image is clearer?  One? Or two?

Again and again you do this until finally the optometrist can discern which image would be the clearest, for you, given your eyesight. Then he or she lets you know if your eyesight has changed.  Usually for me, with each year, the prescription to aid my eyes is just a little bit stronger… so that’s fun.

Last week was a bit like that.

In the class, Preaching as the Proclaimed Word we studied poetry, turns of phrase, and how we can assist our listeners in our preaching to experience God’s Word.  See it. Hear it. Touch it. Walk around it.   And say much more than words can describe by creating imagery and poetry in our writing.  If the sermons of my classmates are any indication, it works, my friends.  You are carried along with the preacher through a variety of images, not for the sake of the images themselves but in how they convey the indescribable.  This, our professor argued, is a skill that can be honed over time.  So just to share, I’d like to share two sermon snippets with you from a 2016 Christmas Ever Sermon.
Feel free to ask yourself “Which gives me a clearer image of what is happening?”

Version One: (Speaking on the urgency of the shepherd’s message, that Jesus Christ has come into the world, an urgent message that, as it was preached to a congregation, I am convinced is also our own).
“That is the urgency of the message we have been given.  For God did not come into a world that was fine.  But in the midst of Christmas lights, full tables and good company, we celebrate in a world that is hurting, dying, longing to be loved, to be known, to be seen, to be heard.”

Version Two: A snippet from that same sermon revised later last week after discussing the use of imagery…
“That is the urgency of the message we have been given.  For God did not come into a world that was a hallmark card waiting to be signed.  In the midst of twinkling Christmas lights, tables heavy with the feast of the year, and teaming homes of good company, we also celebrate in a world where some of those lights seem burned out and we wonder if we need to toss the whole string.  Where the plate of what sustains us has only crumbs.  In a world that declares a “Merry Christmas” but cannot squeak out a real tune about what that means.  A world, longing to be loved, to be known, to be seen, to be heard.  Into this world God has come.  For that world Christ has come.”

I don’t know about you, a picture is worth maybe even more than a thousand words and it seems, for me, the same is true in sermon writing. Which one was clearer for you?



Brush Up Your Shakespeare and Read to Kindergarteners

Those are the two phrases that have been flying through my head in the last day.  The phrase brush up your Shakespeare because of the sonnet I will perform memorized in class today and read to kindergarteners as a technique for reading scripture.

Now before leap out of your chair and you say, “What are they teaching you there?”, recall how you read to kindergarteners.  If you read to kindergarteners often and love it, most likely you get into it a little bit.   You voice slows, your face brightens, you emphasize nouns and words of action, you put inflection into any quotation Thomas the Tank Engine or Dora the Explorer might be saying.  You read with gusto and passion because you want them to be interested in the story and you want to invite them into the story with you.

Yesterday, as a class exercise we were instructed to read portions of scripture as if we were reading to kindergarteners in order to give us permission to be expressive and more interpretative of scripture that often does not receive such attention.  Read a quotation from any letter of a Paul (1 or 2nd Corinthians, Romans etc) and while doing so imagine you are reading to a room of kindergarteners and then notice the difference.

There will be a difference.

“Then scale it back, maybe, 10%” our professor said and try it again.  With a little work about the meaning behind the text, so that its intention can still be seen (you wouldn’t read a Dora the Explorer book with just any voice,  a low and angry voice wouldn’t do), you are well on your way to helping make a living word live.

Even if you never read in worship, the exercise lifts up different aspects of the passage one doesn’t hear by read quietly, silently, by oneself in one’s room.  Any reading of scripture aloud is an interpretation, why not make it a living one?



This was just one of the playful techniques to help engage listeners as preachers.  We are learning much poetic language, pauses that create meaning and discussing much about the how we do something that reveals what we believe about it.

P.S. The first words of the sonnet I am performing are “In faith” but it’s not especially churchy, if you are curious the Shakespeare sonnet is #141.


Got any spare rocks?


This is a picture of… you guessed it… a rock.  But this isn’t just any rock.  Today was my first day of my second year residency in the Doctorate of Ministry in Biblical Preaching at Luther Seminary. The rock/stone above is from the iconic steps of Bachmann Hall at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, MN.  The steps have become worn and crumbled in places and are now in the process of being renewed.  Why do I care about this rock?  Well, not only did I graduate with my Master of Divinity from Luther but I also have this picture from 2013…


Let’s just say Luther Seminary, including Bachmann Hall pictured above, is a place near and dear to my heart (as well as my husband, Dan, pictured with me on our wedding day, he’s dear too.) and so is the reason that brings me here for three weeks this June.

I love learning.  I love preaching.  And I am loving learning how to be a better preacher (say that three times fast in a pulpit!).  After hearing me exclaim, “Oh no!” when someone mentioned the step remodel over lunch, a classmate brought a part of the old steps to me (the rock pictured at the top of this post).  When it is all said and done there will still be steps there to accomplish what the old steps did but they are in need of renewal as are we all.

We each have places in our lives that we love and enjoy and even if we are actively using those parts of our lives there comes a time when they need to be renewed.  If you enjoy sports perhaps you get new equipment from time to time.  If you enjoy music you care for your instruments and get them tuned up.  I enjoy preaching and, as I approach the beginning of my seventh year as an ordained pastor, I am in for a tune-up and some renewal through a three year doctorate program.  This year’s focus: Preaching as the Proclaimed Word.  You are welcome to join in the ride!

11For while we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh. 12So death is at work in us, but life in you.
13But just as we have the same spirit of faith that is in accordance with scripture — “I believed, and so I spoke” — we also believe, and so we speak, 14because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus, and will bring us with you into his presence. 15Yes, everything is for your sake, so that grace, as it extends to more and more people, may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.
16So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day.
                                                                                                                                           -2 Corinthians 4:11-16