Sunday, May 29, 2011


Wow! I have not been on here for a LONG time!

Being back in Alaska is a little weird for me.  I used to live in Southeast Alaska, which has its own kind of beauty. It is a rainforest and is so many islands and inlets.

Being here in Homer is different. It is on the mainland, so you can drive long distances. But it is also located right on Katchemak Bay, which leads right out into the ocean. My brother, a commercial fisherman, is getting ready to go out around June 1. He will be out for about 10 weeks. He and a master net-mender have been working all week to get his nets done before they go. They have only a little of the last one left to go. My nephew, Peter, came home from PLU on Friday and he has been helping too. He has been going out on the boat with his dad since he was 9. 

Martha, my brother's wife, is so gracious. She has been making big meals to feed all the guys who have been working on the boat and the nets. Many days there are 8 of us for meals. We have had the BEST salmon, king crab, and other fish. There are clams thawing now, so hopefully we will have them soon. I guess Martha made nettle pesto the other night (I was exhausted and went to bed before supper) that was not only tasty, but gorgeous - the nettles are bright green when they are cooked. 

The Farmer's Market was open yesterday for the first time this year. It was AWESOME! They had the most wonderful plants, jelllies, jams, fresh herbs, carvings. It was fun. They had a marimba band playing. Donations went directly to help people in Zimbabwe. It was great. Tourists are already here, from other countries as well as the US.

Wildlife is fun to see. The eagles soar around the house every day. There is a tree on the way to downtown that has a huge eagle's nest in it. Yesterday there was a male eagle standing guard in the top of the tree next to it. So maybe mama is nesting now. Yesterday morning my brother and I saw 2 yearling moose alongside the house while we were eating breakfast. Then Martha got up and said that she had just heard some sandhill cranes flying over. We didn't see them because we were too involved with the moose... Then on the way to downtown we saw a couple more moose out alongside the highway. They don't really have deer here, but they sure have a lot of other animals! 

It is going to be a bit difficult to come home. And yet, it will be very good to get back to the beauty of the midwest. I pray for the safety of all those who are currently being flooded out in SD - it is amazing to see the pictures. It will be good to not feel as helpless about what is going on.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Just musing...

At the fall theological conference in Pierre, Tony Campolo was the main speaker. He talked a lot about who we are as church today. It really made me think - in fact, expanded my thinking in oh, so many ways. 

One of the things that came to my mind was that sometimes it is just plain hard to get up the energy to go to church. Mind you, I know I work for the church but sometimes... Is that wrong? I don't know - I do know it is human. But when I miss that gathering on Saturday night or Sunday morning, I know I have missed something important. That gathering together of the Body of Christ in worship is important to my well-being. We praise, thank, confess, sing, pray, listen, eat, share, offer, and much more when we worship together. I think it is somehow just not possible to have true and vital worship if we are by ourselves.

I know that as a liturgical church it could be said that it is kind of, well, boring, for lack of a better word (I know the kids  think so). And yet, there is an underlying energy in worship - knowing that literally hundreds of thousand of people - before us, with us, and in the future - are also worshiping at the same time, in their own place, in their own language, yet using the very same words. How awesome is that!!! It gives me goose bumps! And then, think also that we are surrounded by so great a host of witnesses, as it says in Hebrews 12:1. They are around us always, as we "run the race that is set before us" - as we live out our lives as the people of God. 

Sometimes I fear for the Church - for the weekly gatherings that I so love. Many times it is as if we are only going "through the motions," without any thought or effort. Then it is easy to think that it is not that important to be there. As I have heard said, "I can worship God just as well when I am out in nature." That may be, but it doesn't work for the long haul. There is that "togetherness" part that helps us to worship fully - to share in the understanding of who God is and what it is that God is doing in our lives and in the world. 

Recently I came across a blog that kind of sets that up pretty well - what it means to worship together. It is written by Dale Cooper, former chaplain and instructor at Calvin College in Michigan, called "Coop's Column." I invite you to follow this link to read the blog on the church in today's society: Jesus-Yes - Church-Yes

I hope that YOU will worship with your fellow believers in your house of faith this week.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

September is Pain Awareness Month

Pain is the most under-treated disease in America. 

Disease, you say? Yes, disease. Dis-ease. It is a terrible thing to be in pain - whether it is chronic pain or not. There is the fear of addiction to pain-relieving drugs; the idea that, really, pain is all in one's head; the fear of the pain not going away. All kinds of things come to mind. But when we are dealing with real pain, addiction is not an issue, mental health is not the issue - the issue is the pain, why we have it, and how can we relieve it.

For people with chronic pain, such as me, it is important that everyone understand how it affects our day-to-day lives. I have a disease called Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD). It is also called Complex Regional Pain Syndrome - Type 1 (CRPS). I never even knew there was such a disease as this. I fell on July 2, 2007, breaking my arm. That caused my sympathetic nervous system to go haywire. The only signals from my brain to my arm were pain signals, with the pain being very intense, often nearly unbearable. Since then it has spread to my other arm and both of my legs, as well as the left side of my face. I have a pain management doctor who is fabulous and without whom I would not be able to do what I do today. He has used a whole health type of treatment with me - I have had mental health therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy, as well as drug treatment. 

I am lucky to live in South Dakota. Our doctors here are allowed to give us the treatment we need. They are given a goodly amount of time to have those medications work - speaking of narcotics, basically. Yes, I take a narcotic every day. The fact is I take a lot of medication every day - 17 pills a day. They are not all different pills - there are a few I take several times a day. Without these medications, I am not able to function.

The pain of RSD is like no pain I have ever had before. For me, it is mostly a burning pain. One person has described it like this: imagine replacing all the blood in your body with lighter fluid - and then lighting it. Believe it or not, I find this to be amazingly accurate. I also have allodynia, which is sensitivity to touch. That is why I always wear something over my arms. I never realized before how much air we move when we walk. That is extraordinarily painful plus it makes my bones feel like they are frozen, even though everything around them is burning. This is an odd disease. There are many people who suffer from it. There are many people who don't have access to a good doctor, like I do.

So, during this Pain Awareness Month, please be kind to those who move slowly, those who complain of pain, and anyone you know to be in pain. Pain often does not show - we look just like the rest of you. This is one thing I have learned - be patient with everyone.

Thank you for observing Pain Awareness Month.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

What IS God up to?

I asked the congregation to think about it and e-mail me or call me with their thoughts. Well, no one has done so at this point. I hope someone does before the weekend though.

We got to talking about this at our staff meeting today. Here is the thing: God is at work whether we know it, acknowledge it, or whatever! We are all sinners in need of forgiveness - and the only way we get that is from God, through Jesus Christ.

So what do I think God is up to in my life? God is definitely challenging me - sometimes big time. I still have this RSD that some days nearly drives me mad with discomfort and/or pain. I still am asking God why this had to happen to me now, when I think that God has given me the gift of music, only to take parts of it away - and in such a drastic manner. Sometimes I really have to wonder about God's idea of fairness....
And now my favorite aunt is on hospice care. She is my mother's only surviving sibling. She has Alzheimer's. Thirteen or fourteen years ago she had a six-way bypass - the first one ever done at the hospital in Grand Forks. She came through it beautifully - and lived her life with a loving and thankful attitude for all she had been given. It is hard for me to hear now of her increasing disability. It is even harder for my mother. We live six hours away. That may not seem like much but, in reality, we cannot just go up there and wait. Life here still goes on for us. My mother and my husband are going out to Montana on Monday to see my little brother and his wife. That trip may be put on hold, depending on what happens with my aunt. But the waiting is uncomfortable. So God, how come this has to happen right now? We really don't have time for it! But then God reminds us: all things in due season.

Then, just for me, there is the whole question of what is worship. How do we "do" worship in such a way that God's voice is heard? Does it matter what we do? What is the purpose? And on top of that, I am now supposed to be one of the people in the SD Synod who help other people with these questions. How in the world, God, do you expect me to do that with any kind of success if I still have all these questions? Ah. I see. It is in patience and in talking and learning together that we find out what worship is. Each day we are different people than the day before, with different experiences - good and bad - that color how we see worship. So worship is not only the coming together of the worshiping community (the corporate body of Christ), but also of our individual experiences as the child of God we are on that day and at that time. Hmmmm. What does this mean? I am thinking it means that God is up to something in each of our lives - both as the gathered community and as individuals. How clever of God to set it up that way!

So I find myself giving thanks to God for each day that I am given to live. I find myself learning to let God be God - to give God control over all of these difficulties in my life, because I really cannot control them myself - and it is silly for me to try, even though I do that all the time.... I am learning that God is ALWAYS up to something in my life. And you know what? I'll bet that God is always up to something in your life too. 

Go God!!!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Conference on Worship, Theology, and the Arts

Here I am in Northfield, MN, at St. Olaf College. There are a little over 300 of us here - almost all musicians, with some pastors. What a treat to again sit in a worship space with everyone singing! The Chapel here was remodeled in 2007. It has a wonderful acoustic now, with many hard surfaces, high ceiling, and an amazing organ. What fun to be here! It has a sound kind of like some of the old European cathedrals - everything resounds. 

We all have an in-depth session we go to each morning for 2 hours. Mine is Ethnic Drumming. I have learned so much already and still have today and tomorrow to go. I do all my drumming backwards from everyone else (to keep my right hand and arm from getting fatigued) but it works just fine. Yesterday we had quite the groove going! There are 11 of us in the class and at one point we had 5 different patterns going plus the teacher did a sixth. It was wonderful. Of course, it is a good thing for us that the teacher is patient.

The Advent wreath
We start each day with worship following breakfast. We are going through the early part of the church year, so we started in Advent. It is interesting to see and hear some possibilities for worship. We also have worship in the evenings. On Tuesday night it was Christmas Eve. The previous services there had been big, barren branches in the chancel area. Some on the altar, some on the floor. But on Christmas Eve, the branches had been lashed together to form a manger - tall enough for a 6'+ man to stand in there to read the Gospel. Some of the sticks were also put together so as to make a star, which was the center for the day of Epiphany yesterday morning. The lessons are all for the coming year. The preaching is all on those lessons. The preachers are excellent - one of them is really funny. So I don't think we mind too much going to worship twice a day. 
The manger

The altar Christmas Eve
We are kept pretty busy. There are special interest sessions during the afternoons. Plenary sessions with some pretty heavy discussions. The theme is The News and the Good News. The speakers have discussed some pretty awesome things. The first one was a young journalist who believes that we, as Christians, ought to write more about faith, about what is happening in the world from a Christian standpoint. He was quite engaging. Then there was a theologian who spoke on how we might better understand how the news and the Good News interrelate. They really give you food for thought - some of the things are quite a bit more intellectual than what we usually hear BUT we are then forced to really think about what has been said. Last night there was a panel discussion by four people, all of whom somehow contribute to the writing and publication of The Christian Century. Very interesting take on their philosophy for printing what they do.

I keep wondering what is happening at home, though. I suppose you are having lovely, warm days. Of course, we have had those too but today is rainy. Beyond the weather, though, I wonder what things you ponder during the course of a day. Do you wonder why the news seems always to be so bad? Where is God in all of this? How can we keep being positive in the light of all of this negative-ness?

I am here to tell you that the main news is the Good News of Jesus Christ! God is with us, even now. We are fortunate to know that we have been baptized - that we are children of God. And that God will never leave us nor forsake us. We don't need to worry about this being the end of the world. God's timing is not ours. We need to trust that the Lord will take care of us, even in our fearfulness, even in our uneasy times. So take heart - rejoice in the Lord! God has done great things for us - and will keep on doing great things!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

still on vacation....

Here we are, coming to the end of vacation. What a time we have had! It has been wonderful to see family, to rest, to talk, to eat. Man, here in Louisiana the food has been absolutely AWESOME! We are so fortunate to have been able to come here and visit. Here it is, our last day, and the kitchen lady at our hotel actually waited to clear off breakfast until we came down! (we were 2 minutes late....) We had a great time talking with her.

Tonight Belle's dad made jambalaya. Can you say delicious? He made two kinds - one with salt and one without (for me). Mine had both chicken and pork meat, while the other had some type of spicy sausage in addition. I think we all ate until we were overfull. But it was SO GOOD! I should have taken a picture...

Tomorrow we fly home. It is hard to believe that we have been gone for nearly 2 weeks. It has been a great adventure. We have seen much, met many wonderful people, and just plain had a good time. Now, if only we had time to rest when we get home... Oh well, it is still great and we have so many good memories.

Sunday, June 27, 2010


We are on vacation!!! Larry and I are enjoying some time off, with no specific agenda. We flew to Maine on Friday, June 25th, to see Larry's daughter, Sheila, and his grandson, Daniel, who live in Milo, Maine. We did not see them until Saturday morning - we needed the rest on Friday night. It has been wonderful.

We went to an auction on Saturday. The Kiwanis Club in Milo puts on an auction every year, the proceeds of which go to pay for children's programs in Milo and Brownville. The whole community turns out! We got there early so that we could get seats. It is a good thing, too! It has been a long time since I have been to an auction. We all walked around, looking at what would be auctioned when we first got there. There were a lot of things that I don't think I would have put on for sale, but then there were some really cute things. Sheila bought a great wooden plant stand, a pair of solid wood chairs (very comfortable, I might add!), and a telephone chair. We are going to clean in up and it should be ready to use.

We had dinner at the Hobnobber's Pub that evening. The place was nicely done up and the food was all homemade. Ummm ummm. It was delicious! I am glad we found it. Sheila said she had never been there before so we all had a good time.

Today we went to visit some friends of Sheila's on Schoodic Lake. Yup, that is the real name. It is quite large. All spring fed, with VERY cold water. Brian took Larry, Daniel, and his own daughter out on the boat to check out the lake. Tammy (Brian's wife), their daughter, Emily, as well as Sheila and I stayed back at the cabin to make dinner. I guess the burgers were absolutely delicious. Tammy had made some blueberry pound cake that was simply out of this world. Tomorrow we get to go fishing from the bridge over the river in the middle of town. Should be fun!

And now, it is way past time for bed so I guess I will check in to go to sleep. I hope all of you are having a restful summer. The whole idea of vacation is to vacate the things you are usually doing. We are sure doing that! It is working out just fine. Thursday (July 1) we travel to Baton Rouge, Louisiana. I hope we can continue to 'vacate' our usual things!

(This is Daniel in the pool at our hotel on Tuesday, June 29th)