Thursday, February 22, 2007

Into the Wilderness

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

--Robert Frost
from “The Road Not Taken”

By now your Lenten journey is underway. So how’s the wilderness? Do you find yourself wandering aimlessly, or are you tending to find places to rest and watch and listen? No matter where you find yourself or what the terrain of your heart and mind, there will be choices to make. Which direction? What path? Where in the world? When will it make sense? Why do we make such a big deal about Lent anyway?
Just a few days ago, folks gathered around altar rails to be marked with the sign of the cross—in our parish a cross made from the ashes prepared by confirmation students of last year’s Palm Sunday fronds mixed with olive oil for “staying power.” On the Sunday prior, the congregation surrounded with love and prayers two young girls as they received the sacrament of Holy Baptism and were “marked with the cross of Christ forever.” Marked at the beginning of the journey, marked along the way with a reminder of our mortality and human frailty, and reminded in Word, water, bread and wine of the truth of the Gospel, we journey on toward Holy Week and the cross. We journey with Jesus toward death and then to life.
As a Christian, a disciple of Christ, you have already chosen the less-traveled road, and it will make all the difference in the end. Along the way we all find ourselves lured toward other paths that the world claims as better, more pleasurable, and more rewarding. We are tempted to choose another way, perhaps a way that offers the illusion of control. We may wander in circles, we may find ourselves temporarily lost, and we may stumble and fall—weary of the journey. Even so, we are not alone. God goes with us, and grace will lead us home. Each year the forty days of Lent reminds us of this truth in a very real and tangible way.
Blessings on your journey.

Monday, February 19, 2007

How Sweet the Sound...

...and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? --Micah 6:8

On Sunday, February 18, more than 5,000 churches in 50 states and 10 provinces marked the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade by singing "Amazing Grace," providing information about modern-day slavery, and signing petitions to end the practice. The event was organized by Walden Media and Bristol Bay Productions, who will release the film Amazing Grace: The William Wilberforce Story in theaters on Friday, February 23rd. The same event will take place in the United Kingdom on March 25, 2007.

When the congregations I serve decided to participate in this event, I had no idea that slavery was so widespread. According to National Geographic, in 2003 there were some 27 million people living in slavery. A recent U.S. Department of State report (2006) notes that in 2005, "cases of forced labor were documented in 112 countries." One of the most common forms of slavery, human trafficking in the commercial sex trade, generates some $9.5 billion dollars each year (Trafficking in Persons Report, 2005) enlisting and violating about two million children (UNICEF, 2006). For people of God, these statistics, and the fate of the people behind them are unconscionable. As stewards of time, talent, and resources, there is much that we can do individually and corporately.

First, and foremost, we can pray that God will inspire and equip leaders in government, in the Church, and in all segments of society to combat modern slavery and advocate for basic human dignity and rights for all people. We can pray for relief and comfort for those awaiting rescue and for full restoration of those who are fortunate enough to be rescued. We can pray for prophets who will hold us accountable to the biblical mandate for Christians to seek justice and rescue the oppressed (Isaiah 1:17) and to use their resources to this end. As long as one person is bound in slavery, people of God must be committed to prayer and action.

For more information, visit; and, and

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Surviving Skiing and Transfiguration Sunday

Other than the ski-tip imprint and large bruise on my back, I managed to emerge relatively unscathed from my first-ever downhill skiing experience. Never say never because it WILL rise up and bite you! All in all it was a terrific day. Only one member of the youth group had been skiing before, but it didn't take the rest of them long to get the hang of it. I was definitely the slow learner of the group. The "expert" of the group happened to be my daughter, so she was mortified to have me flailing around as she whizzed past. Oh well, isn't embarrassment and mortification part of a mother's job description?
So I had my mountaintop experience on Saturday, and boy was I glad to come down! Today's sermons basically ended up being a challenge to be transformed by Jesus' presence in our lives--to be aware as we head into Lent of what lies beneath life's surfaces and the faces of those with whom we come into contact. We did the Amazing Grace Sunday thing, and I was gratified by the number of parishioners who signed the petition to end modern-day slavery. Most folks were pretty shocked to hear the startling figures. Slavery just isn't on most North Dakotans' radar screens. But then is it really on most folks' minds?
On to Ash Wednesday and confirmation...

Friday, February 16, 2007

Dabbling with technology and texts

It's Friday, a good day to set up a blog for the first time. I have no clue what I'm doing! But at least this feeble attempt gave me a much needed diversion from writing two sermons for this Sunday. Why two? Because we have two baptisms of elementary age children at the service in town. Things aren't going so well in the sermon-crafting department; I find the texts for Transfiguration Sunday to be among the more difficult ones with which to wrestle, and this year seems to be no exception. It's also Amazing Grace Sunday, so to weave all this together is challenging. Check out this site for more info (No, I haven't figured out how to make a lovely link yet. Sorry.):
I'll need to finish the sermons today because tomorrow will be a true "mountain top experience" as our LYO and Spirit Youth Groups have a ski trip scheduled. I have never been downhill skiing before, much preferring the illusion of control that I have on x-country skis, so this should be quite the adventure. Hopefully I won't need crutches as an accessory on Sunday morning!
Well, anyway, welcome to my little spot on the map. Check back often for updates as I try to become more technologically literate and try to instill more discipline in my writing life. Peace and blessings on this warm (11 degrees ABOVE) Friday.