Saturday, May 25, 2019

I Love a Parade

I love a parade. Watching a parade. Being inside a parade. This morning the 81st annual North Iowa Band Festival Parade units—116 of them—lined up on the streets all around our blocks.

 I remember this parade from my teenage years here in Mason City, Iowa. Yes, this is Music Man’s River City, 76 trombones and all.

Son and Daughter-in-law Joel and Rachel and their children Jennaya and Jackson were IN the parade announcing the high school summer musical.
We were first on our condo deck watching the line-up, and then, of course, on State Street AT the parade.

I love the Mason City Band Festival, 4 days of civic celebration, everyone outside together. This morning, no cars on our blocks, just people walking. And bands and floats, even a few horses, and varieties of people all in a line. No carrier boats lined up for a war with no reason, no guns piled up for sale.

It was safe to be outside together. We did not fear being outside. We did not fear or hate each other. We celebrated one another.  I loved this parade.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Abortion: What Our Church Said 28 Years Ago

“Women and men share equally in the responsibility and accountability for procreation, although it is women who are most intimately affected by decisions about abortion.” The ELCA 28 years ago adopted by more than a 2/3 majority vote in 1991 a Social Statement on “Abortion.” Amazing for its time. Although conversation on issues has changed through the years, I share some quotes from that church-wide teaching I find positive for this time.
“We are moved particularly by the anguish of women who face unwanted pregnancies alone.” “Poverty, lack of supportive relationships. . . oppressive social realities, sexism, and racism can intensify her sense of powerlessness.”
“Our ministry of hospitality to all people ought to include women who have had abortions, women who are considering abortions, children, families, and those who bear and raise children under all kinds of circumstances. This should be reflected throughout congregational life and church policy. Services and shelter should be provided, especially to enable young mothers and fathers to continue their education and care for their children. Members should also be encouraged to become foster and/or adoptive parents. By our policies and practices as a church we need to indicate that we are truly supportive of children through the long years after, and not only before, they are born.”
“Greater social responsibility for the care, welfare, and education of children and families is needed through such measures as access to quality, affordable health care, child care, and housing.”
“We affirm that the goodness of sexual intercourse goes beyond its procreative purpose. Whenever sexual intercourse occurs apart from the intent to conceive, the use of contraceptives is the responsibility of the man and of the woman.”
“An abortion is morally responsible in those cases in which continuation of a pregnancy presents a clear threat to the physical life of the woman. A woman should not be morally obligated to carry the resulting pregnancy to term if the pregnancy occurs when both parties do not participate willingly in sexual intercourse. This is especially true in cases of rape and incest. This can also be the case in some situations in which women are so dominated and oppressed that they have no choice regarding sexual intercourse and little access to contraceptives. Some conceptions occur under dehumanizing conditions that are contrary to God’s purposes.”
“Christians as citizens and this church as an institution should join with others to advocate for and support just laws and to work to change those, which are unjust. In our attempts to influence the shaping of public policy, we should not disregard the rights of others, but work faithfully through the public processes by which justice is sought for all.”
 "The concern for both the life of the woman and the developing life in her womb expresses a common commitment to life. This requires that we move beyond the usual ‘prolife’ versus ‘pro-choice’ language in discussing abortion.  If we are to take our differences seriously, we must learn how to talk about them in ways that do justice to our diversity.”
“Church members must not only be aware of the moral complexity of the situation, but be able and willing to listen and walk with women and men through the process of decision-making, healing, and renewal. . . ”

Monday, May 13, 2019

I Don't Lose Power When You Are Empowered

“When you are fully empowered, I do not lose power but
am empowered as well.”

North Iowa Area Community College announces the following class by Dr. Norma Cook Everist: “Power and Partnership: Personal and Social Power in the Workplace” Tuesday, May 28

Join us for an interactive seminar to build productive relationships.
We will explore together the power cycle which is real,
strong and so commonplace that we may not even notice it.
Once we do, there is opportunity for change as we develop
skills for what we can actually say, and do in difficult situations.

Participants will be invited to enter the conversation from wherever
they are as we open ourselves to ongoing growth, working
toward more just, equitable partnerships in the workplace.
You can find out more information about this course by contacting
Jamie Malek at 641-422-4076 or

Friday, May 3, 2019

Should We Encourage People to Bring Their Guns to Worship? Or What Should We Do?

Faith communities are asking how to safely gather for worship in the wake of increasing shootings and bombings. Do we encourage our people to bring guns to worship? Do we hire security teams to guard us? Do we work for peace and justice in the world? Are we called to become places of “sanctuary”?
While some congregations may deny the issue exists, e.g. “That couldn’t happen here in our nice community,” others are becoming preoccupied with security plans: “We have a robust group working with law enforcement, including a fence and cameras.”
We want people--all people--Jews, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs and more, to come to their holy places of worship feeling safe and secure. The challenge: Can we be safe inside by daring to go outside? The Gospel for the 2nd Sunday of Easter showed us the disciples met behind locked doors in fear. Jesus came, stood among them, and said, “Peace be with you.”  This coming week we hear the disciples went out. Jesus: “Feed my sheep.” “Follow me.”
Motive Yes, we need our worshipers’ eyes and ears used for precaution, but also to see the troubled one. How can we know who will enter a house of worship with a gun or bomb? So often we hear, “The motive is unclear.” I think the “motive” will always be unclear. The issues are complex. The person is complex. There are traits and signs, even profiles of a person who commits a shooting, but not just one type of person, or shall we say, stereotype. Each of us has the capacity to hurt, harm, even kill another. There are not “good people with guns” and “bad people with guns.” However, we can have caring concern for those who seem lonely, frustrated, angry, and as a community, reach out to them, not just after a tragedy, but every day. 
Mental Illness  Likewise so often we use the phrase, “A ‘crazed’ person.”  Mental illness is a broad and serious issue in our society to which we need to give much more attention. However, not every person who kills people in a house of worship is mentally ill, nor are all people who are mentally ill dangerous.  Many of us are mentally ill as are our family members and people who are strangers to us. People of faith have a calling to care about everyone with mental illness and to provide more care facilities and health workers.
It Can’t Happen Here  So what about the issue of  “I never thought it could happen here.”? Then where?  I live in a small city in the upper Midwest. After returning from almost every trip to a large city or to a coastal region, someone asks me, “Weren’t you afraid?” I respond, “No.” There are murders in my state, in my town. There is abuse in the homes on my block. We fear “those people” We are plagued with homophobia, anyone not “like me.” I also am capable of fearing and and hating people very near to me who look just like me. So, yes, HERE.
For 12 years our family lived among “others,” in terms of race and economic class. As we became acquainted, as we lived through stressful, and yes, even difficult times, we learned to care and depend upon and love each other. I often felt the most safe among those most different from myself.  Likewise, when traveling in some (even dangerous) places on other continents, I have had experiences of feeling far from home, but the most safe.
Violence and Guns  All of that is not to say danger from shooting and bombings in houses of worship is not real.  It is. I wrote twenty years ago about the rise of terrorism. One lone shooter can kill dozens. One mass shooting can multiply fear a hundredfold. So what should we do? We need welcoming places not to become armed camps. Yes, we need to take reasonable precautions and use safety measures. In this nation of ours we have become wedded to implements of violence as a way to stop violence. Arming parishioners is not the answer.  Encouraging parishioners to bring their guns with them to worship, and, even worse, to encourage them to purchase weapons so they have one to bring, will not make houses of worship more safe. All kinds of studies show how many people are killed in this country on purpose or accidentally with the proliferation of guns. Martin Luther King showed that nonviolence and nonviolent responses are most helpful in the long run in creating a “beloved community.”
A Community of Communities  But what about those most vulnerable? Muslims?  And also Jews?  (The religious right claims there is a war on Christians and encourages the sale of guns.) Rather than increasing this nation’s high rate of gun sales and ownership, we have the opportunity to increase our image in being a community of faith communities.  
Much happened after 9/11 in terms of Christian/Jewish/Muslim dialogues, real efforts to learn about our neighbors’ faith.  But in the recent escalation in the climate of hate, we have grown more dangerous to one another in our speech and in our actions.  We dare not continue on this path or we will simply fear going outside at all. We do not want to fear gathering together with those of our common faith, nor to gather as a pluralistic people. Rather we want to both worship in our sanctuaries and provide sanctuary. More on how to have safe sanctuaries and provide sanctuary in the public world in a blog coming soon.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Blessings for the Entire Easter Season

For the entire Easter Season Christ brings reconciliation, gives us life now and forever, creates community,  and calls us to vocations of justice and peace-making.  

Saturday, March 16, 2019

The Dangerous Deception of White Supremacy

Why do people believe in white supremacy? Why do they need to? What a dangerous deception. I am white and therefore benefit from white privilege. The fear of losing what never rightfully belonged to privileged people increases fear of the "other."

 So we hear the same words from the shooter in New Zealand: "immigrant invaders" as we do from our leader about the "emergency" need for a wall because of "immigrant invaders." Fear reigns. Terrorism prevails. Does hope fade? 

However, also yesterday high school students around the world demanded a future of an earth safe for them to live on. And yesterday, while snow remained outside, four little birds returned to the rafter roof above our deck. They remembered their home and came in hope. 

So I am called to remember that this world is home to all and to work to make it so, well into the future.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

"Snow Shut-Down" Brings Constant State of Uncertainty

There he was at 5:00 a.m. plowing out the parking lot across the street.  Faithful, he’s plowing now so people can use the government services building even though the man will have to plow again because the storm is predicted to not stop until evening.

The upper Midwest has been living in “snow shut down” for weeks.  National media shows storms as they move to the East Coast. They report airport delays and difficulties for “commuters.” Well, in small cities most of us don’t “commute.” We simply live and work here.

 And by now, school students aren’t rejoicing in having a “day off.”  They haven’t had a full week of school since the beginning of the 2019 term. They value education and are concerned how far behind their sessions are.

We live in a constant state of uncertainty. To cancel or not cancel.  And will the rescheduled date for our activity be cancelled again? I know, I know, a day snowed in means I have the time to clean closets, but the sneaky depression of snow shut-down does not provide incentive for closet cleaning. 

However,  we are thankful people: for a warm place to live and enough food.  And we are careful and aware of road accidents and heart attacks while shoveling. We worry about and reach out to care for those who don’t know where they will sleep in this snowy cold. 

The CEO of the Health Care Center around the block is also out. He and a few others with four-wheel drives are picking up their staff who can’t make it through the storm. Good Shepherd doesn’t have “snow days.”  They are needed to serve.  Thanks be to God for them.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019


God’s Love goes beyond Valentine’s Day. God’s love is more sustaining than any “honeymoon” period in ministry.   It’s not just about flowers, candy, one short day. God’s love is sustaining and unconditional.   

But that “Honeymoon” advice lingers: “Get as much done as you can right away before the normal life sets in with all the complaints and difficulties of really living together.” They loved your paperwork and were impressed with the interview. And you liked the looks of them. They loved the former pastor and will love you, too. Or, maybe they didn’t, so this will be a better “fit.” If we all put on our best behavior for a while, Valentine’s Day can last for a few months. Ah, beware of the “honeymoon” period in ministry and trust that God’s love endures beyond Valentine’s Day. 

Creation:  Before we came, God had created the congregation.  God is still creating—putting us together. Build on those foundations.  Rather than giving in to the temptation to change things quick before people notice, we need to ask and listen and give Valentine-like thanks to the faithful saints at work through the years. Then, together, we can create with the Creating God.  Oh, there will be suspicions that we are going to rip up everything and plant our new ideas. We can bring fresh ideas without totally ripping out what may simply be slow to grow. Creation involves change, but God didn’t rip things up each month and completely start all over.

Beyond favoring those who might seek our favor with Valentine-like flowers or candy, we need to seek out those less known people, those less appreciated.  We can walk around the neighborhood, and as a congregation build new relationships all over the place among those thought to be “outsiders.” We can give valentines to those who don’t usually receive them. God’s love multiplies.  

Christ: God’s love incarnate is among and between us.  Not that we need to fall in love with each other in Valentine-card ways. We are called to love before we even know each other. We are already the body of Christ, now being joined together, even when old congregational wounds need to be healed by the wounded One, Jesus. This will not be just a one-day celebration of being nice, or until the  liking-each-other period runs down.  Christ’s forgiving, reconciling love, which won’t let us down, even when we let each other down, is the forever kind.  

The Holy Spirit:  When I was called to serve a congregation years ago, I had to remind them I was not the coming Messiah. God had not sent me to “save” them. However, we could expect to be surprised by the Spirit. How would God be growing us? By pruning? By transformation? By numerical growth or some other kind of growth? By listening to each other and hearing everyone’s voice? By reaching out in radical hospitality without fear? (Grafting strangers on to the tree?) By building trust and trying new healthier patterns of making decisions? By really incorporating new people (corpus of Christ), and building more trust?

Happy Valentine’s Day all year long, my beloved sisters and brothers, as we live together in the trustworthy, unconditional love of God.

(based on a conversation with Rev. Christopher deForest)

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Martin Luther King Jr. Did Not Build Walls

Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Monday, Jan. 21, cannot be just one more day of counting days.  It must be a call to remember King’s goal is to create a beloved community. Hear his words:

“Love is creative and redemptive. Love builds up and unites; hate tears down and destroys.” No walls.

 Our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation.” We need NATO and the United Nations. The world needs interdependence. “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.” “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

A few short weeks after the March on Washington August 28, 1963,  where Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream Speech, at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, Sept. 15, in an act of white supremacist terrorism bombing, four African American Sunday School girls were killed.

Still our Rep. Steve King cannot understand why terms like “white nationalist” and “white supremacist” are offensive. Two years ago he tweeted “We can’t restore our [white] civilization with somebody else’s babies.” He has long proposed a border wall with electric barbed wire on top, saying “We do it with livestock all the time.”

Children still die: at the U.S. southern border and from bombings in the Middle East. But to be a U.S. [white] nationalist means it is too expensive for us to care. We must pull out and pull inward lest we become “overrun” with “them.”

Martin Luther King Jr.: “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” “Justice too long delayed is justice denied.” “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’”

Monday, December 31, 2018

Now as the Year Turns Again, Give us Peace Beyond our Fear

There we were! Don Weber and I happened to be kneeling beside each other at the altar rail as hundreds came forward for healing yesterday at Trinity Lutheran Church in Mason City. Years ago I  turned 18 and he 30 when I worked in his family’s carpet business while attending my first two years of college.

 Now I am 80 and he is 92. The years have turned. How many times each of us has heard the Gospel and received communion since then.  I have gathered in churches all over the world. I felt the presence of all those saints as the sign of the cross was made with oil on our heads Sunday.

 Pastor Dan Gerrietts had invited us to come for healing for ourselves, for others, for our nation, our world. Now as the year turns again,  “Healer of our every ill, light of each tomorrow, give us peace beyond our fear . . . Teach us all your way of healing.”

Saturday, December 22, 2018

While Walls and Fear Kill Children . . .

Luke: “Because there was no place for them.”

Matthew: “Flee . . . for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” Herod was infuriated and “killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under.”

In the midst of a government shutdown over a wall, when a leader is infuriated, when children die, when the world becomes more dangerous because of targeted fear, and when, as always, there is no room for the stranger, God incarnate comes. Peace to you, brothers and sisters, always and everywhere. Jesus is here among us and everyone.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Advent and Slain and Imprisoned Journalists

Saturday is Bill of Rights Day.  The first Amendment to the U.S. Constitution includes the free exercise of religion and the freedom of the press.

This week TIME Magazine named its 2018 Person of the year: “Guardians and the War on Truth”: slain and imprisoned journalists.

On Sunday we light the third Advent candle. Little might the world notice unless we Christians ourselves pay attention. We have lit two. We still can light the third, and the fourth. Most of us will not be imprisoned for doing so.

We, like the shepherds, can “go now” and “see this thing that has taken place,” seeking out the truth, finding the Christ who is the center of all truth and making it known. We will need to be as astute as the wise men in searching diligently for the child born king, worshiping, and then choosing “another road” rather than playing into Herod’s wicked plans.

Our advent journey is a time to pay close attention, to reflect, repent, and focus on the Truth so that we might tell publicly the news which prevails.