Monthly Archives: December 2015

Waiting for Love – Elizabeth

visitationAdvent 4C Waiting for Love – Elizabeth

Luke 1:39-56

December 20, 2015


She was running you know.

I could see from a distance that it was a girl!


At first I didn’t recognize her…


I wondered who she could be…

this young girl running all by herself –

and coming up the hill  – our hill!


She didn’t look like any of the girls in the village.


I confess that my first thought was,

“What kind of family is she from?

Running like that, with her skirts flying,

her head uncovered, and without an escort?


My second thought was something must be wrong!

I was in my sixth month though.


For the first five months I had stayed inside the house.

I wasn’t going to do anything to risk this baby…

this miracle.


And also, I wasn’t so sure I wanted

the whole village to know that I was pregnant yet.


A woman my age without children…

people were talking.

They were talking about me.


They were using words that

women without children have always heard.

Continue reading


Giving Others Space To Grieve


One of the ministries of Good Shepherd is to provide space for people to grieve. This includes people from our community who do not belong to a church and who cannot afford a funeral home.


Edith was quite a character. Before the memorial service last month, I asked Kari Galloway, the executive director of Guest House to tell me a bit about Edith. The first thing she said was, “When you talk about her, you may also want to refer to her as ‘Pam.’ That was Edith’s alias when she was in prison and some people will know her by that name.”


As I say, Edith was quite a character!


Kari told me more about Edith. She talked about her love of children, she showed me a necklace Edith had made and talked about her beautiful crochet work as well as her ingenuity using her gifts. When she was in prison, Edith would crochet baby blankets and baby booties and the like for the children of other inmates. She also happened to have a thriving business crocheting cigarette pack holders!


When Edith died, she had completed the aftercare program for nonviolent female offenders at Guest House. She was living in an apartment in Alexandria, but over the years had burned so many bridges with family members that she had no contact with any of her six siblings.


And yet, the women, staff, and volunteers who came to know her at Guest House knew that Edith was far more than the things she had done long ago which landed her in jail. At the memorial service, one woman talked about how Edith was the one she called for support when she needed to get sober again. Several people decided that they could not just talk about Edith – they needed to sing to share the emotion they felt with her loss.


One of the ministries of Good Shepherd is to provide space for people to grieve. Edith’s service was the 3rd here in 18 months for someone who otherwise might not have a memorial service.


Everyone deserves a place to be grieved. Everyone deserves to have these words of commendation prayed:


“Into your hands, O merciful Savior, we commend your servant. Acknowledge, we humbly beseech you, a sheep of your own fold, a lamb of your own flock, a sinner of your own redeeming. Receive her into the arms of your mercy, into the blessed rest of everlasting peace, and into the glorious company of the saints in light.”


I believe in this and the many other ministries of Good Shepherd and I support it financially with my tithe. This year, I received an unexpected end-of-the year gift from my mother – I have decided to give ½ of it, $500, to Good Shepherd in addition to my regular 10% offering because I believe that we are making a difference in this community. Will you join me?


In Christ,

Pastor Jen

My Refrigerator Magnet


Like you, I have friends who are different from me. They hold different political or religious opinions or favor different sports teams. Some are extremely passionate about their opinions!


A challenge for me when I see their social media newsfeeds is to know when and if to respond. Sometimes I’m tempted to ‘block’ their posts – but I value their friendship. And yet, especially when I read hateful comments across their feed, it also doesn’t feel right to do or say nothing.


This week, one of my friends started posting some hateful things about Muslims. I didn’t respond… And then I walked by my refrigerator.


On my refrigerator is a magnet I bought at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum gift shop a number of years ago. In large block letters it says, “Think About What You Saw” and in smaller letters, “the next time you witness hatred; the next time you see injustice; the next time you hear about genocide.”


So I’ve started to respond. Not in lengthy posts, but in short phrases to indicate some sort of protest. I’ve responded, “I disagree,” and “It’s not my experience with my Muslim friends.”


This morning my friend again said something disparaging about Muslims, but this time he said it was about extremists. Maybe a small change?


In Christ,

Pastor Jen

Get Out The Tractors

tractorWaiting with Courage- Get Out the Tractors

Luke 3:1-6

December 6, 2015


One year when I was in middle school,

we visited  my mother’s family in Iowa,

and a cousin suggested that maybe we’d like to tour the John Deere factory.


Our other choice was Herbert Hoover’s boyhood home…

We chose Hoover.


I wasn’t particularly interested in tractors at the time,

but this week listen to John the Baptizer’s

talk of making paths straight,

filling valleys and lowering mountains,

straightening crooked paths,

and smoothing rough ways…

Doesn’t it make you think of John Deere?


John Deere makes lots of kinds of tractors.

According to their website, there are

row crop tractors, specialty tractors, utility tractors,

compact utility tractors, sub-compact tractors and more.


If you want to buy a tractor,

there’s even an app to buy the perfect tractor for your needs…

  • Climate-controlled cab or open?
  • Automatic or manual?
  • How high do you need material to be lifted?
  • How much horsepower?
  • What is the type of material you’re working with?


When you’re in Iowa and need to prepare the way – any way –

mountain, valley, crooked or rough,

green and yellow has a tractor for you.


John the Baptist calls for us to get out the tractors –

to prepare the way.

Continue reading

We Celebrate Birthdays



One of my fondest memories growing up is celebrating birthdays at my grandmother’s house. She knew how to celebrate! The birthday child or adult would stay in bed while the rest of the family made breakfast in the kitchen and together carried it up the stairs to the bedroom where they entered (supposedly awaking the celebrant) singing “Happy Birthday to you!”


There was a gift of a plain brown paper grocery bag which held pennies – one for each year. And yes, we always counted to be sure there were the right number!


Of the 365 days in the year, not many are special. Birthdays are special. Birthdays are meant to be celebrated. Birthdays mark the gift of years of life, and no matter how old we are, it is good to celebrate. (Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook whose husband died unexpectedly last year, wrote a poignant post about the meaning of birthdays and the importance of appreciating and celebrating life whether we feel like it or not! You can read it here. )


Every month, at Good Shepherd’s ministry for seniors called Young in Heart, we celebrate birthdays. In November we sang “Happy Birthday” to Juanita as she blew out a candle on a special cupcake in her honor.


Juanita is 92 and lives alone. Her birthday was in October but she wasn’t able to be at that particular Young in Heart gathering. I wish you could have been present in November to see the delight on her face and hear her say, “I didn’t know if I would get a cupcake! I did!”


At Young in Heart, we celebrate birthdays. It’s not the least of things we do.


In Christ,
Pastor Jen