Ancient pot

October 19, 2012

Ancient pot

The ancient pot lies broken
Beneath the bench in the garage
Ancient is relative, of course.
A hundred years ago
The blue green pot sat
Ensconced in a little used front room
Of an Iowa farmhouse
Collecting dust, deer antlers, sea shells.

Rescued from auction
It moved to South Dakota
And back to Iowa
To the space once occupied
By the pot,
To the house where
Death had come
And would come again.

But before death could enter
The pot was given
To a generation twice removed
And brought to Colorado.
A well traveled pot
Now ancient, fragile.

Set outside
In semi-arid climate
Where cold and heat come
In unpredictable waves
Frozen water expands
When ceramic does not.

A broken ancient pot
Now lies beneath the bench–
Too precious, too ancient,
To be shards in some future
Archaeologal dig
And impossible
For human hands to piece together.

I too am an ancient pot
Molded from time immemorial
From ancient clay
I too have traveled
From place to place to place
Residing here and there.

Now the strains and stresses
Take their toll
And soon (how soon?)
I will lie broken beneath
my maker’s bench
And wait for resurrection.

Sent from my iPad

Brother and sister

October 17, 2012

Brother and sister

Ezra loves his little sister, Elia, is concerned when she cries, and doesn’t seem jealous. He was good with his brother, Liam, too.

Elia Marie

October 10, 2012

Elia Marie

Our newest grandchild. Born October 9 to Ahna and Oren Bersagel-Briese. Weight: 7 lbs. 1 oz. Length: 20 inches. All doing well. We’re grateful to God for this miracle of life and hope to hold her soon.

Golden unto harvest

September 19, 2012

We drove the 300 miles across Southern Minnesota last weekend in order to help our 11 year old grandson celebrate his birthday.  That drive can get to be a long one as the topography is mostly flat.  The few groves of trees that break up the monotony usually surround a few farm buildings providing shade and windbreaks.  Some of those clumps of trees no longer harbor any buildings at all, but stand as a memorial to the farms that once were.

The unchanging landscape can be boring, but this time I found it exciting.  God has blessed Minnesota with more rain than much of the Midwest.  Crops look good.  Acres upon acres of corn sweep across the fields, brown tassels bending in the breeze, stalks slowly changing from green to brown.  Soybeans are ripe and those acres brown as well.  In between are strips of dark green.  I don’t know if it’s another crop of hay or winter wheat, but it provides contrast to the brown, no, golden fields.

I’ve seen it in other years, but this time especially it struck me how beautiful these fields are.  The bounty of the fields inspires awe.  The waving fields of grain remind me of what a rich and productive part of the world we live in.  There’s something too about the seeming vastness of the fields.  Others may get that feeling as they stand on the seashore or on the shores of Lake Michigan.  Here we have waves of crops rather than water, but the vastness of it all inspires awe just the same.

Awe and then thanks.  Thanks to God for the beauty of this world.  thanks to God for the abundance right at hand.  Thanks to God for where we live.  But also…a reminder that we are simply stewards of this abundance.  It’s not ours to keep, but ours to use to care for the world God loves so dearly.  Many live in places of food insecurity.  God’s call is to care for one another and to share our abundance.

The fields also remind us of Jesus saying to his disciples,  “Behold, the fields are white unto harvest, but the laborers are few.”   Jesus was talking about more than whatever crop was in the field, but that the time was ripe and people were ready to hear the good news of God’s love, grace, and mercy.  Who would tell them?  Who would be so caught up in this grace that they couldn’t help sharing it and inviting people to a deep experience of it?

We live in an odd time.  Young people crave the spiritual, the extraordinary, the magical.  Harry Potter, the Twilight books, Percy Jackson, Spiderman, Superman fill some void with their exploits.  Yet they avoid church and religion. These  people are a field white or golden unto harvest.  We’re all called to be laborers in this field, to bring the good news of the beauty of life in this world that God loves dearly, the good news that God loves them dearly and will never let them go, and the good news that they are filled with all the powers that they need to live a full and meaningful life.  Who will tell them?

Labor Day

September 3, 2012

This summer the Estelline (S.D.) High School class of ’62 celebrated its 50th anniversary.  Time flies.  Twenty of the 23 living graduates attended the event.  We are scattered from California and British Columbia to Virginia and North Carolina and from North Dakota and Northern Minnesota  to Texas.  We are teachers and nurses, college professors and tool and die makers, engineers and farmers, co-op managers and landfill managers, business people and financiers.

After the reunion one classmate wrote an email telling about her daughter sho is mmaried to an Assembly of God minister, another son and his wife who are missionaries.  She is very proud of them and of  how they do the Lord’s work.  She also mentioned that her youngest son farms with them in North Dakota. 

When I wrote back to her I congratulated her on all her children.  I also noted that the son who was farming was also doing God’s work.  Any work that is creative, that preserves, protects and provides for this world that God loves so dearly is God’s work.  She wrote again saying that , of course, their youngest was involved in their church, teaching Sunday School, helping with the youth, etc.

As a retired parish pastor, I remember how this time of year we often desperately searched for Sunday School teachers and confirmation guides.  Who was God calling people to do this important church work? We couldn’t maintain a community of faith without those volunteers and many others.

I’m afraid though that it’s easy to lose sight of how most everyone is already doing God’s work with their hands in some way.  Take a look on this Labor Day at what you do daily to join in God’s work of preserving, protecting, providing in God’s world.  How are you also joining in God’s work of redeeming the world from sin and death?  How is God filling you with the power of God’s Holy Spirit as you love this world because God loves this world dearly?

ON this Labor Day rejoice in the opportunity to serve God in your work.  Pray for those who do not have meaningful work.  Pray for leaders who will enact policies that make it possible for all to the blessing of work..

Bread of life

August 8, 2012

My mother always baked bread.  When I was growing up it was mostly white bread, though cinnamon rolls were part of her repertoire too.  Saturday was bread baking day with Saturday supper the opportunity to taste the fresh bread.  She usually had a loaf of dinner rolls that were the first eaten.  The smell of the bread baking enhanced our appetites tor that warm treat soaked in butter.

We have a bread machine, but the fragrance doesn’t leak out like it did out of the oven.  Our bread palate  has changed too.  My sisters still bake:  whole wheat, oatmeal, french, etc.  I often find myself eyeing the artisan breads at the grocery store.  What a wide variety of this essential food.

For five Sundays we take our gospel readings from John 6.  Jesus says, “I am the bread of life, the bread that comes down from heaven, the living bread.”  The chapter begins with Jesus feeding the bread of 5 barley loaves to 5000 people.  They want more, but Jesus points them to spiritual bread–bread from heaven.  Yes, God the creator also provides food for a physical life, but God also provides nutrition for the spiritual life as well.

That nutrition is a person–Jesus, who is God’s Son and who communicates the very heart of God.  He speaks and embodies God’s concern and care for this world because God loves this world dearly.  God offers the promise of eternal life that’s not only in the future but also here and now.  God gives eternal life or abundant life not only when we die, but also as we trust God’s promises.

Heady stuff and hard to wrap out minds around it.  So we look to Jesus–to his words and the story about him, to enter into this great mystery of God’s love for a broken world.  So Jesus provides wine for the wedding, bread for the hungry, healing for the sick, life for the dead, love for the unloved, hope for the hopeless, sight for the blind, power for the powerless.  And then incredibly invites those he calls to follow to do the same or at least to witness to God’s continuing and loving work in the world.

We celebrate Jesus, the Bread of life.

Personal notes:  We’re spending time with grand kids this summer.  We had the family together for a couple days in July, spent a few days in Chicago with a grandson, swam with and babysat granddaughters, and await another grandchildren in Colorado this fall.  It’s fun to be a grandparent and be a little more objective about the growth and changes grandchildren go through.  As parents we were too close to marvel at that development.  Now it’s incredible to watch them grow. I’m glad we get to do it.


Put your hand in the hand of the one

June 27, 2012

This noon we celebrated Mary Jo’s birthday with Kari and her family.  Afterward we took the two granddaughters to a nearby park.  Nora is 6 and Matea is 18 months.  On the way home Matea insisted on walking home instead of riding in her stroller.   She’s feeling pretty big and important and independent these days.  Maybe she thinks she’s six sometimes.  As we walked down the sidewalk, a car came by occasionally and startled her.  That’s when she grabbed my finger and held on until the car passed.  Occasionally she also wanted to be lifted up and carried.  She had no shame about that.  She simply trusted me.  That felt really good.

I thought of how often I start to think how big and important and independent I am.  Scary times, scary moments come along in my life.  I’m not as smart as Matea is.  I know God’s hand is there.  I know that finger is available, those arms willing to lift me up.  But in my independence and importance i ignore that hand.  I forget that it must feel good to God too when I recognise that I’m dependent always on God’s presence.  Does it feel good to God  when I reach out and ask for that hand, ask to be held?  If Matea’s hand holding my finger feels good, I can imagine my little fingers feeling pretty good around God’s big one.

Doesn’t it often take a child to teach us faith.


June 5, 2012

A few weeks ago a friend came across the plans for a salad table and salad boxes.  The idea was to have a 5×3 box on legs filled with dirt and growing mostly greens.  For those needing smaller spaces, some 3×2 boxes would do the same.  He invited me to build them with him.  We ended up building two tables–one for him and one for my daughter–and four boxes–two for me, one for them and one for his daughter.

We finally finished them and a few days ago, I got to plant mine.  It’s mostly salad greens–lettuce, arugula, spinach, etc.–and a few herbs.  I’m like every little kid when it comes to planting.  I go out the next morning to see if anything is growing yet.  I’m disappointed when it isn’t.  Waiting is hard work.

Yesterday finally brought the reward.  The Black Seeded Simpson Lettuce has defined it’s row.  The tiny green plants have pushed through the soil and are growing.  This morning I can see another row beginning.  It’s actually GROWING!

There’s something so hopeful about those little plants.  Tiny seeds buried in the soil and watered come alive as the dirt warms.  What once seemed dead is now alive.  It feels miraculous to me every year when this happens.   I suppose it is miraculous.  God is at work providing for God’s good creation.  God is at work protecting what God loves so dearly.  This is what God does.  I get to join in that work and experience some of the joy that God must have when something grows.

Can I grow?  Can God work new life in me?  Can I see that growth?  I trust that it is so.

Prayer:  God, plant me deep in your nurturing love that I may grow.  Amen.

All shook up

May 25, 2012

Sunday is Graduation Day around here.  Sunday is Memorial Day weekend.  Sunday is also Pentecost.  It will get lost in our other celebrations, but it is one of Christianity’s “high holy days.”   Christmas and Easter are the other two.

We celebrate on all three of these holy-days that God is in the business of shaking things up, of upending our settled ideas about what is possible.  We all know that God is God, and humanity is humanity.  We all know the wide gulf that exists between God and the creation.  And yet….At Christmas God shakes things up and become a child shaking up what we know for sure.

We all know dead is dead and there’s nothing to do about that.  We all know that life is limited to just so much time, so many years.  And yet….  At Easter God shakes things up.  God raised Jesus from the dead.  He lives even now and prays for us in God’s ear.  Dead isn’t dead anymore.

We all know that we’re on our own in this world.  We confront impossible situations in our lives in which we are helpless and hopeless.  That’s the way of the world.  Loss and grief, betrayal and denial, dead end after dead end.  And yet….  God shakes things up at Pentecost.  Our ears are filled with the sound like a mighty rushing wind.  Our eyes see lights, like tongues of fire.  Our voices speak words that come from someplace else.  The Spirit of God invades life.  No longer hopeless and helpless, dead ends open up.  The Spirit “intercedes for us with sighs to deep for words to express.”  We are not alone.  We are part and parcel of a world God loves so dearly. 

I’ll be preaching this weekend in a couple of churches in our synod.  These small churches have a bleak future.  But on Sunday the Spirit will be there interceding, empowering, kicking them out into the world where they join in God’s continuing redemption of a world groaning for that help and hope.

Joyful Pentecost everyone.  Let the day shake you up!


April 30, 2012

We just got back from visiting our grandsons. The oldest was in a fourth and fifth grade production of the musical “Annie”.  He played Daddy Warbucks.  The whole school did a wonderful job and he did too.  Now I’ve got “It’s a Hard Knock Life”  “Easy Street” and especially “The Sun will come out tomorrow” running thorugh my head.    Annie sings it and then Daddy Warbucks too..  Annie is an optimistic girl who believes her parents will come back to the orphanage where they left her 11 years before..  That hope is dashed, but her dream comes true for a family as Daddy Warbucks prepares to adopt her. It’s a neat story with cute kids and a dog and a happy ending.  Who could ask for anything more.

Is there a difference between optimism and hope?  Somehow hope seems deeper and more needed.  There are days in which I am pessimisstic about a particular outcome, but I continue to hope.  Optimism, especially sunny optimism can be only surface deep, while hope goes to the heart.  Hope outlasts optimism.

This is the season of hope.  Spring returns hope as the earth returns to life.  Even more in this Easter season hope is as deep as a grave and and as wide as the promises of God. In the face of all life”s struggles and endings, we live with hope.

On April 30 I (Dave) was baptized at Strand Lutheran Church, Dunbar, Iowa.  That event is a source of hope.  My parents, sponsors and a congregation were there and saw it happen.  Here God gave a visible sign of the invisible reality of God’s love for me throughout my life and even through my death.  My hope is founded on those God promises and on the God who makes them.  No better hope than that.