Coronavirus, Circles, and Holy Week

People across our country are in the midst of a “Stay at Home” shutdown due to the coronavirus. This is a new phenomenon for me, as a fifty-something adult. For many, this shutdown means each day looks and feels pretty much the same. Those of us in this category are trying to find a new routine as we work and homeschool during the day, and clean closets, read, binge-watch Netflix or Hulu, and call or Zoom friends and family at night. While life is not normal, it is still ordinary in many ways. We do our part in flattening the curve by staying home, and perhaps making masks, funding charities, or volunteering, yet mostly we are bored, lonely, and crave “normal” as we knew it before COVID-19.

Some of us are going to work. Those of us in that category are “essential employees.” Essential employees range from carpenters to grocery store workers to doctors and nurses. I’m grateful for essential employees. Most essential employees are invisible, like the truck drivers transporting toilet paper and cleaning supplies or the community leaders coordinating food distribution and welfare. Some are visible, like grocery store clerks and gas station attendants. While I have often taken those jobs for granted, now their presence comforts and encourages me to get only what I need today and trust they will also be there tomorrow. Some of you are game-changers, like the doctors and nurses, receptionists and janitors who tirelessly show up every day to do their job at hospitals and clinics. But it doesn’t end there. There are also researchers and companies doing their part to find a vaccine and keep supplies flowing, EMTs and police officers who put themselves “out there” to keep us safe, and hospice workers and caregivers in senior care facilities. Thank you for the jobs you do and the roles you play in making this pandemic as humane as possible. I will never know your names but see how you are working for the common good. We are all benefitting from your work.

The coronavirus has lifted the veil on death. It has reminded us we are all mortals. We will die, of this virus or something else, and this makes us vulnerable. For many, facing our own mortality has awakened our capacity to be grateful and compassionate. We were created to care for one another; humans are designed to love deeply. Our capacity to care for others is not limited to our family and friends, but also extends to strangers and people we have never met. As Brene Brown so eloquently reminded us, awareness of our own vulnerability frees us for living abundantly no matter the circumstances. Vulnerability is not a flaw in our design, rather it is an opening to lean into and explore.

This pandemic has also illustrated that not everyone has access to the same resources. This makes some of us more vulnerable than others. Systems free and constrain us. When we believe resources are limited, creativity can diminish and selfishness increase. While that is a human response, we do have other alternatives. We can tap into the compassion and gratitude planted in our DNA and counter our fear and selfish nature. We can reach out to the most vulnerable and begin the restoration of society there. We can choose to see the disparity and give-up our personal comforts for the sake of our neighbor having the basics of life. Seeing beyond vulnerability to possibility can lead to action with an eye toward what is good for all.

I recently ran across this short video about circles. It offers a lesson geared for children that might serve us all as we move forward in the days ahead. What if we all had the power to expand our circle of relationships? What if our capacity for gratitude and compassion had no end? What if we could tap into how we were designed and could love others at an exponential rate? Could a pandemic of love counter COVID19?

Christians are in the midst of Holy Week. This is a sacred time in the life of the church. It is the end of the season of Lent, a season where we have named our mortality and need for a savior. This year that message was been in our face and urgent. Yesterday, at the White House briefing it was predicted that this week will see an exponential increase in deaths. Death is all around us – in the news, in our lives, and in our journey of faith. What will we hold onto? What will sustain us? What is your source of hope?

People of God, we cannot save ourselves. We, as a people, will disappoint. We will fall short. Our hope must come from outside ourselves.

As you journey through the next few days, I invite you to lean into gratitude and compassion. Allow yourself to be vulnerable and practice loving others. And in the midst of it all, ask what is your source of hope?

Joy in the Workplace


Is it possible to have joy in the workplace? I believe so, in fact, as Christians God hopes so. Here are some things to consider.



Did you know?

  • In the US, working adults spend a significant percentage of their waking hours working. Of the 43.6% of adults that work, the average hours per day is 8.21. (For men it is 8.66 and women it is 7.67 hours.) American Time Use Survey (2017)
  • 33 percent of workers are engaged in their jobs, 49 percent are not engaged, and 18 percent are actively disengaged. (US and Canada – Gallup Study) Screen Shot 2018-10-30 at 3.26.28 PM
    • The Gallup Organization defines the categories as follows:
    • Engaged employees work with passion and feel a profound connection to their company. They drive innovation and move the organization forward.
    • Non-engaged employees have essentially “checked out.” They sleepwalk through workdays, They put in time but don’t approach their work with energy or passion.
    • Actively disengaged employees aren’t just unhappy at work; they’re busy acting out their unhappiness. Every day,, these workers undermine what engaged co-workers accomplish. (
  • Employees who use their strengths, skills, and abilities every day are 6x more likely to be engaged at work, 8% more productive, and 15% less likely to leave their jobs.  (Gallup)

What is the difference between Joy and Happiness?

  • Happiness relates to what is happening outside – externally – and centers on me
  • Joy comes from inside – internally – and connects with something outside of me

Resources: Yale Center for Faith and CultureTheology of Joy and the Good Life project and videos: What is Joy?  and Difference between Joy and Happiness 

Faith and Joy

  • Faith anchors our life in something outside ourselves – God.
  • Living a life of joy recognizes faith as a living relationship with God and opens one’s self up to God’s activity around and through us.
    • We are created to be relationally connected.
    • We find purpose when we have meaningful work to do.
    • We find joy when we use the gifts God had created us with.

As you work tomorrow, be it caring for your kids or engaging in a business deal, think about joy, engagement, and God’s desire for you to be relationally connected and to share your particular gifts with others.


Ready for 2017 – Tips from 2016 Bike Rides

We have had a beautiful spring, inviting people young and old to get outside!

I, of course, had to get my bike out early and have already taken in some gorgeous days biking. After my #BikeMN52 goal last year, biking 52 different rides in MN, several people have asked for tips on finding places to bike. So today I’m sharing my top resources for finding bike routes…and a little commentary to go with each.

#1 – Traillink is a great resource to check out. You can search around the country, state, city, or by trail name. This site is helpful describing the details of the path (like where it starts and ends, the length, and the trail surface). Here is a link to the Metro area. It is run by a non-profit and the site has more than 300,000 miles of trails. (That’s enough to keep you busy all summer!) Some of my favorites are: Brown’s Creek Trail near Stillwater (it is attached to the Gateway Trail which is also awesome), The Elm Creek Park Reserve in Maple Grove, Cedar Lake Trail (with its beautiful view of Minneapolis and lush green space), Lake Minnetonka Regional Trail (starting in Hopkins and heading out toward Excelsior), the Samuel Morgan Trail along the St. Paul side of the Mississippi, and of course the Midway Greenway (and the Minneapolis Lakes). (I placed this app on my phone!)

#2 – The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources also has a good list, and they note what types of recreation is available at each park. Trail length ranges from 4 miles (Goodhue Pioneer Trail in Zumbrota) to 100 (Paul Bunyan Trail between Brainerd area and Bemidji). If you want to make your ride more than an afternoon outing they have great ideas for adventures.

#3 – Bikeverywhere has a great physical map that I used, but they also have resources online. (For example, if you are interested in doing a century ride – 100 miles – there is route around Forest Lake.)

#4 – Know the trail you want? You can also check if they have their own site. Like the Cannon Valley Trail, the Mesabi Trail, Root River Trail, and Central Lakes Trail. Often these sites have more detail, for example if you are looking for housing nearby or places to stop for lunch.

#5 – The StarTribune ran an article last summer and has a nice map for metro AND state trails.

And “just in case” I always used my Google maps app on my phone. Just turn on the biking option and it will highlight bike routes and paths. This app helped me do get lost many times!

Also – one more resource – I highlighted some of my favorite rides at the end of the summer in this blog. Check it out. 

If you are interested in following my rides, I’m posting again under #BikeMn53 on FaceBook and Instagram.

So, here’s to biking another season!

Love > …

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Old Lutheran is up to it again. This time they are reminding us, anyone who loosely considers themselves a church person, of the power of love. Love is greater than many things. It is certainly greater than hate, but it is also greater than status, than tradition, than money, and fear and jealousy (you get the point.). Old Lutheran has asked church leaders from around the country to write short reflections that draw us into discussion with one another on the power of love, and in particular God’s love. (You can search them with the hashtag #loveisgreater.)

I had the opportunity to write one on Love > Grief. Check it out. (Here are other short reflections  on Love > Hate – Go to the bottom of the page.) And my greater invitation is for  you to be part of a movement that spreads love, God’s love in the world. Read these reflections, talk about the power of love with your friends, get yourself a T-shirt and spread the word, or simply let love be your driving force today and in the days ahead. Remember #loveisgreater

Created in God’s Image


We often read passages that note humans are created in God’s image, and we might even find ourselves repeating these words, but how often do we really stop and ponder what an amazing reality and gift that is?

Art is one way my ordinary routine of daily living is disrupted. Art in its final form is amazing and an take my breath away. As an observer, not as an artist myself, I’m drawn to art that helps me see the world in new ways or exemplifies the beauty already present. Here I am taken in by the imagine of the artists vision.

But art in it’s becoming form has a different impact on me. Art “becoming” transforms materials of this world, materials I often see as ordinary, and makes them into something more than…more than what they were and more than what I could see. Observing the process of art becoming captures my spirit differently than art in it’s final form. This video is an example of art becoming. Watch it and see what you think.

The election, the aftermath, and the work that lies ahead


This morning I got up and headed to the kitchen to do some baking. Baking, like running, is for me a calming pastime; a form of therapy if you will. It’s been a long week, after a really long campaign season, and I needed to do something mindless and productive. I’m happy to say before noon I had three recipes of muffins in our freezer ready for the holiday season.

For me, this has been a hard week. I have ridden the roller coaster of emotions; I have listened to friends, family, and colleagues process the election; and I have tried to get a handle on my own thoughts and feelings. I have tried to speak less and listen more. I have tried to be kinder and offer support where I could. As I see it, at least today, many people are hurting and our United States is divided on many fronts. This reality brings me deep sadness and is one of the reasons for my grief. I wonder where we, as a people, go from here.

But I grieve for other reasons as well. For more than a year, and particularly these past few months, the political climate has set the tone of our conversations and behaviors, as it filled the air with accusations, suspicion, anxiety, and name calling. The language and behavior present in this campaign did not bring out the best of us, as a nation and as a people. Instead of focusing on the issues important for our common life together, the tone that echoed across our land won the day, igniting anger and fear. No one person or party is responsible. Rather somehow the ball got rolling and we, the people, didn’t stop it, change it, or redirect it. I have been baffled by this experience and it has caused me to pause and reflect. As a society, I believe we can do better. And I want to work toward rebuilding trust in the communities I am apart of – among family members, friends, colleagues, and neighbors – knowing we are shaped by different experiences and not of one mind.

I’m depressed about our political systems, not because Trump won but because of how we got to our final two candidates in the first place. I’m curious about what this moment will mean for our political parties in the days ahead. Will leaders use this experience for good? Will I use this moment for good? All of my life I have lived among friends and family who have different political views and claim different parties. Somehow we have managed to stay together even with our differences. But as I look at our two main political parties, both are in trouble. Both are without a center, have gone to extremes, and in many ways have lost touch with “the people” whom they seek to serve. While I don’t believe government will save us, or that it is the only way to cultivate our common good, I do want more from both our Democratic and Republican leaders. And as that gets worked out, I commit to doing my part to work for the common good in the arenas I find myself.

Finally, I’m stunned and broken by the behavior and language of the president and vice president elect around women, ethnic and religious minorities, and LGBTQ persons. For months I have been without words. And I have been silent in the face of hurtful words and accusations, except for conversations within my family. My deepest pain has been this dimension of the election. I didn’t need Hillary Clinton to win to prove I matter or women can lead, but I do need to stand up when people are mistreated and treated as objects. Why did I not stand up? How will I find my voice? As a Christian, I believe loving my neighbor involves both serving and advocating for my neighbor. Electing leaders to our highest offices who treat women as objects and demean ethnic minorities rips my heart, making me scared for our shared future. Many of my friends and colleagues know this pain deeper than I do, having been mistreated because of their skin color, minority religious beliefs, and/or sexual orientation. Yet God created us all; we are all subjects of God’s love. Nothing changes that, but this election told me this core belief of mine is not shared in society. We have a long way to go in creating communities where this belief is embodied and we act from this baseline. In the months ahead I hope to turn my brokenness into action, into tangible ways I can love and serve those who feel vulnerable as we move into this new political leadership.

Please, please don’t reduce the message of this post to simply whining about Trump’s victory. My attempt here is reflect on the pain and shock I experienced integrating it with what I heard from listening to others (who were both celebrating and grieving) in order to understand our country today. My conclusion is I have work to do. And I hope the church, with its many expressions and congregations, will be there alongside me working on the healing, uniting, and moving forward our society so all people are valued, cared for, and loved. Maybe you will be too.

But first, it’s time for a run.

Ready or not…


I’m not ready.

As the sun set tonight, so does summer 2016.

As the sun rises tomorrow, another season begins.

Three of us will head off to school bright and early. A new schedule, new weekly rhythm. New students to meet; new learnings to discover; new goals to attain. This new season is exciting and it comes with its own joys. Yet tonight it is not the future I’m concerned about, it is what’s past and unfinished.

The summer house projects are not done, in fact we have piles of dirt and landscaping rock in the driveway waiting for their permanent home in our front yard.  I have more bike paths to explore and want more hot summer nights. The weather has been beautiful. And there are the writing projects that aren’t yet complete. As a person who loves checking items off my list, my summer checklist isn’t done. I am not ready for summer to come to a close. Yet ready or not, here it comes.

Tonight dreams for this season, and the images I had of summer 2016, all move from hopes to memories … from what’s ahead to what has past. Sure, there were great parts of the summer. Big moments, like watching the Olympics, having a family reunion, and going on a mission trip to Louisville. And there were fun, ordinary days, like biking around the Cities, impromptu fires in the backyard with college kids, and going to Twins games. But this day is always melancholy for me. The melancholy comes not from the value of the summer (the summer can be great or awful, it doesn’t matter). The melancholy comes from the passing of it.

You see summer is my favorite season and it is always hard parting ways. The sun rises later and sets earlier, the jackets come out and the leaves turn brilliant colors, and the hours of my day have more demands in the fall. Soon enough I will come to embrace the gift of fall, but tonight I recognize the end of another chapter, another summer season come and gone. And unlike  the shift from fall to winter or winter to spring, the change from summer to fall can be marked on my calendar. Scheduled, yet still abrupt, summer concludes on Labor Day. This year it ended with four of us gathered around the table for dinner, a Netflix  movie, and an early bedtime.

Thanks summer 2016 for the lessons you taught me, the space you let me explore, and for the many people I shared memorable moments with. The memories are stored in my phone and in my soul. To all who were apart of it in some big or small way, thank you.


And the results are in!

So it wasn’t a big poll (37 people), but it was interesting.

Last week I posted a poll asking about your plans for 2016. And here’s what you said…

38% are planning to learn something new

32%  are planning a special vacation

16% are are starting a new habit

(the rest of you fell into the other category)

That’s pretty cool, and thanks to all who participated.

Look for more to come in 2016.



..and she returns!


She returned home from her freshman year exactly one year after she went to her Sr. prom.

I remember vividly these days a year ago. Prom marked the beginning of “the end” of high school. It was the start of celebrations, recognitions, and good-byes. From the beginning of May until the end of June we all were part of the journey toward the end. Now, on a Friday evening, she returns home to a quiet house with just mom and dad.

It wasn’t long before the car was unloaded. And soon the three of us had built a fire outside, found the S’mores, and began to tell stories. People she didn’t know a year ago were now friends, and even mom and dad recognized their names. Classes, overwhelming in September, didn’t seem so bad today. The dorm room we tried to make home in August, is now empty and waiting for it’s next resident. So much happened in the past year, and tonight we are witnessing the change first hand.

This is the season where so many students and families are in “the end” times. Busy days. Meaningful days. Thankful days. Scary days. It’s the time to reflect, to be present, and to appreciate the ordinary and extraordinary moments. For those that are in that season, I pray that your journey may be meaningful. Hug your “baby” and participate fully in the journey. Before you know it, it will be over.

This is also the season of “reentry.” While “the end” is a communal journey marked with rites and rituals, this season is quiet and doesn’t have any traditions. And its an unpredictable transition. For some, the reentry will be a welcomed homecoming; for others, the reentry will be a roller coaster of good days and hard times. You see in 12 short months these students have been forced to navigate life on their own. Sure, we stayed connected, but remember our prayer back in September? Now here they are on the other side – changed. Some changes we like and others not so much…but they did it. They grew-up.

And come to think of it, we changed too. Be it the first or the last child, our life had to navigate some twists and turns, ups and downs, loud and quiet moments. And we are here to tell about it as well. Maybe we, those that stayed behind, have our own idea of how this “reentry” should go. And maybe it won’t go as planned. Remember, we’ve changed, they’ve changed, and now we are back together. Be patient with the “reentry” and with each other. This is good work, even as its hard at times. Take it one step at a time. Listen often, exercise patience, and remember…this work is the business of navigating life as one moves from adolescence to adulthood.

In the next few weeks, I pray for the students and families celebrating “the end” as I also hold in my heart the students and families experiencing “reentry.”

February 27th

IMG_2862 It was 22 years ago. I had just finished watching the news and the contractions started. After a long night and morning, she was born. We named her Jordan Michelle Elton. And yes, our lives have not been the same since. Last weekend I moved said child into her first apartment. Now a college graduate, she is gainfully employed. (And not living in my house!) And more important than that, she’s becoming an amazing and capable adult. And all of this is happening right before my eyes. Last night on my walk with the dog I remembered back 22 years, to my life pre-Jordan. Newly married and feeling as big as a house, I remembered thinking that once she was born it would be spring. (Or at least I was declaring it spring.) Why not? Spring equals new life and sunshine. And that certainly would describe life inside our house, but it describe life outside as well. No more winter coats or snow boots. More hours of daylight. Waiting for snow to melt and for tulips to bloom. Is there any greater season? In many ways, this season, watching Jordan become an adult, parallel’s the anticipation of spring I felt when Jordan was born. And like waiting for spring, there is little I, as her mom, can do to help usher in this coming season in her life, in our life. No, I simply get to keep my eyes open for signs of this new season, small as they may be, and celebrate the moments when they arrive.  But Jordan was also born into another season – the season of Lent. Lent is that season which invites us, people of faith, to remember Jesus’ walk to the cross. Sure, the promise of the resurrection is along the edges, but this season meanders through the wilderness, names the brokenness, and encourages us, individually and as a community, to not move too quickly through the somber moments. I don’t know about you, but I need space and permission to attend to these times, as much as I need to mark the good. Truth be told, becoming an adult and navigating the dozens of transitions young adulthood requires is hard, it’s like the season of Lent in many ways. Applying for jobs (and receiving rejections) is exhausting. Finding, and living with, roommates requires emotional and physical energy. Learning about budgeting, living on limited income, and understanding the “real cost of life” is more challenging then college level calculus. (And the grading system is very different.) Use to living in a community of peers, now everywhere you turn there are old people living their own patterns with their own friends. Will they get me and my situation? Do I want to be friends with them? Yes, there are promises on the horizon, but they are so far off many days. And just like no one can do this journey for you, no one can speed up the journey either. Today, I wish my “baby” a happy 22nd birthday. Every year is different, but this year is her first year as an adult, not a student. It is truly a new adventure. Jordan, I believe in you, always have and always will. I am proud of you. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, for they will happen. Use them for good, for learning. Find community, it makes the journey easier. Have fun, even when it’s impractical. And love life, and life is not the destination, it is the journey. Toasting to your day and your journey!