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.



Praying for the World

A Litany for the World

One: Where ignorance, self-love and insensitivity have fractured life in community,

Many: give your light, O God of love.

One: Where injustice and oppression have broken the spirit of peoples,

Many: give your light, O God who frees.

One: Where hunger and poverty, illness and death have made life an unbearable burden,

Many: give your light, O God of grace.

One: Where suspicion and hatred, conflict and fear have challenged your goodness,

Many: give your light, O God of peace.

One: Eternal God, open the eyes of the nations and peoples so that they may walk in the light of love: remove the ignorance and stubbornness of nations and peoples so that they may drink from the fountains of your goodness.

All: Amen.

Copyright © WGRG, Iona Community, Glasgow, G2 3DH, Scotland. Reproduced by permission.;

Today in chapel we prayed for the world, for world leaders, for those in need, for all of us to join together for making God’s world a more just and thriving world.

Join us in praying. Watch the video or read the transcript. #prayerforeveryone #globalgoals


Global Goals


What if… you received a call from someone in the future asking you to make a difference on their behalf – today? What if … you had a friend, or colleague or family members, who lived across the globe and they needed your help? What if … your children asked you to use your resources, your networks, your influence, to change some aspect of the world so their future looked brighter? Would you?

Today marks the first of seven days leaders from around the world are joining together to do two things.

First we are invited to pray as the United Nations gathers for their Sustainable Development Summit (September 25-27).

Second, we are invited to pick one of the 17 goals from the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and act on it.

According to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon,

“These projections on the sustainable development goals are a beacon to the world carrying an historic message from the United Nations — that the nations of the world are committed to ensuring lives of dignity for all people and a healthy planet for future generations. The global goals provide a unique opportunity to end poverty, reduce inequality, build peaceful societies and fix climate change.  All nations and all citizens have a role to play to achieve these global goals.”

Having committed to three Millennium Development goals in 2000, this work extends and expands those goals. And this work doesn’t happen without everyday people, and religious leaders, joining in. And this work starts today!

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon added,

“We hope that the message of the goals will reach everyone on the planet this week.”

Thanks UN leaders for this work. On an ideological level, I’m totally with you. But, honestly, it’s too big for me, too massive for me to make a difference, right?

Wrong. And it all started with a text and a phone call – from me daughter. This mattered to her, so I listened.

Then I went to work and walked around the campus where I teach. And as I did I saw the faces of people from around the world and heard their stories. Stories of struggle and strife. Stories of inequality and poor education. Stories of hope and the desire for leaders who care.

And then these words from Scripture echoed in my head…

“Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?” (Matthew 25:44)

and I was reminded of my call to serve my neighbor, those I can see and those I cannot. These words are both a command and a promise.

And I got to thinking. This work, these global goals need people advocating in Washington AND people packing meals at Feed My Starving Children. Change happens when leaders partner with one another AND educate one woman, one child, one community leader. Communities become sustainable when leaders think about the future, not just the present AND when I commit to sustainable practices in my home.

So today, and in the seven days ahead, will you…

  • spread the word – and tag it so others may also join in. #telleveryone
  • pray for global leaders – those you know and those you don’t. #PrayerforEveryone (and see for resources)
  • and will you commit to one of the 17 goals. (see for more) #globalgoals

My Eyes Look to the Mountains


I don’t often wake in the morning with a Psalm in my head. But today the familiar words of Psalm 121 where my first thoughts…

‘I lift up me eyes to the mountains – where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.

God will not let your feet slip – God who watches over you will not slumber. Indeed God who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord watches over you – the Lord is your shade at your right hand. The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all harm – and will watch over your life. The Lord will watch your coming and going, both now and forevermore.”

At 12:33 am (CST) I got this text: ‘we have arrived at the top of Africa. All 6 in our group made it.” Followed with…’Overwhelming.’

And at 8:14 am, as they got closer to their evening camp, ‘Heading to our final camp. Very ready for a shower!’

Climbing Mt Kilimanjaro has been on Eric’s bucket list for some time. Not many get to accomplish such feats. Today marks an adventure for him like no other. I’m excited for the stories and the pictures he will share when he gets home. But on this day, I know where my faith comes from, and I know who has made the heavens and earth…and I will rejoice and be glad.

How will you use your words today?

i am a person of words. I use words at home. (And usually more words then my family would like!) I rely on words at work. As I teach, write, and engage students words are the primary vehicle. And as I wrestle with the current problems of our world today, where do I go? To words.

Today I saw this video and it challenged me to think about my words. As a realist that wants to lean into a new future I often think my job is to state the problem. But maybe, just maybe, recasting my words in light of the new future I picture might help the world move a bit closer to making it come true.

..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!

an unforgettable valentine’s day


Valentine’s Day has never been my favorite holiday. Maybe it’s because I hate all the consumer hype, maybe it’s because I’m not overly romantic, or maybe it’s just because I hate the pressure of “finding just the right gift” to show those I love how much I care. But like it over not, Valentine’s Day comes every year. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against celebrating love or sharing my feelings with those I love. What stresses me out about Valentine’s Day is that my ways of expressing love don’t look anything like the commercials on TV, and I’m left trying to honor the day and dumbfounded as how to do it.

Today is Valentine’s Day and if I want to spend time with my valentine, I will have to spend it in a warehouse…with hundreds of other people. You see today is the last of six days where over a dozen churches and community organizations have joined together to pack meals for hungry children. My husband, being part of the planning team, had to be there at 7 am to open the doors and has to be there through the final shift (5:00 – 7:00 pm) and clean-up tonight. So to spend time with him, I headed to the warehouse this morning and will return again tonight.

This afternoon I’m hanging around the house doing the week’s laundry and it makes today feel more like an ordinary Saturday than a holiday. For that I’m grateful. When I return to the warehouse later, I’ll be happy to be one among the many. Why? because for once this holiday focuses on an understanding of love that fits my own, and embodies my relationship with my valentine. Serving, more than bouquets of flowers and fancy dinners, is my picture of love. Serving not only those I know and love, but also people in our world who are in need is important to me, and our family. And this Valentine’s Day I get to share that commitment with others – and that is pretty awesome.

But there is another exciting element to this Valentine’s Day – the surprise of having our college daughter come home to surprise us and to participate in packing meals! Yes, for her too, love means caring for others and packing meals has been a part of her story since she was in first grade. So it’s a good weekend. Happily, I made her brownies when she arrived last night. Happily I will do her laundry today. Happily I dropped her off at the warehouse this morning to join her dad and the others. And happily I will get her ready to head back to school tomorrow. Our children watch how we love and sometimes they take the good and make it part of their own understanding of loving too.


It’s soon time for me to return to the warehouse for the final shift of the week. Tonight as I stand in a cold warehouse with hundreds of people who want to make a difference in the lives of children, I will capture an imagine in my head. I’ll look to the screens and wait for the number – somewhere between the 2.2 million meals packed when I last left and the 3.0 million meals goal. And I will rest in the fact that this is a Valentine’s Day I won’t soon forget.


After three weeks away, today I woke up in my own bed. In the room down the hall, my youngest, home from college for the weekend, slept in. I got up, without an alarm, and walked past the sink of dirty dishes to head to a spinning class at the Y. The sun filled the sky as I headed out, welcoming me to this new winter day in MN. It’s good to be home, and I’m grateful.

Today’s agenda is more about being than doing. Yes, there are some errands to run and a suitcase to unpack (and of course those dishes to wash), but if they don’t all get done it’s OK. Letting the day unfold as it will on this day without a schedule is rare. And having the chance to hang with the people I love and care about on this day is a gift. As a family with four separate lives who live apart more than together, I see a Saturday like this with new eyes.

I don’t know what your day has in store, but in a world so dictated by schedules and outside pressures, deadlines, and demands, I wish for you a carefree day with people you love some time soon in the future. Maybe you have to actually schedule it, or maybe, like me, it will just appear and all you have to do it have eyes to see it.

Even if you can’t get a day, maybe you can have a moment – even a moment today. If your kid asks to play a game or go outside, just say yes. If your spouse invites you to go to a movie, go for it! (Or invite them!) If your dog HAS to have that walk or your camera wants you to capture the beauty of today, take a few minutes, whatever you have, and do it. I think the sabbath time God invites us into might be disguised in days like this.

A day of being…being home, being me, being with people I love.



In Memory of Jannie Swart: “I Really Believe This Stuff”

Thankful for the passion and leadership of friend and colleague Jannie Swart. As a Luther Seminary PhD graduate, I had the pleasure of walking alongside his questions, learning, and wisdom during his time in St. Paul. While the time was different, the story is the same as posted here. I’m thankful for these works which point to my experience with Jannie and want to share them. May we all have the gospel shine through our lives.

Poiesis Theou

Last Monday, our seminary community was shocked by the sudden death of professor Jannie Swart. Despite having only served on the faculty at PTS for a year, his loving and enthusiastic faith had transformed the culture of the entire campus. The Lord used Jannie in such powerful ways that even people he never met were compelled to come to Friday’s memorial service.

My first encounter with Jannie was the day he approached me at the New Wilmington Mission Conference in 2013 and said, “We have to teach a church planting class together.” Jannie drew people into relationships in such a way that we couldn’t help but be implicated in whatever he was doing. Soon three other friends and colleagues had joined us and we planned the course I wrote about here.

Anyone who met Jannie felt as though they had made a new close friend. For me, Jannie was…

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