Greek Alphabet Chalkboard

Get Ahead Summer Greek 2020 – The Alphabet

I’m the first to admit the Greek this fall at seminary has me more than a little worried.  Until just a few years ago, Koine Greek (New Testament Greek) was taught as a summer intensive prior to the first year of seminary.  That doesn’t happen anymore.

So, I got the text and decided to get a jump on it this summer.

If you assumed that I haven’t studied a foreign language in many years (decades!), then you nailed it.  And this language includes an entirely new alphabet – even more challenging.

So I reached out to a few fellow incoming seminarians, and it turns out I’m not alone.

Later this week, we’ll have our first online study group, focusing on the Koine alphabet. This little video should prove helpful.  It’ll be on a loop in my workspace for the next little while. Thank you Danny Zacharias!



Green Lent 2020 6

Green Lent 2020 ~ All About the Bags

Green Lent 2020 6

Therefore you also must be ready ~ Matthew 24:44

In this passage, Jesus admonishes us to be vigilant, to be prepared, to be ready.  So don’t be caught off-guard.

Good advice.

When it comes to loving our planet, my best intentions are sometimes thwarted because I’m just not ready.  Good intentions waylaid by lack of simple preparation. Today it’s about bags.

Getting the Groceries Home

There’s no denying that plastic grocery aren’t good for our environment. They take centuries to decompose, they kill marine life when ingested, they uglify our landscape. We’ve all seen one of them fluttering up in a tree, haven’t we? In some locations they’re banned. I suppose you could ask for paper or purchase one of those sturdier plastic bags. Here’s the thing though – the manufacture of paper bags has its own environmental impact. And those thicker plastic bags some stores will sell you?  Most still end up in landfills shortly after that shopping trip. I used to virtously reuse grocery and newspaper bags to pick up my dog’s business.  Then I realized that those stinky packages went straight to a landfill. And there they’ll sit for the next century or so. Not ideal.

The best option, of course, is to bring something reusable to hold those groceries.  And then to reuse it.  Every time.

So Many Choices

I amassed a serious collection of bags over the years.

Bags from grocery stores – Ralphs and King Soopers, Hyvee, Sprouts, Walmart, Safeway, Trader Joes.  And Meijer  – those are fabulous because their design includes a secure way to carry wine bottles along with your groceries.

I’ve had my drawstring Whole Foods bags for nearly a decade – they’re made of parachute fabric, are washable and sturdy.

And I’ve owned more than a few that came from charities or were volunteer appreciation gifts or handed out at an event. I’ve got fabric bags and even a couple of hand-knit market bags. My aunt gave me a cute one that folds up to look a strawberry.  I even had a bunch of mesh bags meant for produce.

Do You Collect Shopping Bags Too?

That is an awful lot of bags. If I ever bought enough groceries to fill them all, I’d need another vehicle or two to get everything home.

Why so many?

There was a time that I’d feel guilty if I forgot my own bags. So I’d just drop a couple of bucks and buy whatever they had next to the register. Then one day I realized that my bag collection was taking up valuable real estate around my house and garage. Yet I still kept forgetting to bring them when I went shopping! This had to stop.

So This Is What I Did

This was not green. Not a sustainable process.  A change was in order.

I’ll share what I did a year or so ago.

First, I went around the house and garage, and, yes, even the backyard, and collected all my reusable grocery bags. I washed all the washable ones and added them, nice and clean, to the stack.  What a massive pile of plastic and fabric and fiber I created!

I chose the ones I couldn’t live without – those old washable Whole Foods bags, a few of my favorite logoed bags, that ten-pack that squishes into its own tiny pouch, and a couple of fabric bags. I

The discard pile was substantial. So I put the discard bags in a box in the laundry room cupboard. And I found ways to get them out of my house without throwing them away. When I brought groceries to the food pantry, they were in one of those bags. We had a garage sale and I unloaded a ton of paperbacks by selling them by the bag (double win!). Casserole for a sick friend? Door prize donations? Christmas cookies on a pretty plate for the neighbors?  I used those bags until they were all gone, and it didn’t take as long as I’d thought.

Success! No more excessive bagginess.  But I’d still find myself in the store bagless more often than not.

And the Ones That I Kept?

So now my grocery bags live in the back of the car in a nice small tote. And in my driver’s door pocket, next to my umbrella, lint roller, and emergency tool, I’ve got one bag that folds into its own little self.  Now when I run to the farmer’s market or the grocery store, I grab what I need. If I run into Walgreens or the spice shop or a boutique, I grab the one right at my side. And when I get home from whatever acquisition-of-things trip, I make sure to put those bags back where they belong for the next time.

At first I’d stroll into the store only to realize that I’d forgotten my bag. Since I didn’t want to begin a new collection, I’d force myself to turn around and go back to get the bags.  And after a while, I stopped forgetting.

These days, I’m prepared.  At least when it comes to begs for my shopping.

Sincere thank you to The Rev. Christynn Koschmann of ELCA Central States Synod,  who provided the graphics and access to a  fantastic Carbon Fast Calendar. I also used the Lenten Devotional For the Beauty of the Earth, by Leah Schade, which you can use any year you like. And finally, I’ve been going throough Stewardship of Creation, by Sara Olson and Brooke Petersen,  a 30-day devotional you can find at Web of Creation at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago.

Green Lent 2020 Light Bulbs

Green Lent 2020 ~ Dim the Light

Green Lent 2020 Light Bulbs

Darkness and Light

I find recent conversation around Light vs. Darkness challenging. I hear murmurs about re-evaluating, or even eliminating, references to  light and darkness in our liturgy. I struggle because I cannot understand. I cannot begin to comprehend, down to the core of my being, why the dichotomy of white and black, dim and bright, light and dark should suggest classification of human beings.

The conversation is challenging for me, because my inability to understand has been attributed to white privilege. The idea that I can’t wrap my mind around this concept simply because skin color as an indication of good or evil isn’t part of my fabric has been dismissed. I don’t deny that there is disparity in life experience compared that of those of a different dermal hue. But it hurts my heart to think that I’m therefore considered to be incapable of automatically applying isms.

That’s my struggle, today’s post may reflect some of that turmoil.

But that’s not the point.

And There Was (and Is) Light (and Dark)

God divided the light from the darkness – Genesis 1:4

Light and dark give us division between day and night and with that division is transition. Transition in what we see – dusk and dawn, and in fleeting clouds momentarily dimming the surroundings.  Transition in what we feel – warmth or coolness. Transition in time, as days and season are measured in not just day and night, but the lengths of each.

I feel beauty and see the majesty of God’s creation in each of these. The heat of the sun is welcome after the gray dampness of spring, but the cooling shade under a tree is just as agreeable in the middle of an August Day.

Over time, we’ve conquered the confines of the natural rhythm of day and night. Fire, oil lamps, candles…. now most of us have access to consistent switchable dimmable light whenever we want it. We’ve lower or raise ambient conditions to suit our mood. We’ve got blackout curtains to keep suns rays from disturbing our sleep. And we’ve even got choices of what we screw into the fixture – incandescent, fluorescent, halogen, LED. What control over our environment we enjoy!

Living as a Child of the Light, Practically Speaking

For once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light— for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true. Eph 5:7-9

I believe it it good and right to take care of this earthly home of ours. Incandescent bulbs in our home were replaced, first with fluorescent options, and more recently with LED bulbs.  We turn off lights when we leave a room. Some of our lights are on motion detectors, switching off on their own, in case we forget.

And today I removed a lightbulb in my office. I work in natural light during the day, and at night, my little desk lamp and the glow of the laptop provide adequate illumination. I say adequate, but I still feel some discomfort. I like things bright when I’m working, reading, knitting. Maybe because I’m getting older. Possibly because my vision has never been great. I definitely notice the difference.  What a perfect reminder to take some time to reflect on Jesus’ journey to the cross. The room may be dim, but the emotion is not.

Thank you, Lord, for the opportunity for this simple daily reminder. Amen.

Sincere thank you to The Rev. Christynn Koschmann of ELCA Central States Synod,  who provided the graphics and access to the Carbon Fast Calendar. I also used as reference the Lenten Devotional For the Beauty of the Earth, by Leah Schade, which you can use any year you like.

Green Lent 2020 Ash Wednesday

Green Lent 2020 ~ Ash Wednesday Reflections


Green Lent 2020 Ash Wednesday

All are from the dust, and to dust all return ~ Ecclesiastes 3:20

Dust you are and to dust you shall return ~ Gen 3:19

My family lived lots of places when I was growing up. I recall geography impacting the kinds of comments ashy-faced kids would hear at school. When we lived where many of our neighbors came from Hispanic or Irish or Italian backgrounds, everyone assumed ashes meant you were Catholic. When we were in the middle of the country where those of Norwegian or German descent were more common, of course ashes meant Lutheran. And no matter where we lived, those ashes were a sign that spring break was just around the corner.

But that was then.

In recent years, more often than not, kind folks quietly let me know I’ve got a smudge on my face. Or occasionally a curious person will straight out ask why I’ve got black stuff on my face.

So, what do those ashes mean anyhow?

Ash Wednesday is the Wednesday of the seventh week before Easter and the first day of Lent. The day is named for the practice of imposing ashes in many Lutheran and Catholic congregations.

Using ashes as a sign of repentance is an ancient practice, and mentioned in the Bible (Jonah 3:5-9; Job 42:6; Jeremiah 6:26; Matthew 11:21). The early Christians adopted the use of ashes from Jewish practice as an external mark of penitence.

Ashes symbolize several aspects of our human existence:. Ashes remind us of God’s condemnation of sin, as God said to Adam in Genesis 3:19.

Ashes suggest cleansing and renewal. They were used anciently to cleanse in the absence of soap.

Ashes mark out anticipation of the new life of Easter. Even on Ash Wednesday, this most penitential day, we receive ashes in the form of the cross, the same symbol placed on our bodies with water in our baptism.

Ashes remind us of the shortness of human life, for it is said as we are buried into the ground or as ashes are placed in a columbarium.

Ashes are a symbol of our need to repent, confess our sins, and return to God.

So the ashes on my forehead connect me to the earliest of days of our church. I join those of long ago in repentance, cleansing and renewal. And I have an opportunity for quiet witness, should anyone ask me about that smudge on my face.

Our Earth is amazing in its simplicity and complexity. I reflect on the variety of sustenance available to us, each appropriate to the unique geography and season that favors its growth. Of course, we’ve figured out how to work around that. I purchase mid-winter strawberries flown in from another continent. I enjoy avocado while living hundreds of miles from where the nearest tree can grow. I go online and order my favorite British biscuit or lobster from the other side of the country.

Today I am grateful for these gifts, for the luxury of the variety found in my pantry. I’m aware of the resources expended for my benefit.

Thank you Lord, for the gift of ashes and dirt. Amen.

Sincere thank you to The Rev. Christynn Koschmann  who provided the graphics and a fantastic Carbon Fast Calendar.  The other resource you may see evidence of is the Lenten Devotional For the Beauty of the Earth, by Leah Schade, which you can use any year you like.

Green Lent 2020 Introduction

What I’m Doing for Lent in 2020


Green Lent 2020 Introduction

Today is Shrove Tuesday, Mardis Gras, Carnivale, Pancake Day. According to Wikipedia, the word shrove is a form of the English word shrive, which means to obtain absolution for one’s sins by way of Confession and doing penance. Thus Shrove Tuesday was named after the custom of Christians to be “shriven” before the start of Lent.  How about that?

So Shrove Tuesday was the last hurrah before the forty days of the fasting and repentance of Lent that began on Ash Wednesday.

In New Orleans and Rio and elsewhere, that last night before the start of Lent is one massive party. I imagine the start of the Ash Wednesday fast is facilitated by celebrants inability to ingest anything at all. And who doesn’t find a hangover motivation for repentance?

Back on track…

I travel in tamer circles these days; we eat pancakes on Shrove Tuesday. Back when, that was a way to use up all the eggs and sugar and butter in the larder.  Why?  Because they couldn’t be consumed during the Lenten Fast. These days, Shrove Tuesday provides an opportunity for fellowship and youth group  Pancake Diner fundraisers in church basements everywhere.

So, I’ll eat pancakes for dinner tonight.  But then Lent begins.

Not giving up chocolate or wine this Lent.

Nor am I participating in a Facebook fast.

I’ll eat fish, but only because I like it. I’ll eat meat, too and maybe some Girl Scout cookies.

I’m going in a different direction this time around.

Did you know the very first Earth Day was fifty years ago – in 1970?  That’s enough of a nudge for me. This year for Lent, I’ll be focused on Creation Care – doing my little bit to be a better steward of this orb we all inhabit.

Matthew, Mark, Luke and John share in their gospels, over and over, the importance of Creation. Jesus used images from nature in his parables.  He prayed on mountains and in the wilderness. Reference And Earth testified the resurrection of Jesus with sunrise and earthquakes. Caring for God’s creation is strongly connected to my faith and I’m looking forward to spending time in the Bible with this focus. I’ll be combining that with practical application of care for our Earth. I hope you’ll join me on this hourney.

I was fortunate to come across The Rev. Christyn Koschmann’s (of the Central States ELCA Synod) Carbon Fast Devotional.  So she gets all the credit for the graphics and verses.

Note, Lent is 40 days, but you’ll see more posts in this Lenten practice of mine.  Because of the Sundays.  Did you know the 40 days doesn’t include Sundays?

Sincere thank you to The Rev. Christynn Koschmann  who provided the graphics and a fantastic Carbon Fast Calendar.  The other resource you may see evidence of is the Lenten Devotional For the Beauty of the Earth, which you can use any year you like.