What Makes Me Happy at Trinity

A more accurate description would be, what gives me joy, but I have started listening to the podcast “Pop Culture Happy Hour,” which usually ends with a piece called “What’s Making Us Happy.”  So, in preparation for this coming Sunday’s annual meeting I have been thinking about what phrases make me happy when I hear them said by Trinity members and friends.  Here they are:

“It’s okay to let that [program/ministry] die.”  We trust that resurrection comes after death, not just on Easter.  Sometimes a ministry simply runs its course and that is okay. We are awake to how and where God might be doing the next thing.

“I love being the church with the garden and the houses.”  So, this may seem insignificant until you learn that Trinity New Hope affordable housing and Trinity Community Gardens have not existed without some pain and loss. I thank my predecessor pastors and past church leadership for helping create the congregational personality that allowed these two entities to begin and eventually thrive.

“Did you hear what [fill in the name of any toddler] said during worship?”  I am so happy that we embrace kids being part of worship life. They are not shushed or sent away. Adults understand their restlessness and want to be part of the village that helps raise them.  Kids at Trinity have lots of adopted aunts and uncles and grandparents.

“We could try this [program/ministry/music] for a season.”  The people of Trinity Lutheran seem open to just about anything.  One wise member looks around the room at the beginning of meetings to make sure some level headed people are present; her way of making sure we do not try something too outrageous. I am so thankful to one of my predecessors who introduced a wide variety of songs and liturgical settings at Trinity.  He fostered this culture of learning and growing and transforming.

“Thank you.” We have a very healthy habit of thanking people regularly.

“I love seeing the guests–every week there are guests!”  Yes, we should have guests.  Idaho has been named the fastest growing state (based on percentages) and a great deal of that growth is happening in Canyon County.  Even in 2018, with church attendance still declining nation-wide, it would be weird if new people were not visiting Trinity.  But I do not take for granted that the members and friends of Trinity will be excited about guests.

“Pastor, do you have any books about …?” I hauled many books from South Dakota to Iowa to Idaho and have purchased more in the last seven years. It makes me happy that we are a congregation full of life-long learners. I have loaned Biblical commentaries, history books by Pelikan, my biography of Bonhoeffer (the Schlingensiepen one), and many others.

“Sit here while we pray for you.”  I am a private introvert who likes to analyze and process and make sense of problems. Yes, I like the idea of prayer and I do pray, but people praying for me, aloud, with me still in the room, that is a growing area.  This is one of the most uncomfortable, destabilizing, humbling, awesome, life-giving phrases said to me by our parishioners.

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Baptism and Communion at Trinity

This coming Saturday I will be with worship students at Northwest Nazarene University, our local liberal arts school.  Professor Brent Peterson asked me to come and talk about Baptism and Communion.  I have spoken in several of Peterson’s classes and always regret not having a visual presentation of what we do with worship space at Trinity.  So this time I am creating this blog post and will encourage the students to access it during or after our conversation.

Welcome to Trinity!  That is our sanctuary on the left.

Usually our baptismal font is in the back of the sanctuary, as it was for this Reformation Sunday.

Sometimes, as we did on this Pentecost Sunday, we move the font into the narthex.

One summer we worshiped monthly out on the lawn. We replaced the Confession and Forgiveness with Remembrance of Baptism and poured water into the font until it overflowed.

On this Easter Sunday the font was up in the loft area so everyone could see the Baptisms.

Last year during Lent, we put the font in the loft as a way to remember that Lent is the time when many people journey to the baptismal font.  Each Sunday we added new physical items, corresponding to the lectionary texts, to the display.

Baptism is once and for all but we also have a service called Affirmation of Baptism, sometimes still referred to as Confirmation.  Here are three young people affirming their baptisms.

Sanctuary prepared for Easter Sunday!

Setting the Table for Holy Communion during the Season of Advent.

A few more examples of doing church outside.

Blessing of the Community Garden.

Ready for the Passion Sunday procession.


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The Florida Project and 2018

Steven Spielberg’s film The Post, not yet out here in the Phoenix area where I am spending a week of vacation, is being described as “not the best movie that came out all year, but it’s the one people need to see the most–as in, right now,” according to Bill Goodykoontz of the Arizona Republic and many others.

That may be, but as the security system of our country continues to slowly be shredded (read this for a story about how Meals on Wheels is being impacted right now), I think writer and director Sean Baker’s film The Florida Project may be the film to see as we prepare for 2018.  He follows the stories of residents of several cheap motels on the road to Disney World.  Specifically, we get a glimpse into the lives of Halley (Bria Vinaite) and her precocious daughter Moonee (an amazing Brooklyn Prince).  Willem Dafoe earned a well-deserved Golden Globe nomination for his performance as the kind-hearted motel manager.  If you can see The Florida Project on the big screen (I saw it in a second run theater in Tempe) do it.  As my movie-going partner said, seeing it on the television screen would be too much like watching the news.  This heartbreaking feature at times felt like a documentary.  It’s brilliance is in its perspective.  How many stories about the vulnerable population of children get to be told by them?  As Trinity New Hope affordable housing, the nonprofit affiliated with Trinity Lutheran Church, continues to mature, we hope that we are truly seeing the children we are accompanying.

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The World is About to Turn

Thanks again to ELCA World Hunger for the Advent Series they wrote for 2017, inspired by Rory Cooney’s hymn Canticle of the Turning, an interpretation of Mary’s Magnificat.


We completed our mid-week Advent series Dec. 20 by hearing Howard Thurman’s reflection on Christmas:

When the song of the angels is stilled,

When the star in the sky is gone,

When the kings and princes are home,

When the shepherds are back with their flocks,

The work of Christmas begins:

To find the lost,

To heal the broken,

To feed the hungry,

To release the prisoner,

To rebuilt the nations,

To bring peace among the people,

To make music in the heart.

People reflected on these questions: How can or has our Advent journey prepared us for “the work of Christmas” year-round?

The Advent journey has enabled me to connect with my congregation and have a fuller sense of spiritual connection.

Through the garden that provides food for the hungry.

Advent is to remind us of God’s love that we need to share with our neighbors and all those close to us.

We just need to be still and listen with our hearts.

By learning about Jesus; Sharing soup suppers with everyone; Preparing the food baskets; Fixing the baskets for Trinity New Hope; We need to remember that these things need to be done year-round.

Giving and care for those in need, hands prepared to help, willing to wait.

We are reminded we are God’s people and we are called to serve others.

The message of Advent calls us to action throughout the year, to be advocates for social justice where we live, worship, work and vote.

Advent stresses patient waiting—reminding us to keep working but to be patient until we see results.

Advent is a time of waiting in expectation of great things to come.  This reminds me to remain hopeful for the future and look for goodness in the world.

Working together as a family unit and by helping one another this world is turning!

I believe it brings the church members closer forming memories and relationships which help them go out and help the community.

To prepare our hearts and minds to remember the feeling we experience year-round.


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Screening Committees

We continued our Advent series, The World is About to Turn, on Dec. 13 asking how we have acted as “screening committee,” denying the worth of the people God might work through in our community or church?  How can we remain open to God at work among and through everyone we meet?  Read worshipers’ responses below.


Sometimes we made judgments about people based on what they wear, the car they drive, or the house they live in.  We assume that if they “have less” than we do that they have little to offer.  This results in missed opportunities for leadership.  It may be as simple as not inviting a new person to church because we assume they won’t be interested or have nothing to offer.  This results in many missed opportunities to share God’s love and abundance.

Not valuing differences, having an answer before the question is asked.

We reach out to all.  We are intergenerational.

From another church: Not supporting programs brought up by members to help the community provide more support.

There are many paths to enlightenment.  I encourage all to travel and celebrate all who travel.

I think we act as screening committees in our congregation when we are introduced to new ideas.

Sometimes we “screen” out of fear or maybe an idea sounds too big to carry out.  But when we have faith we can make big things happen.

Each individual has a power to spread to God’s love and work in our community.

By having some people’s opinion being more important than others by virtue of wealth, social skills, or occupation.

Having power is being acknowledged, accepted as a credible source of opinion or information, and being respected.  Sadly, it means that we’re judged by our appearance before our words are heard.

People are so quick to criticize what kinds of food are purchased using the SNAP benefit—“They” should not be allowed to buy….  Lack empathy.  Seeing SNAP beneficiaries as less than.

One of the things I love about Trinity is that we don’t screen—everyone is free and welcome to participate, lead, attend, contribute, benefit and share as they wish.  Encouragement is abundant as well as support when we need it.

Be honest, fair, and open minded.

In the church, I think each one of us has power.  Each time we welcome someone with a smile, help someone follow the bulletin, cook a meal, exhibit patience—we represent Jesus.  Now that’s what I call power.

Maybe by not listening to their message—by not recognizing who they really are.

We judge by outside appearance—thinking wrongly about a person’s potential to give and serve.  God can use EVERYONE to show his love.

Ignoring the homeless.  Blaming the poor for being poor.

Trinity is involved in helping our community here in Nampa as well as our world community.  How this is by being out working with the people whether one on one or being a part of a larger group to make people’s lives better.


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Voices Crying Out

This year at Trinity Lutheran Church, Nampa our Midweek Advent series is based on the hymn Canticle of the Turning, based on Mary’s Magnificat.  This week we heard from Isaiah Chapter 40:

“A voice cries out:
‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.'” (Isaiah 40:3)

We asked members of the assembly to share voices they hear crying out.  People interpreted the question differently but the answers were wonderful to read.  Here is a sampling of responses:

Voices of the lonely, who feel isolated

Women who have been sexually abused

Refugees who need a new place to call home

Black Lives Matter



The Native Americans throughout the United States crying out to care of the earth

The women who have been brave enough to bring powerful males to be accountable for their actions

Women who have experienced harassment

Those without adequate food or fresh water

Those in war-torn areas

Those suffering from natural disasters

Those who have been treated unfairly

The newest generation of “Green” voices calling for us all to live simpler and sustainable lives, in reverence of the earth and its creator

We hear too many voices—so we need to pray for discernment to listen to those which speak truth and challenge us to live out God’s love in our words and deeds

The church active in the local community

Those in poverty

Those being persecuted

War-torn countries

Oppressed People

Warnings about climate change

Black Lives Matter

Political Prisoners

Mentally Ill


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Films and Transformation

This week my friend Rev. Karen Hunter and I will be presenting on Peace Camp for some potential new supporters.  Karen believes that being with people who are different than us, something we did a lot of at Peace Camp, is transformative, for both parties.  Transformation happens most often and naturally through relationships.  And yet I firmly believe that the arts, including films, can introduce us to other worlds, new people, and other perspectives that may change us, at least a little.  So, as we start making lists, as my mom is now, for the films we will see the week between Christmas and New Year’s, here are five movies I commend to you from this summer and fall:

The Big Sick – “Pakistan-born comedian Kumail Nanjiani and grad student Emily Garkner fall in love but struggle as their cultures clash.  When Emily contracts a mysterious illness, Kumail finds himself forced to face her feisty parents, his family’s expectation, and his true feelings.” IMDB  This is the one Oscar-contender on my list, and for good reason.  Character development and storytelling are in fine form.  I look forward to watching this one again this winter.


Maudie – “An arthritic Nova Scotia woman works as a housekeeper while she hones her skills as an artist and eventually becomes a beloved figure in the community.” IMDB  Sally Hawkins and Ethan Hawke have long been favorites of mine.  They shine in this film based on a true story.  If you want to see an old-fashioned feel-good story, see Maudie.

Wind River – Elizabeth Olsen and Jeremy Renner star  in this chilling murder mystery set in the icy backwoods of a Native American Reservation.  This film is important purely because there are not many films about life today in the  Mountain West or Reservations.  The cinemetagraphy is outstanding, allowing the landscape to be a character in the film.  Graham Greene, a favorite of mine from Dances with Wolves and Northern Exposure, also stars.


Marshall – “A black man charged with sexual assault and attempted murder of his white socialite employer.  A young Thurgood Marshall must mount the defense in an environment of racism and anti-Semitism.” Facebook  Chadwick Boseman and Josh Gad give great performances and have great chemistry as the team of lawyers.  I hope the song from the closing credits, “Stand Up For Something” by Andra Day is nominated for an Oscar.

Coco – “Despite his family’s baffling generations-old ban on music, Miguel dreams of becoming an accomplished musician like his idol, Ernesto de la Cruz.  Desperate to prove his talent, Miguel finds himself in the stunning and colorful Land of the Dead following a mysterious chain of events.  Along the way, he meets charming trickster Hector, and together, they set off on an extraordinary journey to unlock the real story behind Miguel’s family history.” Disney/Pixar  Thankfully, the studio took its time and did this film right.  The storytelling, art, and music are wonderful.

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