The Biggest Little Farm

I saw the film The Biggest Little Farm two weekends ago on the big screen and am glad I did. This documentary follows a Los Angeles couple, John and Molly Chester, as they venture to farm the old fashioned way on 200 acres in the foothills of Ventura County, California. Let me be clear right now–the reason to see the film on the big or small screen is the camera work. The shots of ecosystems large and small are beautiful. The close-ups of piglets, bugs, birds, fruit and so many other pieces of farm life will have you laughing, smiling, occasionally wincing but always feeling something. There are many questions left unanswered, like how much did the investors invest? Did they invest or just donate? When the Chesters lose crops to birds and insects, how many dollars did they actually lose? Viewers from New England and the Midwest may, as I did, say under their breaths, “That long growing season does not exist in many places.”

But what will not be left unanswered is that domestic farming has changed and there has been a cost. I have seen so many Facebook posts this spring and summer of the Midwest covered in flood waters. So much topsoil is making its way to the Gulf of Mexico via the Mississippi River this year. Those images all came to mind during The Biggest Little Farm when, after a long draught, the rain finally came. The Chester’s farm soaked up all the rain because of cover crops they had planted while the topsoil on neighboring farms was washed away. The last brilliant camera work that I commend to you is the night cameras. They were installed to capture who was killing chickens but they end up telling a story of nocturnal wildlife that is remarkable.

I saw this film on Pentecost Sunday and then went to work writing my sermon for Holy Trinity Sunday. Partly because we focused on earth keeping this spring at Trinity Lutheran Church, partly because of seeing The Biggest Little Farm, and because because everything is starting to bloom here in Idaho’s Treasure Valley, I ended up preaching on Psalm 8, and talked about how all of us can be partners with God in caring for creation.

Psalm 8

Lord, our Sovereign,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!

You have set your glory above the heavens.
   Out of the mouths of babes and infants
you have founded a bulwark because of your foes,
to silence the enemy and the avenger.

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars that you have established;
what are human beings that you are mindful of them,
mortals that you care for them?

Yet you have made them a little lower than God,

and crowned them with glory and honour.
You have given them dominion over the works of your hands;
you have put all things under their feet,
all sheep and oxen,
and also the beasts of the field,
the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea,
whatever passes along the paths of the seas.

Lord, our Sovereign,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!


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Why Ireland

Ireland has been working on me for a while. It started when I was in my first call as a pastor in rural Iowa, putting many miles on my Camry driving all over the Loess Hills. Pre-podcast days, I started listening to books on CD. My dad recommended Ireland: A Novel by Frank Delaney.

Here is a description: “In the winter fo 1951, a storyteller arrives at the home of nine-year-old Ronan O’Mar in the Irish countryside. The last practitioner of an honored, centuries-old tradition, the Seanchai enthralls his assembled audience for three evenings running with narratives of foolish kings and fabled saints, of enduring accomplishments and selfless acts–until he is banished from the household for blasphemy and moves on. But the three incomparable nights have changed young Ronan forever, setting him on a course he will follow for years to come–as he pursues the elusive, itinerant storyteller…and the magical tales that are no less than the glorious saga of his tenacious, troubled, and extraordinary isle.” My dad read this book with his eyes, but I listened to Delaney read it and I started to ponder going to Ireland someday.

Fast-forward to my call in Idaho. I decided to see a Spiritual Director (SD) and for about four years I met with SD Peg Wuelfing once a month. Peg was connected to the Monastery of St. Gertrude, Cottonwood, where I will spend three weeks in August. She taught several cohorts of spiritual directors in Idaho. She was very interested in Celtic Spirituality. In the summer of 2015, Peg and her husband Ed hiked in Ireland. I followed their adventure through Ed’s blog and and then heard all about the trip upon their return. I wanted to go. And then Peg died on All Saints Day, Nov. 1, 2015. I lost a spiritual director, mentor, and friend.

That same summer of 2015, my friend Joy started a three-year Masters in Education program administered by Michigan State University and located in Galway, Ireland. Joy fell in love with the country and each fall I got to see pictures and hear what it was like to live there. Joy will be my travel partner in Ireland this July.

 Joy and I at the Shakespeare Festival

So there they are–the three people who inspired me to travel to Ireland this summer: Frank, Peg, and Joy. Thanks friends.

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Pastor’s column for June 2019 Trinity Epistle

Dear Friends in Christ,
June kicks off with Graduate-Recognition Sunday on the 2nd and it will end with the baptisms of the three Radke children on June 30. And in the middle we will celebrate the Feast of Pentecost, June 9. We will hear the scripture read in many languages, a remembrance of that first Pentecost in Jerusalem and we will hear about ways the Holy Spirit has been moving through our lives and the life of our congregation. Reflecting in his Small Catechism on the Third Article of the Apostle’s Creed, Martin Luther wrote: “I believe that by my own understanding or strength I cannot believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to him, but instead the Holy Spirit has called me through the gospel, enlightened we with his gifts, made me holy, and kept me in the true faith, just as he calls, gathers, enlightens, and makes holy the whole Christian church on earth and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one common, true faith.” These words of Luther’s never cease to comfort me. Nowhere else is it made so clear that it is God who has made us holy and still makes us holy. In his Large Catechism Luther writes: “Creation is now behind us, and redemption has also taken place, but the Holy spirit continues his work without ceasing…and for this purpose he has appointed a community on earth, through which he speaks and does all his work.” As we live into the Season of Pentecost might we look for ways the Holy Spirit is gifting Trinity Lutheran Church and calling us into faith and action. Peace, Pastor Meggan

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Living Lutheran at Micron

The congregation I serve, Trinity Lutheran Church, spent May lifting up ministry in daily life. Preparations for that emphasis led to an invitation to Micron Technologies, an important business/institution here in The Treasure Valley.

 I met them at Building 37

Three Trinity Lutheran members work at Micron and two of them, Melinda and Larry, have been there for over twenty years.

 Andrew, Larry, Me, and Melinda

It was fascinating to hear Melinda and Larry’s stories of working first in production and then transitioning into new positions as automation took over. Melinda is now in IT, dealing with Micron’s overseas finances. Larry writes instructional documents, with a whole team, which are translated and used in Micron’s factories across the globe. Andrew is an engineer. At its largest, there were about 20,000 employees at the Boise Micron campus. Now there are about 3,500. That is a huge drop but it is still a lot of people. In addition to seeing the places where people work, I saw the cafeterias and gyms where employees eat and recreate.

What does it mean to be Living  Lutheran at Micron? It looks like using the gifts God’s given you to the best of your abilities. It means treating co-workers with respect. It means hiring the best people for the job. It means creating opportunities for kids who might not think about becoming engineers (because of family history, gender, socio-economic background) to come to the Micron campus for summer programs. It means greeting people by name in the many hallways.

Thanks Melinda, Larry, and Andrew for a great tour.

Fun Wall of Photos                                            Wall of Micron Patents


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Soldier Lutheran Church Memories

My first-call congregation, Soldier Lutheran in Soldier, Iowa, celebrated the 50th Anniversary of its town church this past Memorial Day Weekend. I did not make it back for the  celebration but I was asked to send some memories which could be read.

Town Church

Pastor Meggan Manlove served as pastor of Solider Lutheran from August 2004 through October 2010. Some of the things Pastor Meggan remembers from her time among us include:

Ray and Elaine Holst drove to her home congregation of Custer Lutheran Fellowship in South Dakota for her ordination. What an incredible way to show compassion for your new pastor.

The parsonage was such a gift for this young adult pastor embarking on her first full-time job. You did so much work to prepare it for the move-in. It was a great place to welcome travelers and parishioners. And there was no better place than the front porch to enjoy an Iowa summer thunderstorm.

The boiler at the church taught her more than she ever wanted to know about big furnaces.  Seriously, it was never part of seminary education but it is part of the job. She had to learn what questions to ask and to surround herself with people who understand the church utilities.

She remembers the congregation assuming that because she was the pastor, she was perfectly capable of presiding at her first funeral and first wedding on the same day. You simply expected Pastor Meggan to do the job and that helped her rise to the occasion.

One evening she sat in the fellowship hall with four church elders as they combed through school reunion lists and cemetery donation lists from past Memorial Days. They were creating the  mailing list for the South Church siding ask letter but Meggan was getting a comprehensive history of the church and town.

South Church (3 miles south of Soldier)

When her dad was scheduled to have his aortic aneurism repaired, you told her, “Family comes first. Go to Rapid City Pastor Meggan.” You helped her see that she could be both a good daughter and a faithful pastor.

She loved dreaming about redoing the narthex, asking whose kitchens had recently been remodeled that you all liked, and then assembling the team, picking out furniture and art work and finally watching the space be transformed.

She was so thankful that Joyce Nelsen lived next to the parsonage. Her kitchen table became Pastor Meggan’s oasis on more than one occasion, usually after she had failed miserably.

She put a lot of miles on her car visiting home-bound and care-center residents. She was consistently thankful that Loess Hills were so beautiful on those drives to Whiting, Dunlap, Denison, Onawa and Mapleton.

Pastor Meggan remembers choosing hymns and discussing Holy Communion settings with the Worship and Music Committee and being so thankful that you would learn new music. And she remembers being so blessed by the gifts of Jean Dommer and Alice McQueen–who always were up for something new.

You hired Deb Amunson shortly before Pastor Meggan arrived and she was such a blessing–she has the most open heart and gracious spirit.

Pastor Meggan remembers that she was so young and so naive and made so many mistakes. But you forgave her and loved her and helped her grow, which is exactly what she needed from her first-call congregation.

Thank you and have a  great anniversary!






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Synod Vitality

The Eastern Washington-Idaho Synod Assembly met in Boise May 17-19 and one of the best parts of Assembly was sitting at the Synod Vitality Coalition table. Coalition team-member Pastors Matt Erickson and Meggan Manlove presented on the hopes and dreams of the Coalition Friday evening. It was a pleasure to listen over the next few days as people told us about the exciting ministries happening across our synod. Continue reading

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Podcasts and History

I came late to the world of podcasts. I still have not listened to Serial. In some ways I am an unusual podcast fan. The selection of radio stations in my hometown of Custer, SD was minimal. On the other hand, my parents and I took many car trips to Minnesota and Colorado and along the way we listened to amazing tape recordings by The Mind’s Eye: children’s classics from Heidi to Treasure Island along with the Baby Snooks Show. We also listened to tape recordings of A Prairie Home Companion. Continue reading

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