See, See, what do you see?


What do you see

How we read scripture…

This week I spent time with lots of folks who read scripture differently than I do. I was challenged to explain myself and it is a good thing. I talked about God’s love for all creatures that I see all over the place. I talked about Jesus always including folks that his church would not include. I talked about following Jesus and paying attention to the things Jesus thought were important. And they talked about passages they took literally. There was a lot of cross talk but I don’t think any of us changed our positions. The God I see in scripture is a creating, inspiring, life-giving God who balances mercy and justice for the sake of all creation. As I walk with Jesus to the cross in Holy Week, I depend on God being the one scripture has shown me. One whose commands teach me how to love my neighbor, whose anger is kindled by injustice, whose love for the world is boundless, who calls and claims me.

What is your image of God? Who does scripture reveal to you? These are resurrection inspired questions that are worth our time to mull as we go to dark Gethsemene, the cross, and the empty tomb.

Peace on your journey to the cross,

Pastor Mark



Time in memory

stands so still,

time in each moment blazes by. November marks ten years of ministry in this place for me. Ten years of births and deaths, new jobs and lost jobs, retirements and relocations, new friends and old, tears and laughter, grief and joy. A swirl of precious people and places pop into mind as I zip through the memories. At some memories, my heart wells up and my mind shuts down. Others are so sweet they change the shape of the rest of my life.

When my dad retired from ministry in Hawaii in 2000 I was 2 years out of seminary. Pam and I had two kids in high school and one in college. That year and nine of the next twelve, my parents came to visit for Christmas. As one who left home at 17 and hardly looked back, there was healing and wholeness in getting to know my parents when we were all adults. I cherish those memories of my mom sitting by the fire looking through the newspaper, taking the kids Christmas shopping, baking batch after batch of Christmas delights. Their regular visits softened my heart, reconnected me to my roots, and changed my life.

In my memories time stands still.

In each moment I live there is a mix of memory, awareness and hope.

All of this is a gift from God, giving me life in abundance.

In invite you this Advent to re-member your life and re-connect to God’s love for you and yours.

Expecting Peace,

Pastor Mark

Hats and T-shirts?



What can you tell about us just by looking?

The youth group hiked up to Ollalie Lake and it was a good day. There was no dress code except for shoes and a water bottle, so it is interesting to me what people choose to represent. I have my custom super-hero bandana from the Youth Gathering. Pam has her braid and hiking poles. There is an anime hat, a Purple and Yellow Luther Rose Cap, a custom FoG VBS shirt, a custom black and white graphic t-shirt, some expensive athletic gear, an AMHS high school t-shirt, a Montana cap. We came together to hike the trail but we are not all alike. At the same time it takes all of us to make us who we are. God’s kin-dom is like that!

I am seeing a number of new faces this fall. We arrive from many and varied places and paths, represent a multitude of socio-economic, cultural, educational and spiritual backgrounds, all drawn by the Holy Spirit to this place at this time. God is using each of us in ministry in our lives. My question of the day is how can we work together to incorporate all of us into God’s work we are doing together? Young and old, new and seasoned, energetic and overburdened, God welcomes all of us into a life lived under grace.

On the church calendar we are coming up on Re-Formation Sunday, All Hallow’s Eve, and All Saints Sunday. All of us together are re-formed by grace to strengthen one another as we name our demons and come together in worship as forgiven, holy, children of God. It is a movement in the calendar that we recognize in life.

God Gathers. God Sees and Forgives. We are made and remade and rejoice in lives of service.

Now that is movement the whole world needs.

Peace as you re-present grace in the world.

Pastor Mark

Vehicles for Learning


My morning commute doubled this week. My mind is filled with fall lineups and new opportunities and there is energy in the air. What did you learn last summer? What do you wish to learn this year? Who are the ones around you who will learn with you and teach you at the same time? Questions like these are a the heart of learning.

These are not just questions and comments for kids. They help all of us understand and thrive in our context. We are all life-long-learners engaged in bringing energy and expertise and God’s love to our world. So I ask myself these questions too…

Last summer I learned that God’s message of grace, love, mercy and hope is good news for 30,000 teenagers and the adults assisting them to navigate Houston. Last summer I learned that there is tremendous wisdom in the people of Family of Grace for teaching our neighborhood about God’s grace. This year I want to learn and explore how we can continue to live and love and grow in faith here on Lea Hill. I am energized by all the folks in the “How Lutherans Interpret the Bible” class after church. I will have at least 2 and maybe 3 or 4 in my confirmation class. There are new faces in the choir and in worship and soon the Green River Students will be back. We are all set to gather in one another homes for meals. Sunday school begins this week. There are so many vehicles for learning heading our way!

All of this is teaching me how good it is to be the people of God in this time and in this place. All of this is forming who we are and will be together as we head into the year. I look around as see that we are a learning community, centered in Christ, serving here on Lea Hill.

Hop on a bus.


Pastor Mark


DSC01405 2.jpg

El Capitan!

speck of a guy in an orange shirt...

I realized I hadn't blogged in months with the same jolt you feel when you've been assigned to capture a moment on camera and you suddenly realize you've been so wrapped up in the moment you've forgotten to capture it! April, May and half of June have passed. Thousands of pictures and miles and memories are scattered about and I am left to catch my breath and find a functional normal.

Fantastic climbers ascend El Capitan in Yosemite Valley. To others of us the thought of climbing such a sheer granite face is terrifying. We settle for walking a log at its base. Suffice to say I survived my encounter with the very large granite face and my brother-in-law recorded it. Another speck in the stream of memories I claim as my own that shape who I am. The fact that I marveled at its size without wondering what it would take to climb says something about me. I guess I'm the one who takes small risks walking logs while leaving the scaling of sheer granite faces to others.

We are specks in a world rife with conflict and challenge, filled with politicians catering to power not people and corporations serving shareholders not customers. Extreme violence has become the norm for the interaction of insular enemies both domestic and abroad and it terrifies me.

Facing such seemingly insurmountable problems, how do I, a person of some faith and limited influence respond? My first response is to find  a small log to walk to distract me from the immense challenge before me.

But my second response is to look and think deeply about what I see going on in the world and search my heart for what I will and will not support. My resolve to keep politics out of the pulpit has been ingrained in my training. My call to bring God's message of grace and love for ALL PEOPLE to the people of God gathered at Family of Grace is quite clear. Violation of basic human rights is not something I am willing to stay silent about. Separating parents and their children amounts to governmental kidnapping, holding children as hostages to punish their parents. It is wrong and forever breaks the trust a people have of their government. I am appalled and ashamed when the government of my country treats humanity with the same distain as a drug cartel.

I am a speck. I guess its time to start the ascent.


Pastor Mark



When I set out into this holy space with my SLR, I never imagined the light I would capture. I went in to play, open to possibility.

I found that the surface of the water in the font reflected ablurred image of the stained glass wall. I found light and shadow reflected and refracted as it passed through the shell shaped font.

I found unimagined beauty and it turned to joy in my heart.



In sixty or so days nine of us will set out into the holy space waiting for us in Houston at the ELCA Youth Gathering. We are full of imagination about how that may go. But there is also a part of each of us that goes to play, open to possibility.

What will we reflect as the spirit weaves together the sparks of thousands of lives? What will change within us as the light of the risen Christ reflects and refracts through us?

It is both unimaginable and a source of barely restrained jubilation as I look forward to see the lives of those I hold dear changed forever for the better.

Peace and Unimaginable Joy,

Pastor Mark

Old Friends

Yesterday I drove a couple hours to meet an old friend for lunch. We met in Summer Greek my first week of seminary 24 years ago. I was good at language, he was good at friendship. We grew up 10 years apart in very different family systems. We serve in very different contexts, we have different outlooks on life and the institutions we are a part of. But for 24 years he has kept calling and tracking me down. I have a bad habit of wandering away which he doesn't take personally. I appreciate his tenacity. And we have kept track of one another's comings and goings through the years. It is life-giving to have old friends.


In a week or so Easter will arrive. I don't even remember my first Easter, probably because, chocolate bunnies and having to stay neat in my pastor's kid clothes didn't lead to pleasant memories. It wasn't until I started trying to get things "right" that I started to understand how Easter worked in my life. Self giving love is pretty far up the  psycho-social maturity scale, so the idea that death on a cross could be a sign of love took a while to sink in. But for all of my life God has kept calling and tracking me down. My obtuseness does not inhibit grace! Easter after Easter opportunities for new life abound. I still have the bad habit of wandering away, and I'm sure I don't get things "right", but I appreciate God's tenacity. I appreciate that God has kept track of me through the years.  And so here we are. Easter's coming like an old friend, bringing life to the wandering ones.

Christ has died, Christ is Risen, Christ will come again.

Holy Week Peace,

Pastor Mark

Rock in a Stream


Is it Safe?

Called to Jump.

Sometimes the church looks like an old rock surrounded by fresh magma. We have well worn and polished surfaces and services. You can find places to stand, safely looking out at the ever-changing, never-travelled landscape. You can sit in the sanctuary on Sunday mornings, looking beyond the altar through the windows onto 124th Avenue and experience a sense of well-being and peace, unaffected by the bustle on the street.

Notice that most of the ministry that we have been watching Jesus do, from our comfortable seats on Sundays, happens on the street, in the dangerous, ever-changing, never-travelled places.  A well at noon with a foreigner (John 4), healing instead of resting on the day of rest (John 9), overturning established religious practices (John 2). In all of these situations Jesus first jumps out of safety into the culture of his day, forms relationships with all sorts of outsiders and then witnesses to them God's love, and an invitation to come and see.

Maybe we too are called to use our rock in the stream as a jumping off place for ministry in daily life.


Pastor Mark

Resisting Normal

I'm sitting, trying to write as I normally do, a pastor's report to council, a pastor's annual report, a pastor's blog, a sermon for Sunday. It's a new year, and new month, a new week and a new day. But I'm having trouble letting go of last year, last month, last week. When I left for my 40th high school reunion in November, little did I know how much would change. Mary died. Peter died. Christmas came and went in a swirl of services, snow storms and six grandchildren whirling through. And now in the stillness, post Christmas, post funerals, post busyness, when normal usually sets in, I notice myself resisting.

I am finding that trauma of the last few months is bigger than I thought it would be. Harder on my heart, more difficult in the community of Family of Grace. I am not able to put it behind me and get back to normal. I find myself called back into the community for mutual consolation as we adjust to a new normal, as we grieve together. And we make new memories as we console one another with the consolation we first receive from God.

We remember that God is with us, going before us to prepare a way, beside us to give us strength, and behind us to give meaning to our memories and pick up the pieces of our troubled lives. That is not a new normal, it is an old promise we see more clearly at times like these.


Pastor Mark



hold me grandpa....

No OTHER gods?


This Sunday the Seahawks play at 10am. ENTERTAINMENT opportunities abound. Every retailer smiles this time of year, hoping to collect our gift dollars. RESOURCES are scarce. Squabbles for the best work schedules and airline reservations happened months ago. PLANNING is rewarded. This Friday we have a memorial service at 2 and church decorating in the evening. Saturday at 4 is the Christmas Showcase. Sunday after worship we're making Advent Logs. TIME is precious. And  at the end of the scramble, the Seahawks play on Christmas Eve, and the Family of Grace Youth Group is presenting a play, "Text Message In the Manger" at morning worship.

How do we sift and sort our priorities and activities and have some sense of peace about this season? How do we set our feet on a path that leads to obedience to Christ's command to love God and our neighbor as ourself? This challenge is not new, just the names of the other gods.

Sometimes re-MEMBERING who you are and whose you are can help. We look forward and inward in Advent, preparing our hearts and our lives to receive God among us as a baby in a manger. It catalyzes a shift in perspectives and values that changes everything. EMMANUEL, God with us, is both a promise and a prayer.

Advent Peace,

Pastor Mark


I couldn't resist this selfie. Best blank face ever!
I wear masks. Sometimes my mask is a smile, hiding pain. Sometimes my mask is a frown, hiding confusion. Sometimes my mask is a snarl, hiding fear. Sometimes my mask is just a place to hide so I don't have to deal with people's responses to what they think they see on my face. My masks are very personal and tell a story of me I may not want the world to know.

I see others wearing masks too. Masking things for the sake of the communities to which we belong. Sometimes even hiding things from themselves, promising me that the masks are their true selves. Sometimes I poke at them to see if they flinch. Most of the time I respect folks' need to "put a good face on it." We all know the masks are there.

Into this ever shifting, "is it real or not?" reality God breathes life. Seeing behind our masks, promising to be with us through our pain, confusion, shame and fear. Promising life, grace and forgiveness no matter what we think we know about the person behind the mask.

As we remove our All-Hallows-Eve masks and move towards Thanksgiving in the secular world, let us also move from masks to thanks giving in our hearts. And may the peace of God which passes all understanding keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Pastor Mark

Questions of Honor

On our way across the country Pam and I discovered the Minidoka "Relocation Center", one of 10 concentration camps established to incarcerate 110,000 Americans of Japanese descent that lived in the coastal regions of the Pacific States. Amidst the swirling fears of our country's current situation it stands down a gravel road in the middle of nowhere, mostly forgotten.

Sunday's text is about the call of Moses by God to free his people from their enslavement in Egypt. Like most immigrants to the United States, the Hebrew people went to Egypt seeking a better life for their children. As political climates changed, they ended up slaves. God heard their cries and called Moses. This story from Exodus raises all sorts of questions for us about nationalism, freedom, immigration, human rights, our image of God, and our call to be agents of change for God.

The people of Minidoka planted a Japanese Garden adjacent to one of the eight guard towers, inside barbed wire fence at the entrance to the camp. In front of the garden they erected this honor roll sign. On it are the names of over a thousand men and women who left the camp to serve in the United States military.

How does our image of God affect what we honor and what we fear?
How do we honor Jesus' command to love God and love our neighbor in every facet of our lives?
How does grace set us free to honor God's call on our lives?

Reformation Peace,
Pastor Mark


A few years ago on Canon Beach an onshore wind was blowing,  a friend was feeding gulls and I was playing with light and perspective amidst a raucous cacophony of seagull sounds. It was a holy moment that reaches forward and forms how I think about wind and wings.

A few weeks ago. I flew to San Antonio and heard Barbara Brown Taylor read a poem by David Swanger that talks about how God moves through our lives and wings connect us to God's movement.

Wings come in many forms, friends, family, pastor, church community, events momentous and mundane, and even tragedy can inspire and lift. The people of Family of Grace are giving me a set of wings for the summer, sending me out to fly on the winds of the spirit. I hope to gather some practical honing of administrative skill at a mini MBA for pastors course. I hope to gather (write) some melodies and words for worship that we can use in the fall. I hope to wander in the spirit, resting, relaxing and reconnecting to God's love for me in Christ that will reach forward and form how I think about the mission and ministry that we are about here on Lea Hill.

Thank God for Wings,
Pastor Mark

No Fun At Church

What do you get when Santa,  Kung Fu Panda, and clowns in gowns show up with "Timothy play-by-play " at your dodge ball tournament?

What do you get when you mix Mariachis, margaritas, Mexican food and lots and lots of baskets, paintings and a custom wooden toilette seat at a fun raiser for the Grace Care fund?

What makes disciples run back from Emaus to Jerusalem on the same day they first trudged the other way?


The deep sense that things are much better than expected.

Knowing that beyond reason and what has always been,  that Christ is Risen, Christ is with us and Christ is also...
             ...having fun.

Whoever said church couldn't be fun
has not experienced resurrection joy at Family of Grace.

Christ is Risen!
Pastor Mark

Luke has been messing with me....

Image by Daniel Bonnell
Luke has been messing with me. Learn grace from my enemy the Samaritian, as he is the only one who stops to help? Learn what feels like to be one of the good flock of ninety nine sheep that don't wander that loose our shepherd to one wanderer? Learn about the imperative to celebrate when the lost is found, even when we all know how much its going to cost? And what if Zaccheus was already generous and Jesus just acknowledged him and broke the crowds prejudgement about wealth? Luke keeps challenging me to just breath and receive Jesus' gifts and parables and give up on justifying myself.

It turns out I have recurring tendency to fight grace, to argue with generosity and to discount my need for being saved. (I can do this myself, thank you very much!) The good news is that God sees through the lies I tell myself and saves me in spite of my rebellious self serving and preserving tendencies. My task here is to spread the word: we are saved by GRACE and this is not our own doing or even within the realm of our imagination.

We receive this gift and have no other thought than to leap for joy.
Peace (and undeserved joy) on your lenten journey to the foot of the cross,
Pastor Mark

Fast, Fast and Fast

Fast is found in every language. Humanity is attracted to speed. Faster, farther more, is a well worn path into a fleeting and fickle future, into which we are blown and rushed with no rest.

Hold fast we say, so the winds of change don't sweep us away. Fasten yourselves to what you love and hold on tight!

When we fast for forty days in Lent  we slow profoundly and leave familiars behind. In the absence of the need for faster, farther more; letting go of habits we have be clinging to, we open ourselves to the wind and direction of the Holy Spirit.

I invite you to pick up a 40 Days of Fasting booklet at the entrance to the church or download it here and move with the community of faith at Family of Grace through at time of slowing down and letting go. It is my pray that as we open our selves to change the Holy Spirit will set our sails on a course to renewed and deeper relationships with one another, with creation and with God.

Peace to you as you slow down and let go.
Pastor Mark

Gutenberg & Facebook & Snapchat

Last week I was at a conference with other Lutheran Pastors listening to a Luther Scholar help us understand the world in which Luther proclaimed the Gospel. 16th century Europe was a time of tumultuous change in all the areas a society can change. Into that comes Martin, pointing at Jesus, helping us read and understand God's love for the world in our native languages and using the latest technology of the day (Gutenberg's printing press) to bring his ideas to lots and lots of people.

I went to that conference a day after our church leadership decided that our focus for the upcoming year needed to be on communicating God's love by whatever means available, "broadcasting on all channels" (to use a early T.V. metaphor). As we explore what this means together, I invite your collective experience in exactly what this looks like. What media finds its way into your life? How can Family of Grace share the love of Christ in community using that media?

Social media is a new name for a universally human experience. Connecting with purpose. We are invited into the same long conversation that has been happening throughout history, and invited to share our good news. How will you proclaim Christ in inviting and engaging ways this week? Start by liking Family of Grace Lutheran on FaceBook and inviting your FaceBook Friends to do the same.......

Pastor Mark

Imagination Management

Imagine they are strings of lights....

I just got in from wandering around the church imagining all the sounds and sights these walls have seen. I wandered into the sanctuary and turned on the Christmas tree lights and imagined folks gathering around lights this coming Christmas Eve. I closed my eyes and saw faces and remembered Christmas conversations in other places. Some days I love living in my imagination.

Other days I imagine all the things I could have done better, all the pain I have caused, all the opportunities I have missed, all the people I am estranged from, all the things I fear. Those days my imagination is my worst enemy.

In the reality of God's creative and creating love we are sent a savior. God with us. God for us. Imagine that!

Not the Kindom of God

Dan Erlander's drawing of the land God's people escaped.
I recently read an article questioning Christianity's support of power and politics. A couple of days later  I was working on a reformation sermon and thinking about Luther's search for a gracious God that  lead him out of institutional church structures and back into scripture. Those two thoughts pointed me even further back to Jesus and Elijah and Moses and Manna. 

It seems that when we move away from trusting God for daily bread we trade our freedom in Christ for bondage to a system that looks like the one on the left. Fear is at the heart of this trade. Fear that we won't have enough. Fear that things won't go as we imagine or expect. Fear that we will lose.

I've also been to four of the five cottage meetings and listened to thirty stories of how God is working in people's lives. There is an abundance to God's daily bread that I had never imagined. These stories  answer our fears with trust and give me a great sense of peace.

Give thanks that God is with us. Give thanks that the kindom of God is coming. And remember it does NOT look like the picture! 
Peace, Pastor Mark

Stewardship and Abundance

The first September of seminary was my family's first fall on the mainland. On Kaua'i pumpkins were scarce, imported and expensive. Our family had always only had one. In Iowa a mystery plant showed up in our front yard in the middle of summer and produced pumpkins for each of us and a few friends. We were surprised and delighted by such abundance.

I look around and think of all the things Family of Grace is and has been a part of as a community and I have the the same sense of surprise and delight. As stewards, people of faith are charged with tending and keeping all that God's abundance provides. As we gather in October for cottage meetings to tell our stories, I encourage you to expand your definition of stewardship to include time, talents, resources, skills, and gifts. As we stop and ponder and tell our stories we will be lead into thanksgiving, and from thanksgiving into praise and from praise into fearless generosity. We will be surprised and delighted by what God is doing in our hearts and in our community.

Such abundance.

Pastor Mark