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Ash Wednesday

Dear readers and myself as well,

This year for Lent instead of giving up something, I have decided to do something.  The something I am doing includes writing this daily blog, but it also involves some physical labor—that of planting a garden, the weeding, the cultivating, the figuring out what might grow in my little plot of earth.

This Lent I am thinking about three gardens—my personal one, the Giving Garden which is sprouting at Trinity Lutheran in Everett, and God’s Garden—this entire planet where God has planted us.

On this first day of Lent—Ash Wednesday, March 9, 2011—the word I am considering is humility.  Remembering that we are dust can be an exercise in humility, but I was actually thinking of the humility I feel when I think of all those who have gardened before me.

I am first of all a humble gardener because I am not an expert.  I am an experimental gardener; I will try planting a variety of seeds, expecting that some of them will not do well in my soil or with my amount of sunlight.  I am humble because I know that someone else first prepared the garden plot that I now work in.  Someone else built the raised bed and planted raspberries.  Someone else had a vision of growing things.  Someone else did a lot of work long before I got there.

I am a humble gardener because I know the lessons I learned in my parents’ gardens will be needed for my little garden to grow.  I am a humble gardener because my little plot is nothing like the irrigated farm on which my grandparents raised their nine children.  Another day this blog will re-visit that farm. For today, I will think about the dust from which I came and God’s tender care of each of us in God’s big garden plot.  Amen. 

Making a Garden Grow

Dear friends,

What does it take to make a garden grow?  It takes soil, water, light, heat, nutrients, air, and in the case of our own “Giving Garden” it has also taken imagination, ingenuity, cooperation, investigation, and a lot of hard work.  Together we have dreamed, discussed, planned, built, and soon we will be ready to mix soil and then plant.  

The word “Lent” means to lengthen and we rejoice as the daylight portion of our days
lengthens during the Lenten season and we move from darkness into light.  The days will be lighter and warmer, God will water our gardens with showers, and growing things will “lengthen.”  

This Lenten season, we are invited to consider all the world as God’s garden.  As we think about growing food we also think about growing our faith.  Our communal garden is a reflection of God’s grace and love.  Our Sunday Lenten worship will focus on what it takes to grow both faith and food.  We will be refreshed in the waters of baptism and at the Table of the Lord.  We will consider what it might mean to “eat ethically.”  We will continue to bask in the light of God’s love and we will grow in faith and in love towards all the world.

I remember gardening with my whole family when I was a child.  Mostly I remember the day we planted the seeds, but I now know there was a lot of preparation and work that happened before we patted the tiny seeds into the ground. As the plants grew the work continued—weeding, watering, harvesting all happened before the eating.  My parents’ garden was a necessity for us.  They had five hungry, growing children to feed and the miracle of the abundant harvest from the small seeds was awesome every year.  

You are invited to come and take part in the Trinity  “giving garden.”  You are also invited to come and grow your faith in the sunshine of God’s love and grace.

Planting seeds and growing love,
Pastor Jocelyn


A Valentine from God

A Valentine from God for all of us

Valentine’s Day can be a romantic, sweet time of sharing love, but God’s love for us is so much greater than we can imagine.  

When I looked up the word love in my Bible’s Concordance, there were listings for “love” as a noun and listings for “love” as a verb.  One of my favorite promises from Scripture is this one, which has love as both: “I have loved you with an everlasting love,” from the prophet Jeremiah (31:3).  We have God as our example of how to love so, we, like God, “love” (verb) the one for whom we have great affection, our “love” (noun).  We are the objects of God’s great love—we and the cosmos which God created and sustains.  We are loved by God and so we are able to love each other, not just in words but in deeds of compassion and affection.

Our Monday and Wednesday Bible Study groups have been studying Paul’s letters to the Corinthians.  The whole letter is a love letter from the Apostle Paul to this new faith community who are trying to figure out how to act loving and kind, even when they do not like the other person.  Paul has much advice to give them about living together in faith and hope, but the words that most of us remember best are from the thirteenth chapter.  We often hear these words at weddings, but they are really not about romantic love—they are about the day to day “putting the other first” kind of love that we all need to give and to receive.
In these verses, love can be both a noun and a verb—love can be the impetus for our giving of our best to those whom we love by choice and those we love at Jesus’ command.   This Valentine is for you, from the God who loves you!

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth.  And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.  1 Corinthians 13: 4-6, 13

Sharing in God’s love,
Pastor Jocelyn


Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

Many people take time at the beginning of the New Year to write resolutions regarding their lives during the coming 365 days.   This is a good exercise, but it too quickly can lead us to guilt and frustration as our resolutions fall by the wayside.

One evidence of God’s grace is that God always invites us to take our lives “one day at a time.”  One of my favorite hymns is Great Is Thy Faithfulness.  It was inspired by words from the Old Testament book of Lamentations in which Jeremiah reminds us, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23)

God’s mercies more than match our failings in life, whatever those may be.  Every day we get a new dose of grace that fills us to the brim with hope.  The wisdom to “live one day at a time” is wisdom that all of us can use, whatever our age, our social status, our personal successes or failures.  Each day God greets us with mercy and fills us with power for that one day.

In Matthew’s Gospel we read, “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own.  Today’s trouble is enough for today.” (Matthew 6:34)  These words are not permission to live recklessly without regard to our own future or the future of our planet, but they do remind us that living in God’s grace is healthier for us than useless worry.

In this New Year, we have opportunities for taking on something new.  Let us live in God’s grace and take on something new for “just a day.”  So for today, you could set aside time for reading the Bible or another inspirational book, take time for a quiet time with God, or take time to spend some time with a friend or family member.  And if it does not happen  today, there is always tomorrow.  God invites us to come with our heart’s concerns whether we come to God “on the run” or whether we are sitting quietly in prayer—God comes to us, new every day with grace and forgiveness and love.  Just what we need for this day!

On a personal note, thank you all so much for your Christmas cards, greetings and gifts to Dave , me and our family.  We are blessed to be partners with you in this welcoming faith community.

Pastor Jocelyn


A New Worship Time - with an Old Welcome

Psalm 33 tells us to worship God with a New song.  The book of Lamentations tells us that God’s mercies are New every morning.  The prophet Ezekiel brings us a message that promises that God will give us a New heart and a New spirit.  Jesus gave us a New commandment to love one another.  At Trinity we have a New time for worship!  However, our Old word of welcome still stands!

In part it reads: EVERYONE IS WELCOME—EVERYONE.  People of all backgrounds, colors, sexual orientations, gender identities, addictions, economic classes, languages, mental/emotional states, talents, marital status, parents, children (quiet & noisy), adults (discreet or nosy), sons, daughters, youngsters, oldsters, all states of health, religious beliefs, responsible or flaky, true blue or straying, obedient or disobedient, happy, sad, lonely, mad or searching.  

This inclusive, welcoming statement reflects God’s gifts of mercy and grace and reminds us that yes, God’s promises are New to us every day.  Lutherans hear God’s Word of forgiveness and grace and want to share that with others.  Lutherans have a heart to care for those in need.  Lutherans love to sing and praise God with New songs and Old hymns and everything in between.

At 10:00 am on Sunday morning, God’s praises will be sung, God’s Word will be heard, and God’s Table of Holy Communion will be set.  Come and bring your praying, singing, listening self and be blessed!

When we say ALL are welcome, we mean ALL—come be a part Celebrating God’s Love this week!  Remember it is at a New time—10:00 am.

Pastor Jocelyn Carson


Promises to Keep


Recently I have had connections with seven couples who are now married or will be shortly.  For two of the weddings it was my pleasure to be the pastor, one of the brides is my daughter, for some I was or will be a guest, other couples getting married have a strong Trinity connection.  For our faith community all of these weddings and the promises that are made are a sign of hope and a reason for joy.

As I witness two people making promises of faithfulness to each other, I get teary-eyed because in our sometimes selfish, me-first world, promises are hard to come by.  Some couples write their own vows, some use words that are traditional and some use a mix of the two.  The words are important but the intention to keep these promises is what really touches me.  

Congratulations, best wishes and thank you to: Tyler & Jessica, Kymmie & Matt, Kael & Jamie, Peter & Mary, Les & Megan, Brendan & Stina, Bill & Lisa.  When I hear your promises I reminded of the promises Dave and I made 35 years ago and I remember that it is God who has enabled us to keep those promises.   It takes all of us to support and encourage marriage partners!  Please keep these faithful ones in your prayers.

When I am at weddings I am also reminded that God is faithful in keeping promises made to us.  God’s grace and forgiveness covers us whether we are married or single, widowed or divorced.  God blesses all of our relationships.  Our reconciling God seeks to reconcile us to God and to each other.  Marriage and all other relationships are only possible in an atmosphere of trust and forgiveness.  It is God who gives us the desire and the strength to forgive as we have been forgiven.

When I am the pastor at a wedding, these words are part of the prayers I pray on behalf of those making promises and those who witness those promises. “Gracious and tender God, From your great store of strength give them power and patience, affection and understanding, courage, and love toward you, toward each other and toward the world.  Make them gentle and patient, ready to trust each other, and when they fail, willing to acknowledge their fault and to give and receive forgiveness.  Strengthen and bless friends and family gathered here, call to mind those separated by distance, console those who mourn the loss of loved ones, and be present with those for whom love is a stranger. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Blessings of joy and peace for you in all your relationships,
Pastor Jocelyn Carson


Welcome Back!

Welcome: Back to School, Back to Work, Back to Church!
In many ways September is like New Year’s Day!  Even though it has been years since I helped my own children “get ready for school,” I still remember the great smells of the new box of crayons and the big fat jar of paste.  I loved wearing my new winter clothes, even on the warm fall days.  Now children use markers and glue sticks but the fun and excitement is the same.

Rally Sunday, September 12th promises some new things for Trinity this fall.  It is the Sunday morning we return back to worship at both 8:30 and 11:00 am.  This fall, our Sunday school classes for children will be at the same time as our 11:00 am worship.  Children and parents will begin together in worship with singing and the passing of the peace and then the children will go to the classrooms for learning about God’s love for them.  Our Sparks Bible curriculum highlights one of the lessons read in worship so parents and children can continue the learning at home.

The Youth/Adult Forums will take place in the Fireside Room beginning at 10:00 am on September 19th.  We begin this fall learning to be Advocates for justice.  Pastor Paul Benz and Advocacy Chair, Cyndi Nielsen will lead on September 19 and 26.  Beginning in October, Susan Grazier and I will co-lead a 5 week course called “Hunger Causes/Hunger Hopes.  This interactive course is full of information that will educate us about the realities of hunger and inspire us to be part of ending hunger in the whole world.  All are welcome to participate!

Wednesday Bible Study begins September 8 at 10:45 am.  Monday evening Bible Study begins September 13 at 7:30 pm.  Both groups will be studying the writings of the Apostle Paul using a variety of resources.  We will look especially at Paul’s attitudes towards women in the church, but will cover a number of other topics as well.   Bring your Bible and your questions about Paul or any of his writings.

There are always new things to learn in God’s school of Grace and Love.  September is a wonderful time for us to begin anew learning of God’s love for the world!    Welcome back to church this fall!  We gather for praise, prayer, thanksgiving, and service in the name of Jesus, our teacher and our friend.

Blessings of joy and peace,
Pastor Jocelyn Carson


Dear Friends of Jesus

Dear friends of Jesus,

    I am sometimes asked why we pray the Lord’s Prayer every time we meet for
worship and meetings.  There are many reasons.  For many of us, this is the first
“grown-up” prayer we learned to pray and it may be the last prayer we remember.  We pray it because it includes all that we need for our lives, spiritually and physically.  We pray it as a community because it begins, “Our Father,” and so it belongs to all of us.

    When I was a nursing home chaplain, I learned that we Christians do not all pray it exactly the same, but that it was similar enough that I could pray it with Catholics and
Presbyterians and Methodists and others.  “We” could pray it because it is the prayer that Jesus taught and so it belongs to us all.  The prayer that Jesus taught is deeply etched into the memories of many and so we pray it because even though we may have forgotten much else in our lives, we remember this prayer.

    Prayer is a gift from God, an invitation to be in conversation with God.  Prayer is both shared and formal and at the same time the most personal thing we do.  Prayer is as simple as every breath we take and yet we often make it more complex than it needs to be.  Jesus taught us to pray using the words we call The Lord’s Prayer, but more importantly Jesus taught us that God listens to our prayers.  A praying conversation with God includes both our requests and taking time to listen for God’s answer back to us.  The answers to our prayers are not always what we ask for, but they are what God knows we need.

    On our faith journey through life we will pray many prayers.  Some will be prayers of thanksgiving, some will prayers of sorrow, and some will be prayers of asking for God’s mercy.  We pray, always trusting in God’s abundant grace and love.  We pray, hoping that our prayers will not only change us but give us the strength to change the world around us.

    Jesus promised that wherever two or three are gathered, he will be with us.  
Whenever or wherever we pray this prayer, by ourselves or with one another, in church, at work or in school, in a hospital room, a nursing home, or our own home, God is present and listening.  Always!

    May you be blessed by your prayers spoken and unspoken,

    Pastor Jocelyn Carson


Breathing and Dreaming and Praying


Breathing and Dreaming and Praying Come Holy Spirit, fill us with the breath of God, inspire us with hope and give us amazing dreams for your people.  Amen.

On Pentecost Sunday, May 23rd the sermon at 8:30 am included two prayers.  These prayers reflect two of the shared dreams and visions that we, the people who gather at Trinity Lutheran Church have for our community of faith.  One prayer was for our ministry with children to be blessed and the other prayer was for greater physical accessibility here at Trinity.  Both of these dreams are about being welcoming people of God.  Both of these dreams will take courage and commitment of our time and financial resources to become reality.

Please join me in praying these two prayers of welcome!  Pray them again and again and feel free to add your own prayers of hope and courage to these prayers.  

Lord Jesus, send your Holy Spirit to this place, to the homes and the schools, to all the places where your young people gather and use us to share your Good News with those who have never heard it before.  Bless their parents and their grandparents and bless us.  Use us to teach children and youth of your unending, compassionate love.  Inspire us and give us hope.  We pray for Amy, Nancy, Jennie, Lee, and Susan and for all who will help with Vacation Bible School this summer. Amen.

God of grace and mercy, you call your people to worship but our steps get in the way of some of those very people who have heard your call.  Give us courage to go forward with this accessibility project in your name.  We give you thanks for all who made it here today to worship, some of who have climbed lots of stairs to be here.  We pray that those who cannot get here will feel your presence in their lives.  Bless us as we take your Holy Word and your presence to them.  Inspire us and give us hope. Amen.

In Jerusalem on the first Pentecost, Peter (Acts 2:17) quoted the prophet Joel and promised that in these last days, God would pour out his Holy Spirit on our sons and daughters and that men and women alike would prophesy. God is still empowering us!  God is still inspiring us!  God is still giving us audacious dreams—with God nothing is impossible!  Are we ready to trust in the promises of God?  Take a deep breath and pray.

Come Holy Spirit and inspire us anew to do God’s will.  Come Holy Spirit and fill us with the power of God from on high.  Amen.

Pastor Jocelyn


God's Good News of Welcome

God’s Good News of Welcome

Here at Trinity we put high value on “welcoming others in the name of Jesus.”  We do this with our “welcome mugs” on Sunday morning and we do it with bags of food from the food bank.  We have welcomed people to the free community breakfasts and have sat and listened to them share their stories and their concerns.  It was good to be with other Trinity people at the Synod Assembly in mid-May and listen to Dr. Amy Oden talk about welcome strategies.  Her book is called: God’s Welcome: Hospitality for a Gospel-Hungry World and she reminded us of God’s command to welcome strangers.

Dr. Oden described Four Marks of Welcome that all of us can use everyday, not just in our time together at Trinity.  The first mark is that of readiness to share life with others—that means being curious about the stranger, taking time to listen to them and being ready to tell our stories to others.  Readiness includes expecting something new and different from each person we meet and rejoicing in those differences.

Risk is the second mark of welcome—those we welcome may disrupt our lives and force us to think of new ways of doing things.  Perhaps they will be noisy when we crave silence or messy when we are tidy.  Risk reminds us that we cannot control every situation and that trust in God is necessary every time we open our lives to what is new.

The third mark of welcome is that of repentance, which means to turn to a new way.  
The strangers we meet invite us to change from our business as usual way of doing things.  The welcoming church is a renewing church, where change is okay.  Repentance always turns us back to God’s grace and love.

Recognition is the fourth mark of welcome.  When we welcome others we see beyond the surface appearances that could separate us from them or cause us to be judgmental.  When we welcome others we see Jesus in them in a deep way.  As we move into a new relationship, we see that God is at work in this place.

God always welcomes us first and our prayer is that we can learn to love and welcome
others the way God loves and welcomes us.  God’s welcome celebrates our differences and invites us to use our particular gifts in God’s kingdom.  God welcomes you everyday and in everyplace you go!  

We are welcomed in order to welcome others! We are blessed in order to bless others!  Thanks be to God!

Pastor Jocelyn Carson

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