Connecting God’s Word to your Everyday Life

Jesus began to weep

When Mary of Bethany came to where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus began to weep. -John 11:32-35

Peter had a rough day at work. Nothing went the way it was supposed to, and his boss let him know she noticed. Peter went home and grumpily told his husband “everything was fine at work” and turned on the football game without speaking again for the rest of the night. Next door, Pam got her kids around the table for dinner and the chorus of complaints about the meal began. Managing the kids and the house while her husband was deployed was getting harder and harder, but it was simpler to pour herself another glass of wine after the kids went to bed than admit she was struggling. Across the street, Missy sat alone on her couch, realizing just how anxious and sad she felt about her life. She quickly opened TikTok to scroll through new videos. It might not fix anything, but at least she could be distracted instead of sad.

You probably know Peter and Pam and Missy, or people who sound just like them. For that matter, you’ve probably been Peter or Pam or Missy a time or two in your life. We’ve all been there- knowing that we’re feeling something that’s likely to be unpleasant and uncomfortable. Instead of feeling those feelings, we numb them instead! We’ve all done it, whether it’s with an extra drink, a mindless scroll of social media, a bowl of ice cream, whatever’s on TV, an extra exhausting workout, or a shopping spree.

Before you shift uncomfortably in your chair and scroll away to something more pleasant to read, look back to the glimpse of Jesus shared in John 11 above. Jesus is faced with the death of a friend and the grief of his friend’s sister and their whole community. This is gut-wrenching stuff. What did Jesus do? He began to weep. 

The only way through hard emotions is to feel them. Research shows that if we try to numb those unwanted negative emotions like sadness, disappointment, and anger, we end up numbing joy and hope right along with them. A couple of beers, a banana nut muffin, and a new shirt cannot fix your emotions. The thing is that your feelings don’t need to be fixed at all. When Lazarus died, and his sisters and community wept, Jesus wept right along with them. When Paul wrote to the Roman Christians, he urged them: “Be happy with those who are happy, and cry with those who are crying.” (Romans 12:15)

Beloved people of God, there is a great deal going on in our personal and communal lives that raises strong feelings. We may be disappointed, sad, scared, angry, anxious, and frustrated. If that’s you- do yourself a favor and let yourself be sad without rushing to numb it. Let yourself be angry without pushing it off on someone else. The only way to stop carrying the burdens of those hard emotions is to feel them and name them. If Peter told his husband he was frustrated by his job, if Pam texted a friend that she was feeling overwhelmed, if Missy took her anxiety to a therapist—it wouldn’t get rid of the very real challenges behind their feelings, but it would help make them bearable.

We can also take our emotional burdens to Jesus, who weeps with us without ever asking us if perhaps we’re taking things a bit too seriously. Jesus, of all people, knew that death wouldn’t get the last word in our lives, and yet he cried with Mary and her friends when Lazarus died. When we honestly share our ups and downs with God, God is deeply moved. Through those ups and downs, God carries not only our heavy feelings but our very selves. You are held by the same God who wept with Mary.

Jesus, thank you for showing us that we can weep. Thank you for your compassion in being moved by our struggles. Help us to resist the temptation to numb our feelings, and instead to feel our way through our ups and downs, confident that you are holding us all the way.

Never Forget

We give you thanks, O God, 

for in the beginning your Spirit moved over the waters

and by your Word you created the world,

calling forth life in which you took delight.

Through the waters of the flood you delivered Noah and his family,

and through the sea you led your people Israel from slavery into freedom.

At the river your Son was baptized by John

and anointed with the Holy Spirit.

By the baptism of Jesus’ death and resurrection

you set us free from the power of sin and death

and raise us up to live in you.

-Thanksgiving at the Font, ELW service of Holy Baptism

In all of our lives, there are defining moments. Those moments that forever change our lives, for good or for ill. They are often events of complete change: birth or death, loss or gain, beginning or ending. If you stopped reading right now, you could quickly make a list of unforgettable moments that have changed your life: the day you proposed, the day you lost your job, the day you got sober, the day you got your dog… 

Defining moments also happen to all of us together. There are shared events that shape our society. For example, this Saturday is the 20th anniversary of 9/11. We might disagree about exactly what 9/11 meant, but no one could argue that it hasn’t redefined America for the past two decades and still will for many years to come. We have other shared defining moments: the 2015 Supreme Court ruling for nationwide marriage equality, Hurricane Katrina, Sandy Hook and Columbine, the Challenger explosion, Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the Moon, the JFK & MLK assassinations, Ruby Bridges’ first day of school at William Frantz Elementary, the attack on Pearl Harbor, the stock market crash of 1929—just to name a few. 

Several of those shared events happened before my birth, and maybe before yours, too. Even so, they have changed our lives. We remind each other about these moments, telling the stories and repeating the refrain: never forget.

As Christians, our faith is grounded both in personal defining moments in our own lives and in shared defining moments that happened long before any of us were born. That’s why, for instance, our baptismal liturgy calls us by name alongside a never-forget litany of defining moments from God’s story: creating the world with delight, saving the Israelites from slavery, and dying and rising in Jesus Christ. None of us has seen those moments, and yet they define our faith and our very lives. 

The more often we tell these stories of God’s defining moments, the more clearly we see how God’s actions have made a difference for us. Since God has always listened to the laments of God’s people, of course we can trust that God hears our cries. Since God has always set people free from sin and death, of course God will forgive us, too. Since God has always provided enough for God’s people, we can trust that God will give us what we need. We need these stories and the reminder to never forget what God has done for us.

How will you remember God’s defining moments? Who reminds you what God has done? To whom do you tell these unforgettable stories? Maybe it’s a Bible study, by yourself or with a group. Maybe it’s through worship each week. However you do it, never forget that you are defined, named, and claimed by the Triune God as a beloved and forgiven child of God.

Holy God, you have defined us as your people, holy and dearly loved. May we never forget your defining moments for us, filled with love and salvation. Amen.

Joy in the Desert

The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad,

the desert shall rejoice and blossom;

like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly,

and rejoice with joy and singing.

… And the ransomed of the Lord shall return,

and come to Zion with singing;

everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;

they shall obtain joy and gladness,

and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

-Isaiah 35:1-2, 10

I have a couple of containers with herbs on my patio. The basil has been growing abundantly. I have been feasting on pesto sauce and caprese salad. The last couple of weeks of August were pretty rough on my basil, though. Between the heat of the summer and the chaos of back-to-school, I wasn’t watering enough. One evening last week I glanced out the kitchen window at my basil. It was so sad. It had wilted. The leaves were curled up. It was like the whole plant had slumped down under the weight of, well, everything.

Heat and dehydration can suck the joy right out of plants and people alike. And that’s not all that can diminish joy. There are big and little things that try to take our joy all the time. Many of these things are far beyond our control. When Isaiah first proclaimed the words above, the Israelites were enduring many years of captivity away from their homes because of foreign invasion. They described their exile like being lost in the wilderness, dry and barren. Hope and joy were the last things on their minds. What hope can be found in the desert?

Back to my basil. It looked pretty terrible. When had I last watered it? Had it rained any time lately? I couldn’t remember. I went out and gave it water, hoping it wasn’t too late. The next morning, my basil was alive! It was refreshed and restored! All it needed was somebody paying attention to its needs, along with plenty of water.

Who is paying attention to your needs? I certainly hope you are, but you can’t do it on your own. My basil was left to my memory and the chance of rain. It can’t water itself. Basil needs a gardener, and you need God.

You need God because what God has done, is doing, and will do is this: bring hope like water into a desert, turning the wilderness into blossoms of joy. That joy might come in words: “I forgive you” or “I’m sorry.” That joy might come in good news: the surgery was successful or the job was offered. That joy might come in the simple act of someone sending you a funny meme when you’ve had a bad day. All these things are God’s gifts for joy.

Most importantly, you receive the joy God gives in Jesus Christ. This is the joy that revives you when you’re as good as dead, restoring you to life. It’s the joy that comes with knowing that your sins don’t define you. Only God can do that, and God defines you as worthy of joy and hope.

God, bring the blossoms of joy to the dry and dusty parts of my life. Refresh me when I am weary and worn, and restore to me the joy of your salvation. Amen.

You Shall Not Murder

You shall not murder.

What does this mean?

We are to fear and love God, so that we neither endanger nor harm the lives of our neighbors, but instead help and support them in all of life’s needs.

-Martin Luther’s Small Catechism, 1529

If you grew up in a Lutheran church, especially if you are my age or older, you probably were expected to memorize the Small Catechism sometime in middle school. You might have even been quizzed on it in front of the congregation. When churches realized this kind of thing was more like hazing than faith formation, they shifted away from memorizing the Small Catechism to studying and discussing it.

I hope that however you studied the Small Catechism, your instructor pointed out that there’s a pattern to the way Martin Luther defines the Ten Commandments. For each, he states what a person should not do (murder, steal, adultery, and so on), and then he goes on to describe what a person must do to keep the commandments fully. It’s a bold move because the commandments are mostly written in the negative, that is, with a “do not” format. Don’t worship idols, don’t bear false witness, don’t murder. Following the example of Jesus in Matthew 5, Martin Luther realized that in Christian discipleship, each command has positive obligations: things we ought to do in addition to the things we must not.

This was nothing new for Martin Luther. Two years earlier, a plague was ravaging Germany, including his home of Wittenberg. Since he was something of a local celebrity by 1527, others asked for his advice, which he offered in a treatise called “Whether One May Flee from a Deadly Plague.” In his letter, he wrote not only about the active sin of deliberately getting others sick or running away from their responsibility to those who needed help, but also about the inactive sin of taking the plague too lightly, “tempting God and disregarding everything which might counteract death and the plague.”

In particular, Martin Luther railed against anyone whose carelessness put other lives at risk. He saw it as a Christian duty to keep oneself healthy and avoid spreading the plague just as much as it was a Christian duty to help put out a fire in their neighbor’s house. He even went so far as to compare those who recklessly infect others to murderers, writing this:

If one makes no use of intelligence or medicine when he could do so without detriment to his neighbor, such a person injures his body and must beware… By the same reasoning a person might forego eating and drinking, clothing and shelter, and boldly proclaim his faith that if God wanted to preserve him from starvation and cold, he could do so without food and clothing. Actually that would be suicide. 

It is even more shameful for a person to pay no heed to his own body and to fail to protect it against the plague the best he is able, and then to infect and poison others who might have remained alive if he had taken care of his body as he should have. He is thus responsible before God for his neighbor’s death and is a murderer many times over. Indeed, such people behave as though a house were burning in the city and nobody were trying to put the fire out. Instead they give leeway to the flames so that the whole city is consumed, saying that if God so willed, he could save the city without water to quench the fire.

No, my dear friends, that is no good. Use medicine; take potions which can help you; fumigate house, yard, and street; shun persons and places wherever your neighbor does not need your presence or has recovered, and act like a man who wants to help put out the burning city. What else is the epidemic but a fire which instead of consuming wood and straw devours life and body?

These are harsh words from Martin Luther. And yet, at their core was a deep concern for his “dear friends,” that they not sin by shirking their responsibility to their neighbor and community. At the heart of Martin Luther’s writings we find compassion for Christians who seek to live faithfully and need guidance to do so, alongside righteous anger for those who would call themselves Christians but refuse to use their liberty in service of their fellow humans. 

You can imagine how guilty some of his readers must have felt. Martin Luther was holding them accountable by defining Christian discipleship: not to look to their own health or needs, but rather to put the health and needs of their neighbors ahead of their own! This is a hard expectation to keep. For those who heard it and realized that they had not been diligent in avoiding gatherings or acting as if they “want to help put out the burning city,” this letter held their sin up before them.

That’s what the Law does. It shows us both how we ought to live and how we have failed to meet its expectations. You shall not kill, and you must do all you can to seek your neighbor’s wellbeing. Murder, according to Martin Luther, can be done readily with a knife or with disregard for medicine and public health.

So far I have not drawn analogies to our current situation in our own pandemic, five hundred years after Martin Luther wrote his letter. Now, however, I will. First, take a deep breath, and unclench your jaw, if you would. Then let us see together how we may protect our community from our own deadly plague. As Martin Luther asks, what does this mean?

Yesterday, Polk County Public Health issued a statement about current conditions in our community. Among other grim changes, they reported: “During the month of July 2021, Polk County was averaging 31 COVID-19 cases a day. As of August 22, 2021, we are averaging 120 COVID-19 cases a day. We expect our COVID-19 cases in Polk County will continue to surge since school has started and individuals are not following COVID-19 prevention strategies, including wearing masks in public indoor settings.” They also wrote that hospitalizations are increasing, including the highest-ever number of pediatric cases in Polk County.

Finally, Polk County Public Health advised:

  • If you are still not vaccinated, there are many places for you to receive your COVID-19 vaccine such as your healthcare provider, pharmacy or local health department.
  • Follow the CDC recommendations and wear a mask in ALL indoor locations including at school, work, while running errands and any other public areas.
  • If you need to be tested for COVID-19, DO NOT go to the emergency department to be tested. Please contact urgent care or your primary healthcare provider.
  • If you have tested positive for COVID-19, do NOT go to work, school or to run errands until you are well. You are potentially exposing anyone you are around including family and friends.
  • If you are waiting for COVID-19 test results, do NOT go to work, school or to run errands until you have your test results.
  • Continue to social distance, wash your hands frequently and cover your cough and/or sneeze.
  • If you are experiencing severe COVID-19 symptoms, do not hesitate to seek medical care at an urgent care clinic or at an emergency department.

Like so many of you, I am tired of masks, distancing, and all the rest. I long for gatherings, shared meals, and hugs. There is nothing I love more about ministry than putting bread and promises into outstretched hands at the Lord’s Supper. 

And it is also true that I am convinced it would be sin to tempt God by disregarding my neighbor’s wellbeing in the midst of this delta surge. I pray daily for health in our community, for a decrease in sickness and death, and for a true end to this pandemic, and I ask you to join me in this. I also continue my commitment to following Polk County Public Health guidance for my neighbor’s wellbeing, and I ask you to join me in that as well.

God, watch over us. Protect us from the sin of what we do and what we do not do. Forgive us where we go wrong. Bring an end to the pandemic. Help us love our neighbors as we love ourselves. Amen.


Best Day Ever!

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, God’s mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning. Great is your faithfulness! -Lamentations 3:22-23

My daughter, Junia, is four. Lately, she has a favorite phrase: “Best Day Ever!” Once, she declared eight days in a row “Best Day Ever!” She has exclaimed this phrase on days that included ice cream cones and zoo visits, on days that included ten hours in the car, and on days that held nothing particularly memorable at all. Every day, it would seem, is a candidate for “Best Day Ever!”

It’s an attitude that I envy. There is so much that can ruin a day. There are the so-called “first world problems:” running out of coffee, forgetting your lunch, all the good parking spots being taken, or your favorite show getting taken off Netflix. There are bigger problems: conflict at work or home, unexpected bills, or depression. There are problems so big we stare at them without any idea what to do next: wildfires and droughts pressing the question of climate change, the news coming out of Afghanistan, or a pandemic that is resurging right as we thought we were past the worst of it.

It would be easiest to say that it’s just because she doesn’t watch the news, or pay bills, or worry that makes a four-year-old so able to declare any or every day “Best Day Ever!” What does she really know about it, anyway? Her troubles are small and easily resolved by the adults around her. Why shouldn’t she be joyful? 

Attributing an attitude of joy to a life free of trouble, however, creates an even stickier problem. Our lives will never be free from trouble, sorrow, and stress. Life always includes pain, and anyone who says otherwise is inevitably selling something.

However, our faith tells us that life is not only pain, trouble, and problems. It’s not even primarily those things, though it might feel that way sometimes. Instead, our faith declares that each morning brings God’s love and mercy, fresh for the day ahead. Every sunrise, even one covered by clouds, is a sign of God’s faithfulness. Joy isn’t a matter of circumstance, but perspective. 

With the right perspective, we begin to realize that with God, the Best Day Ever is every day. Any day that God is faithful, keeping God’s promises to love and care for us, is a Best Day Ever. Any day that God’s steadfast love comes to us is a Best Day Ever. Any day that God’s mercies don’t cease is a Best Day Ever.

God, thank you for your mercy, your steadfast love, and your great faithfulness. Give me the perspective to see these gifts each day. Amen.

Imitators of God

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

-Ephesians 5:1-2

When was the last time you played Simon Says? It’s a simple game: the leader tells you what to do, and you do it. The only catch is that if the leader doesn’t say “Simon says” at the beginning of the instruction, you definitely don’t do whatever it is. If Simon says jump, you jump. If Simon says clap your hands, you clap. If the leader says simply “touch your knees,” you better not! It’s a silly game, but one that kids often love because it’s so easy—and because it’s fun to copy the the leader.

Kids often copy their role models, whether it’s a parent, teacher, older sibling, or friend. They learn habits, good and bad, by imitation. If a parent supports a particular sports team, odds are that their kid will, too. If a teacher shows their love of reading, students often follow suit. From vocabulary to hobbies to values, kids imitate the people around them. It’s like Simon Says, but on a much larger scale.

Of course, it isn’t just children who imitate what they want to be. Adults copy one another, too. The whole advertising industry thrives on adults seeing something they want their life to be like and hoping that buying the right car, watch, medication, or haircut will lead to satisfaction. Rows of self-help books at Barnes & Noble feature inspirational authors who turned their lives around, and so can you, if you just follow their advice to the letter. At least, that’s what they say.

Everybody is imitating somebody. Who are your role models? Who are you copying? For the followers of Jesus in Ephesus, they needed a reminder to check their role models and make an effort to imitate God. In particular, this letter urged them to be like children, imitating God’s love in their lives.

That’s a serious challenge. Imitate God like a beloved child imitates their parent, and live in love. Don’t live in judgment, or guilt, or competition. Don’t live in doubt, or worry, or fear. Don’t live in anger, or greed, or pride. Live in love. Settle into love. Put down roots in love. Copy God, whose love for us was so great that Jesus Christ gave up everything so we could be called beloved children of God.

It’s like Simon Says: God says love. God says love. Again, and again, God says love.

God, make me an imitator of you. Let me copy your love like a child copies their parent. May my whole life be lived in love. Amen.

Faith Like a Child

Jesus said, “I assure you that if you don’t turn your lives around and become like this little child, you will definitely not enter the kingdom of heaven.” -Matthew 18:3

Last week, Resurrection Lutheran held our annual Vacation Bible School. Kids and adults came together to grow in faith, putting on the armor of God to face all of the day’s challenges. They saw how their faith connected not only with worship and Bible study, but also with crafts, science, and games. This week, seven of our students are at Lutheran Lakeside Camp, immersed in the theme “PROMISES>PROBLEMS,” reminding them that God’s promises are always greater than the problems we face.

Did you participate in VBS or church camp as a child? I’m guessing that if you did, it was memorable. There is something about these experiences that makes an impression. An article about the impact of church camps put it this way: “Campers … are immersed in a faith-forming environment in which the songs, games, and activities become part of a theological playground. They do not just study God or take in information about God, as they might be asked to do in confirmation class or listening to a sermon in church. Instead, they experience a life that is caught up with and dependent on God’s ongoing activity in the world.” (Episcopal Teacher, 2017)

Life that is caught up with and dependent on God’s ongoing activity in the world. That’s a pretty good definition of Christian discipleship, actually. Faith isn’t just taking in information or agreeing to a set of belief statements. Discipleship isn’t some kind of self-improvement journey to get better behaved. It’s an everyday awareness that there is a connection between “blessed are the peacemakers” and being the first person to apologize. Between “love your neighbor” and making sure everyone is included. Between “you shall not bear false witness” and speaking well of people, even the ones you don’t like much. Between “I am with you always” and God being present in even the very worst moments of our lives. 

Kids have a knack for doing this. They don’t compartmentalize their lives like adults, who make clear lines between church, work, home, and play. Kids see the connections between their faith and, well, everything else. They see “God’s ongoing activity in the world” at all times and in all places. Maybe that’s what Jesus was really getting at with his disciples when he told them they needed to be like a little child to enter the kingdom of heaven, and when he taught them to pray “your kingdom come on earth as in heaven.” 

God’s kingdom isn’t far-off, saved for an afterlife of paradise, but here and now, if we have eyes to see it. When we become like children and see that God is active in every part of our lives, we realize that we’re already living in the kingdom of heaven. All that’s left is to look and see what God is doing as we live each day as God’s children.

God, make me like a little child. Show me where you are already active in the world, so I can see your kingdom of heaven come on earth. Amen.

God’s Strength

Be strong in the Lord, and the strength of his power. -Ephesians 6:10

About a month ago, my car had a flat tire. I had driven over something that punctured the tire, and it went flat in my garage. It seemed like the logical solution was to change the tire and take the flat into a mechanic to see if it could be repaired or replaced. You might be thinking to yourself, “Surely she did not attempt to change the tire by herself, despite never having changed a tire before in her life.” If you are thinking that, you would be wrong.

I most certainly did set out to change the tire by myself. I dug out the spare and the jack and the tire wrench from the trunk. I figured out the jack and got the car up a few inches. And then I began to remove the lug nuts. I say “began” because despite all the effort I could muster, I only managed to remove three of the five. Three out of five is a fine record for a baseball series. It is not much help with changing a tire.

As I stood in my garage, willing the last two lug nuts to come loose, I realized that my I, determined though I was, had no more chance of getting that tire off than making myself fly. My own strength couldn’t get the tire changed. I needed help.

Life is full of moments like that, isn’t it? We think our own strength will be enough to get us through our problems, even though any spectator would correctly guarantee that it isn’t. We try to power through when we should ask for help. We ignore the signs that we’re failing under the load. We believe that we can do it on our own, despite all evidence to the contrary. Whether the problem is physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual, asking for help is usually our very last resort.

I suppose that’s the reason the Ephesian Christians needed to be reminded to be strong “in the Lord,” not in their own power, but rather in God’s. No matter how strong they were, no matter how determined or gifted, they needed the reminder that it was God’s strength, not theirs, that would make the difference.

Where do you look for strength when you realize you need more than you have? Look to God. God’s strength is perfect and powerful when ours is insufficient. This is especially true when facing up against guilt, worry, temptation, perfectionism, or fear: God’s strength is the strength we need.

God, strengthen us with your power. Teach us to rely on you, not our own strength. Amen.

A Light to My Path

Your word is a lamp to my feet

   and a light to my path.

-Psalm 119:105

Our Bibles are full of poetry, advice, community guidelines, letters, and history. These words have been passed down for millennia, beginning as oral accounts or worship resources, then finally being assembled into the Bibles we know and use about 1700 years ago. Because we trust that God speaks to us through the words of our Bibles, we often call the Bible the “Word of God.” 

Sometimes the words we encounter in the Bible are straightforward and easy to understand across the centuries: “You shall not steal” comes to mind. Often, though, we need context to make sense of a world very different from our own. Knowing more about the people who first spoke and wrote these words helps us to hear what God is speaking to us today.

Take the poetry of Psalm 119:105. God’s word is compared to a lamp, lighting the walker’s path. Here’s the thing about walking in the night three thousand years ago in Palestine (or anywhere, for that matter): it was truly dark. There were no street lights. No warm glow spilled out of open windows. Certainly no one could pull a cellphone out of their pocket to light up the path. If you didn’t bring a light, you didn’t have a light.

Do you carry God’s word with you wherever you go? A lamp in the house is no help on a dark path. It needs to be close by to do any good. That’s another thing about the lamps they used three thousand years ago: they were not floodlights. A lamp offered just enough light to take the next step clearly. God’s word doesn’t illuminate our whole lives from start to end, convenient as that would be. When God’s word is close to us, though, it offers the light we need to take the next step. Then, once that step is taken, the light of God’s word with us illuminates the next step, and the next, and on and on until we reach our journey’s end.

God, let your word always be near me to guide me and give light to each step I take. Amen.

Ordinary Blessings

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD’s face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD look with favor upon you and give you peace. -Numbers 6:24-26

I was recently gifted a book called Ordinary Blessings, written by ELCA pastor Meta Herrick Carlson. It is full of blessings for, well, all the ordinary moments in life. There is a blessing for grocery shopping, a blessing for paying bills, and a blessing for decluttering. There are blessings for moments less frequent but equally ordinary: for a sleepless night, for sitting near small children on an airplane, for moving, for planting a tree. There are blessings for terrible, tender moments: for divorce, infertility, overdose, trauma. There’s even a whole section of “blessings for b-list holidays.”

My current favorite blessing from the book is called “For Bare Feet.” It begins: “Let them callus in summertime, a reunion with the texture of the ground, and feel the temperature of the earth. Let them cool off in the river, the sand coating them until grains dry in the warm air and fall away…” Can you remember the last time your bare feet soaked in fresh water? Did it feel like a blessing?

I used to think that sacred and ordinary were opposites. Sacred was holy and separate, distinct from the mundane, everyday stuff of life. The more I study of the Bible and experience of life, the more I see that the two are connected. God has always cared deeply about every aspect of people’s lives. The food we eat, the relationships we make and tend and break, the work we do, the rest we take: these matter to God. Jesus blessed people wherever he met them. Nothing is too ordinary for God.

If God cares about this everyday stuff (and God does), then so should we as God’s people. We can offer bold blessings over our mundane moments, good and bad and indifferent, reminding ourselves that God’s presence and concern are with us wherever we are.

Wherever you are, whatever you do, whomever you’re with: God bless you and keep you, God smile on you with overflowing grace, God look tenderly and compassionately at you and give you peace. Amen.