Lifetimes: April 2020

From the Staff

Senior Pastor Kai Nilsen

The essential thing in heaven and earth is that there be a long obedience in the same direction  

The title of Eugene Peterson’s book, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, is an apt description of what is required of us in our time. There is no shortcut back to our previous life. There is a long, perilous journey ahead for many individuals, communities and countries. No one will be immune from either the virus or the effect the virus has on our daily lives. No one. We are all in this together . . . for the long run. 

That may be a hard thing to hear. But, it’s better to be honest. Everything is up in the air. Today we were rescheduling the Affirmation of Baptism service for our 9th graders. We set a new date with the caveat, “That’s the best we can do, for now.” We are in the process of rescheduling our Mobilepack for Feed My Starving Children. We set a new date with the caveat, “That’s the best we can do, for now.”  

A long obedience in the same direction 

The biblical witness is a story of the people of God’s long obedience (and often disobediencein the same direction as they navigated slavery and freedom, war and peace, seasons of plague and seasons of harvest. The writer of the book of Hebrews (chapter 11) chronicles many of the journeys using this repeating phrase, “By faith Abraham and Sarah . . .” “By faith Moses . . .” By faith . . .By faith . . . By faith . . . By faith, they pressed on.  

A long obedience in the same direction 

One of the words in the Greek New Testament used for obey, also means “giving an ear, listening”. Here are a few things we can “listen” to as we navigate this journey together: 

  • Listen to God: Read the stories. Tune in to the online worship. Pray with words and by being quiet. Talk with one another about where you see God present.  
  • Listen to your body: It knows when you need to move or be still, when you are hungry or just craving. Listen and obey what your body is telling you.  
  • Listen underneath the words of family/friends: Many of us are not good at articulating what is going on within us. So, don’t be afraid to ask people how they are doing and then just listen. Once you’ve listened, ask one more question, “What can I do?”  
  • Listen to the scientists and those who know: There is so much noise going on in our world—public speculations and hunches that are not helpful. Find a few trusted, reliable sources of information and “obey” their recommendations as best you can.   
  • Listen to the cries and pain and grief of those on the front lines: It’s not easy to hear but we need to honor, encourage and pray for health care workers who will be putting their lives at risk dealing with this virus. Pray for those whose lives are teetering on the brink of life and death, and the families of those who have and will die.  

A long obedience in the same direction 

This journey requires the long view. But, it also requires short term action. Here are ways you can respond now:  

  • Gratitude: Find something each day to celebrate. The journey requires us to focus our minds on what God is already and continually doing. Look for it. Celebrate it. Participate in it.  
  • Generosity: Incarnation and our ministry partners are dependent on your ongoing generosity, even and especially from a distance. The reality is that we receive more offerings when we are able to come together than we have being apart these past few weeks. In the long run, your generosity will be even more critical. Note: We realize many of you may be affected by the tumultuous economy. Please do what you need to do to support your family, first. Others of us may be able to continue to be generous and beyond. Jesus said it this way, “For those to whom much has been given, much will be required.” That is definitely true for us now.
  • Goodness: Life is hard. Be good to yourself. Be good to your neighbors, to your kid’s teachers, to the workers who have to keep showing up so that basic services can be provided.   

A long obedience in the same direction 

Holy Week is coming up. Listen in to the story of Jesus’ life of sacrifice and compassion and love and obedience. For a few days, it seemed like the direction led ominously and ultimately toward death. God had something else in mind . . . a pathway through death to new life!   

A long obedience in the same direction . . . that direction is life! 

Peace. Kai 

Another Way . . . Holy Week and Easter Worship 

The worship planning team couldn’t have possibly known how different Holy Week and Easter worship would be this year when the theme Another Way was announced, but we will worship in another way indeed! The worship team has been hard at work creating services to allow you to experience the incredible story of Jesus’ journey to the cross and resurrection, all available onlineWe encourage you to make these services special within your home . . . set aside an agreed upon time when all other distractions will be turned off or removed, create a space that is meaningful by lighting candles or decorating with flowersdo whatever you find helpful to enter into worship and then begin the service. 

We also encourage you to extend the worship experience to others by sharing the linkWith so many people sheltering at home, there are those who are unable to worship with their own church communities or don’t have a church community at all, but would enjoy a friendly invitation to worship with ours. 

You can help spread the Good News in your neighborhood too! People have been putting stuffed bears, colorful hearts and messages of solidarity in their windows to spread cheer in their neighborhoods during these times of distant socializing. We’re all experiencing an unusual Easter season this year, so one of the ways we can safely celebrate together is by putting signs and symbols of the resurrection where others can see them. If you have children, have them draw crosses, butterflies, flowers and rainbows in chalk on the sidewalk or driveway. Phrases like “He is risen!”, “Alleluia!”, or “Happy Easter!” written on paper and hung in a window are another good option. Be creative and help spread joy this Easter season because the Resurrection Matters! If you send us photos, we would love to share them on our social media.

Staying Connected 

Back in March, when it became clear that we would need to physically distance ourselves for everyone’s health, the Incarnation staff was faced with the challenge “How do we stay connected as a community when we can’t gather together?” Worship quickly went online. Lessons for children and youth of all ages became digital. Mass communications are sent out daily to provide support and interaction for those who are looking for ways to connect and find some footing in an uncertain time. 

While many in our community have shared with us their gratitude for our daily presence in their inboxes, others will feel overwhelmed. Trying to balance working from home, keeping up with family, homeschooling, online orders, etc. means that another email sometimes feels like another obligation instead of an invitation to connect. Some in our community are still looking for meaningful ways to connect that suit their lifestyle and needs. Luckily, you have the ability to control what communications you receive from Incarnation and have a variety of opportunities to connect! 

Managing Communications from Incarnation 

Incarnation currently has two main forms of communication: email and Facebook. Emails sent through our provider, Constant Contact, allow multiple ministries at Incarnation to use the same account. (Like the Lifetimes email) If you decide that you would no longer like to receive emails about Lifetimes (Incarnation’s monthly newsletter), It’s Monday (Senior Pastor Kai’s messages to the congregation), or any other variety of emails sent through Constant Contact you are encouraged to email the contact person at the bottom of the page to ask them to remove you from a mailing list. Using the “unsubscribe” link provided by Constant Contact will block you from receiving ANY emails, regardless of content, via Constant Contact. Please note that some of our most important updates to the congregation come through Constant Contact. 

Our Facebook page is updated most days and you can find it here. 

We also have an Instagram and Twitter account that we’re just starting to utilize that you may enjoy following. 

Our new database system, Realm, is how we’re tracking who wants to be a part of which communications and the exciting part is that you can manage your own account. The staff is still learning all the different ways to use this powerful tool to streamline and enhance your experience, but it works best with your help. If you haven’t already claimed or created your account, email Amy Martell, Office Manager at to have an invitation link sent to you. 

Ways to Connect 

There are a variety of social media links to connect to more specific ministry areas for Incarnation. Click here for a resource page. 

Connecting as the People of Incarnation: A more direct way to connect with others and serve in the Incarnation community was recently developed to help facilitate more one on one connections for those who wish to be involved or serve. These ways of connecting/serving could involve phone calls, emails, video chat, pen pals, being a part of a calling team, providing technical support, or getting groceries, etc. If you are someone who needs this support, please use the same form provided on the page. Click here to see more details about these opportunities to connect and serve.  

If you need to connect with a specific staff member, you can find the directory here. 

You Can Help Us! 

Thank You 

Thank you so very much for all your support as we navigate how to stay connected while being physically apart. Incarnation has never been about the building, it’s about who we are as a community and without your participation and generosity, our ministry we share together wouldn’t be possible. We encourage you to connect on social media with us in ways that make sense for you as we will be slowing down on the amount of general mass emails sent out after Easter to help relieve some of the overflowing inboxes people have. There is still so much vibrancy and life happening in the congregation and in our work . . . you won’t want to miss it. 

Coping with COVID-19: A Mental Health Perspective 

By Amy Martell

In the United States, one of every five adults are affected by mental illness, with depressive and anxiety disorders being two of the most prevalent. Even if you don’t have a formal diagnosis, you may find the recent events of COVID-19 to be triggering to you in some way. The anxiety of contracting the disease as well as the increase in loneliness and isolation can worsen these symptoms. Let me tell you, this is a completely normal reaction to what is going on!  

If you have not experienced anxiety or depression symptoms yourself, you may need help noticing what to watch out forDecreased mood, feelings of hopelessness, lack of interest in hobbies/activities, decreased energyexcessive worry or panic, increased irritability, or being easily startled are just some of the more common symptoms people with anxiety and/or depression experience. 

Once you know what to look for, then you can work toward finding ways to manage the symptoms as they arise. Here are a few ideas to get you started: 

1. Acknowledge Your Situation 

One of my favorite mental health professionals and advocates, Tiffanie Roe, uses the expression “Feel, deal, heal” to allow people permission to acknowledge and work through their current emotional and mental state. Allow yourself the permission to be sad that you don’t get to see friends or family in person and are feeling lonely because of which. Allow yourself the permission to be anxious about managing the competing priorities of parenting and working from home. Allow yourself the permission to be mad that your vacation plans are being changed because of travel restrictions. Say these out loud, write them in a journal, or verbalize them through prayer. Once you give yourself permission to feel, then you can deal and heal from it. 

2. Protect Yourself 

You know how when you fly on an airplane, the flight attendant instructs you to “put your oxygen mask on first before helping others? This is also a good way to think about caring for and protecting yourself during this time. Set personal boundaries of your time and space. Keep or make routines that are helpful for you. Create time for self-care activities, such as writing a letter to a friend, reading a book, doing a puzzle with your family, taking a nap, eatintasty snack, taking a bike ride, dance, laugh and much more! Finding creative ways to take care of yourself gives you the time that you need (and deserve!) to show up in life.  

3. Help Others 

Did you know that performing random acts of kindness can boost your psychological health by helping to release dopamine, a chemical in your brain that makes you feel goodBy picking up groceries for a home-bound neighbor or sewing masks for medical staff, you are not only helping those in need, but in doing so, you can also increase your mood and mental health. If you need more ideas for how you can help, please follow this link of current needs of Incarnation’s ministry partners.

4. Reach Out for Help 

Everyone reacts differently to stressful situations, like the coronavirusIf you need help, there are great organizations and resources, that are available online and via telehealth.  

  • Reach out to someone who you can trust to openly talk about your concerns. Whether that is a family member, friend, or someone on staff, there are people in your life who care about youDealing with mental health is hard, and you don’t have to do it alone! 
  • Psychology Today has a Therapist Directory tool that you can use to find help in your area and within your specific need. There are also great articles and resources, especially about the effect of the coronavirus on mental health, that you can access. To view, go to 
  • If you are having mental health crisis, text MN to 741741 or call 651-266-7900 (for Ramsey County)These resources provide 24/7 care if you or someone you care about is having a mental health crisis. 

Some questions to ponder: What other things do you currently do to help maintain your mental health? How can you share this information to others in your family/friend group who might be in need of that skill or practice? Who can you think of in your life that might be struggling and how can you encourage them in this time of great need?

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to substitute for professional mental health care and is not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any mental health conditions. Amy has her Masters in Marriage in Family Therapy, is not licensed to treat, nor is she a mental health professional. 

Goodbye Pastor Janet Karvonen-Montgomery 

Janet Karvonen-Montgomery, Pastor for Wellness and Generosity

After her personal unpaid leave of absence starting in JanuaryRev. Janet, Incarnation’s Pastor of Wellness and Generosity has resigned her position on staff. This will allow her the flexibility of time to care for her mother, mother-in-law, and family, while also being able to spend time with her husband, Al who retired in 2019. Janet is grateful for being called and ordained by the people of Incarnation in 2017 and has a great love for the community of which she has been a part of for over 20 years. She looks forward to continuing to be a part of our community and shared mission in whatever ways her gifts are called. 

Usually, Incarnation would host an event to let the congregation say goodbye to a pastor in person, but in these times of distant socializing, we must forego such a gathering at this time. In the meanwhile, if you would like to send Rev. Janet a note to thank her for her service, her work email address will still be active and we will be able to send her any mail that she might receive via the Incarnation Office.  

Hand in Hand in Working to End Hunger 

By Vernita Kennen 

Incarnation has worked “hand in hand” for many years to end hunger in our world. While we have supported Feed My Starving Children with packing events as well as campaigns supporting the Ralph Reeder Food Shelf, we have also supported Bread for the World’s efforts with advocacy letters to our U.S. legislators. The reality of the world in which we live is that we need both avenues if we are to address people who live with hunger. 

Packing and providing meals and gathering donations serves immediate needs for those who are hungry today while changes to our federal policies and funding bring lasting change to international programs in areas of child and maternal health and nutrition. Both efforts help people, especially children, around the world to live healthier and more productive lives.    

Sunday, April 26 will be a day when our hands connect in a new way this year.  The Hunger Awareness and Advocacy Group wilprovide an online opportunity to write letters to legislators about funding global and domestic nutrition programs, which will come to you along with online worshipThis overlap of efforts only helps us to better understand the need for working to end hunger in more than one way. 

Extend your hands in multiple ways at this time of year as we at Incarnation work together answering God’s call to end hunger. And continue to keep hungry people and efforts like these in your prayers today and tomorrow and tomorrow. 

Library Book Review

The Alto Wore Tweed: A Liturgical Mystery By Mark Schweizer

What? What on earth is a liturgical mystery? Well, here’s the way to find out as you follow the small-town police chief whose part-time job is as organist and choir director at the local Episcopal church. As if that isn’t complicated enough, Hayden is convinced he 

can write a new mystery novel (on his special old manual typewriter) which he tests out on his girlfriend and the choir. That means you really have to solve two different mysteries in this single title . . . if you can. 

Full of slapstick humor and plenty of religious music and liturgical references, this will keep you smiling if not laughing out loud. Not exactly “churchy” reading but a whole lot of fun and filled with peculiar characters. (Like the new Episcopal priest, a woman who he refers to as “Herself” and who would like you to call her “Mother Ryan”.) 

The author, Mark Schweizer, has a whole series of The _____Who Wore _______ titles like The Tenor Wore Tapshoes. Since this was a donated item to our church library, perhaps there will be more to come. Until we are able to use the Apostles Library again, you may purchase this book online here.

Among the Congregation

Sympathy To: The family of Eric Larson on his death; Erica Larson and family on the death of her brother; Travis Vanden Broeke and family on the death of his father; the family of Joanne Westley on her death. 

 Recently Baptized: Skyler Stella, daughter of Mindy Park and Andy Dorr. 

Congratulations To: Tina and Scott Allie on the birth of their daughter, Charlotte Faith; Jenny and Tim Ballman on the birth of their son, Henry Charles.


2020 Minnesota FoodShare EXTENDED Due to COVID-19 

A percentage of ALL dollars donated to the Ralph Reeder Food Shelf will be matched by Minnesota Foodshare through April 30 – making it the perfect time to give! Donate online through Incarnation’s secured site or directly to the Ralph Reeder Food Shelf . Please note that during this time while COVID-19 is a concern, physical donations are not being accepted by the Ralph Reeder Food Shelf. 

LifeHaven and Solid Ground Needs Due to COVID-19 

Incarnation’s ministry partners LifeHaven and Solid Ground have identified specific donation needs for their residents during this most uncertain time experienced by vulnerable families. Learn more details on the LifeHaven page and the Solid Ground page, including when and where to drop off items, and how you can get help transporting your donated items should that be needed.  

From Solid Ground: “Thank you to the amazing volunteers that are assisting our families by picking up food from local food shelves. Thank you to all of the in-kind donors who have brought our families essential items. This community is amazing and our families are beyond grateful for your support.” 

Preschool New Classroom Donations 

In order to meet the needs of families in the community, Incarnation Preschool is excited to expand our physical space to use Classrooms 13-14 for an additional class for the coming school year. Numerous items and furniture will be needed to make this happen. We need your help! Only financial donations can be accepted. Donations can be made by visiting the Online Giving link on the Incarnation website or by sending them to Incarnation. Contact Kirsten Barie, Preschool Director at with any questions. 

Quarterly Giving Statements 

Incarnation is now using a new church management system, Realm, to track financial donations. Electronic giving statements will be sent out quarterly for those members who have an email address on file. We are doing some final testing, but hope to have 1st quarter statements (January, February, March) for 2020 sent electronically by the end of April. Once we are able to return to the Incarnation Office, we will print and mail to those members without an email address on file as needed. You are also able to view your donations electronically by selecting the Giving Tab in your Realm Profile. (Please note that March donations are not 100% uploaded at this time.) If you are married and both the married couples can’t see their giving under their profile, please send an email to Amy Faymoville, Financial Secretary at so she can combine your records. 

There was a glitch in the conversion process and we have discovered that not all couples were initially linked together. If you don’t currently have access to your Realm profile and need assistance, contact Amy Martell, Office Manager at for an activation email. 

Preschool Positions Available 

Incarnation’s NAEYC accredited preschool program is seeking a qualified part time lead teacher and an assistant teacher for the Mon/Wed/Fri classes for 4-5 year olds for the upcoming school year. This position would be from 8:00 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. with additional hours throughout the school year for meetings, trainings, prep work, orientation, school events and substituting. The ideal candidate will be able to meet Minnesota DHS and NAEYC requirements. For more information, contact Kirsten Barie, Preschool Director at or 651-766-0723. 

2020 All Hands on Hope Feed My Starving Children MobilePack RESCHEDULED for October 21 – 27  

Great news! The 2020 All Hands on Hope FMSC MobilePack™ Event which was postponed from May, has been rescheduled for Wednesday, October 21 – Tuesday, October 27, when together we’ll pack more than one million meals at Incarnation! More information will be available in the coming months including a new shift schedule since these new dates mean packing meals over a weekend. Think of how wonderful it will be to celebrate the Reformation in worship on Sunday, October 25 and then BE the Church in the afternoon as well as other days surrounding Reformation Sunday. Go to  to learn more and make a donation for the food we’ll pack together. Your prayers for Feed My Starving Children, their partners on the ground and people who rely on the food, are greatly appreciated.