Lifetimes: April 2021

From the Staff

Senior Pastor Kai Nilsen

What will we do After… we get the vaccine? How will our lives, individually and corporately, change? What will stay the same? What did we learn about ourselves—what we need and don’t need, what we can simply enjoy and what we must simply endure, what makes life meaningful, significant and what elements were void of much meaning, held little significance?  

What will we do After…? 

After… is the theme for our Easter season. The purpose of this season will be to immerse this community in the transformative news of the resurrection: In God’s love, there is always life AFTER… (after death, after loss, after shame, after doubt, after being apart, etc…). Each week, our Sunday worship themes will engage these gracious and generous movements of God in our lives. There is always life After. 

We also know that, in a church without walls, what we do each day and what we focus on each week matters—it shapes how we see and engage our world. To that end we have also created a very simple practice guide for this season. Here is a sample of what we will be inviting our community to do in this upcoming week: 

Daily Prayer: Each day (or as many days that you remember) we invite you to say this prayer as a way to focus your mind and spirit on the ways God’s Spirit is alive in and through you. If there are other people in your household, you may choose to say this prayer together.  

Spirit of God
Put love in my life. 

Spirit of God
Put joy in my life. 

Spirit of God
Put peace in my life. 

Spirit of God
Make me patient. 

Spirit of God
Make me kind. 

Spirit of God
Make me good. 

Spirit of God
Give me faithfulness.  

Spirit of God
Give me humility. 

Spirit of God
Make me feel alive! 

Weekly Reflection and Action: Each week we invite you to focus on one phrase of this prayer. Through reflection (our inward journey) and action (our outward journey) the Spirit works to deepen our experience of God’s presence in and through us. Again, these can be done on your own or with others 

April 11-17: Spirit of God, make us patient. 

  • Reflection: Our doubts and self-doubt often plague us. Think of a situation you confronted recently when you didn’t know exactly what to do next, but you did something anyway. How did it turn out? 
  • Action – Two options: 
    • Author Brian McLaren will be discussing his new book, Faith after Doubtfrom 6-7:00pm. April 11. Join the conversation on Zoom. 
    • Memorize the Serenity Prayer and make it part of your life wisdom when you face uncertain situations.  

God, grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference. Amen. 

You can download the full prayer and practice guide for the season here. 

If you are planning on joining the conversation with Brian McLaren, here is the information:  

An Evening with Brian McLaren:  Sunday, April 11 from 6 – 7:00.
Brian is an author, speaker, activist and public theologian. He is a pastor advocate for “a new kind of Christianity”-just, generous and working with people of all faiths for the common good.  

Brian will be leading a conversation about his new book, Faith After Doubt. He will be specifically addressing the stages of our faith and how “doubt” plays a pivotal role in deepening our faith experience. I would suggest picking up the book as a gift for this Easter Season so you can be prepared for the conversation. Invite as many friends as you would like.  

The Zoom link for the event is: 

What will you do After…?  

In the presence and power of the resurrection,

The Fingerprints of GodA Prayer for Feed My Starving Children MobilePack Trial Event 

By Sally Lawless
The Feed My Starving Children (FMSC) Action Group at Incarnation has been working closely with FMSC to prepare for the MobilePackTM Trial Event happening April 22-24. This event is intended to give FMSC insight into how to execute future MobilePack events to ensure safety for all volunteers, staff and the recipients of the meals. With so many changes occurring in the past year, the Action Group felt it was important to develop a prayer and a visual theme that unites and centers us in the effort of feeding God’s kids throughout the world.     

Like our own fingerprints, prayer is a universal and unique part of our faith. This concept also connects us to the unity in which we share all of God’s gifts to those who do not have enough; rice, soy, veggies, vitamins, caring hands packing meals, and the FMSC organization that coordinates the production and distribution of meals. The visual represents the hands of FMSC’s partner organizations all over the world who ensure these meals get to those they are intended for. We are reminded that all we do is a prayer in action; we are taking the role of prayer for this event beyond just the words and into the world.   

For some people, prayer is very private and public prayer can feel a little daunting. This simple image reminds us all that prayer can take many forms beyond words and can be as beautiful as giving time to pack meals, letting a song breathe spirit into you, feeling one with God, and sometimes even tears can be a prayer. It is quite simply, time spent with God, letting God put his fingerprints on us in all we do and letting God show us how connected we are to all of creation. 

Dear God,
Oh, how exciting it is that you are ushering in new hands on hope with the return of in-person packing at Incarnation! All these months we have laid our hands of prayer over the children who are waiting for this life-giving food.
Your fingerprints are all over every one of them. And soon, in a newly secure and careful way, our virtual fingerprints will be packing these meals, sealing these boxes, and coming together in prayer to guide the food safely to its destinations.
Remind us always that your fingerprints cover all of creation, you have fashioned us to love and care for every part of it, and this work is our prayer to do what we can to meet the needs of the least of us.

Please join the FMSC Action Group as we pray for this event in April. For more information on how to volunteer or donate, visit the Feed My Starving Children MobilePack event page.

Finance Committee Update 

We are excited to share that the Finance Committee, with approval from Council, was able to re-negotiate Incarnation’s mortgage with our lender. As a result of the lower interest rate environment, we were able to re-finance our principal of $2,536,913 to a 13-year term from 5.25% to 3.75% with a monthly payment of $20,817. This rate is guaranteed for the first eight years. However, if we keep our same mortgage payment of $28,540, we will have the loan paid off in nine years and save about $250,000 in interest expense compared to our current mortgage. 

This is an exciting opportunity to take another step closer to being debt free as a congregation. Thank you for everyone’s continued generosity and giving to our Capital Campaign and Operating ExpensesWe believe, with God’s guidance, we will have this debt retired before our interest rate lock expires in eight years. 

Fostering Innovation: Think BIG 

By Vicki Engelen
What do happy hours, horses and a pay-as-you-can café have in common? They are the first three recipients of Budding Idea Grants (BIG), made available from Incarnation’s Endowment Fund. BIG funding goes to innovative outreach programs in the greater community and beyond. This includes start-up initiatives or expansion of existing programs. 

Another Kind of Happy Hour workshop. A grant of $2,700 was made to two trained facilitators (one an Incarnation member). They have used it to enhance the Another Kind of Happy Hour curriculum to make it a richer experience for people of faith. This program helps participants learn to increase positive emotions and achieve greater resilience. A two-hour introductory course for Incarnation will be offered at no cost. (For more details, see an article that focuses on this program, also in this issue of LifeTimes.) 

Changing Gaits. Since 2007, this faith-based nonprofit has used the healing bond with horses and emphasis on a life lived for Christ to help youth struggling with mental, emotional and behavioral disorders to find new strength and capabilities. This year, Changing Gaits is launching a Youth Horse Camp. With daily and weeklong options, this program will use equine-assisted therapy techniques to help develop character and leadership skills in elementary and middle school aged children. BIG funding of $2,000 will go toward scholarships for youth participants who otherwise could not afford to attend. 

Shobi’s Table, a pay-as-you-can café. This organization offers healthy, delicious, made-from-scratch meals to everyone who comes to their food truck, no matter what they can pay, in the Frogtown and Midway neighborhoods of St. Paul. There is one lunchtime meal offered at each of these locations weekly. BIG funding of $3,000 is being used to add a serving day and location (Capitol Hill/Rice Street neighborhood) to their schedule this spring. It will cover programming costs for two to three months, as well as advertising to create awareness of this new offering. A number of people from Incarnation volunteer at Shobi’s Table. 

For more details about the Budding Idea Grants program, visit the web page and print a copy of the brochure, which describes eligibility and how to apply. Grant applications can also be found on the web page and may be completed online. Othey can be downloadedfilled out and sent to the BIG email address, Questions about the program can also be sent to this address. 

Incarnation’s Endowment Fund provides resources, apart from regular giving, to support and enhance the mission and vision of Incarnation Lutheran Church. There are a number of ways to make gifts to the Endowment Fund, including online or by a check made out to Incarnation with “Endowment” indicated on the memo line. These and other options are described on the web page. 

Another Kind of Happy Hour

As you are spending more time at home and trying to remain positive during the coronavirus pandemicWant to increase your happiness and overall positive feelings? Looking to add some mental fitness to your life? You may be able to find comfort and interest in the workshop titled, Another Kind of Happy Hour that is being offered for our faith community.   

This workshop is designed to help increase the capacities within each of us to flourish in our lives. It is based in scientific research and intersects with faith-based practices. It includes understanding what positive emotions are and how to cultivate them, optimism as a skill we learn, the importance of practicing gratitude, learning about our character strengths and how we use them to be more engaged in life, identifying and defining our meaning in lifeand skills to make us better at all kinds of relationships. 

The two hour introductory course of Another Kind of Happy Hour provides participants with foundational information from the 10-hour course, which is rooted in the science of Positive Psychology. It is like a physical fitness program for your mind and teaches you how to exercise your brain and do things that are good for your wellbeing. Exercising our minds in a purposeful way, as we do our bodies for physical health, has been proven to produce long-term advantages. Through power point presentations, videos, discussion and skill practice, this course will provide participants with both knowledge and skills around how to take care of one’s mental wellbeing and sustain their overall health.     

Participants will gain practical skills to practice, based in scientific research, including,  

  • understand and increasing positive emotions 
  • discover the act of savoring to increase a sense of well-being 
  • how to create and use a positivity portfolio 
  • enhancing the practice of gratitude 
  • practicing mindfulness and meditation 
  • practicing random acts of kindness   

These skills are highly useful in not only your own journey for happiness, but also can apply to parenting, teaching, relating to coworkers and caring for others.  

Instructors, Donna McDonald and Christine Harnack were awarded a Budding Idea’s grant from Incarnation Lutheran Church to adapt the course, Another Kind of Happy Hour, for faith communities and to offer this course at no cost 

Scientific research has found that when we intentionally practice these skills, we move towards a happier, healthier and holier life.   

There will be a spring session and a fall session facilitated over Zoom. The spring session has two dates, May 20 from 6 – 8 p.m. and June 17 from 6 – 8 p.m., with the same content, so you only need to attend the date most convenient for you. Click here for more information and to register.

Happy Hour created by Janet Lewis Muth, MPH, Carlton College | Course expansion is credited to Budding Idea Grant – Incarnation Lutheran Church 

Finding God’s Purpose for Our Lives  

By Jim Meinen and Bill Reichwald
Four hundred miles south of Japan’s main island of Kyushu, lies a small Japanese island called Okinawa Island. It has a population of around 1.4 million people and is sixty-six miles long and seven miles wide.  What is interesting about Okinawa Island is that five times as many Okinawans reach 100 years old compared to the rest of Japan’s population. In Dan Buettner’s research on Blue Zones (world’s longest-lived cultures), Okinawa was rated very highly in the world for longevity. Some of the reasons are that Okinawans maintain a powerful network called “Moai”. In addition, they have a strong sense of purpose in life by embracing the Japanese concept called the “Ikigai”. Having a strong purpose in life gives you the reason to get up in the morning and a feeling of being needed – a strong sense of community. 

The Japanese Ikigai is a framework to discover your “reason for being”.  Imagine discovering the things you are passionate about (combination of “what you love doing” and “what youre good at”) while having the added benefit of bringing value to other people’s lives. That is the basis of Ikigai, which consists of four overlapping circles: 

  1. What you love: This is where you get positive energy, and it brings joy to your life. 
  2. What you are good at: This is what you are particularly good at, which leverages your gifts and talents. 
  3. What you are paid for: This is doing something that someone else is willing to pay you for. 
  4. What the world needs:  The needs of the world are many. Therefore, this ranges from finding a cure for cancer to volunteering at the food shelf. 

Your Ikigia is the intersection of all four. It is something you love doing, you are good at it, the world needs and someone is willing to pay you for. 

The Ikigai Model was brought to our Faith and Work Small group for discussion. The question that was generated was: “Where is God in this?”  Therefore, a Christian Version was created and discussed.  The group called this “Finding God’s purpose for our lives”.  Below is the “new” diagram. 

What we love to do for our neighbors 

“For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” - Galatians 5:14 

This is our “Why”! Jesus calls us to serve one another in love. In the worldly view, it often seems as though we should “seek to be served” but as Christians we are called to “seek to serve”. Jesus entire life was given in service to mankind (us!).   

Gifts and Talents from God 

“For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another.We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.” – Romans 12:4-8 

This is our “What”! God has given us all many different gifts which when woven together form the Christian church in the world. Real passion and professionalism come from knowing our gifts, accepting, and developing them, and utilizing them all with the thankful understanding that they are truly gifts from God. 

God’s Rewards  

“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.” – 1 Corinthians 10:31  

It is true that most of us must work to support ourselves and our families. In addition, we must produce a quality product to help our employers and fellow employees, no matter our vocation. In the Christian ideal, we are the hands and feet of Jesus. As such our reality is that beyond making a living, our work or volunteerism needs to be done well enough to be able to show it to God. Well done good and faithful servant is something we look forward to hearing! HR experts will all say that money is just one motivator and not the most important for most employees. Missionaries, volunteers and many others show us this daily.  

What God’s world needs 

“Live such good lives among the pagans (non-believers) that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” – 1 Peter 2:12 

This is our “How” and a timeless truth. As Christians in the world, whether we like it or not, we are advertisements for Christianity. It is not only what we do but how we do it that matters. What the world needs is to see a sermon as much as it does to hear one! As William Barclay says, “The strongest missionary force in the world is the Christian life”. 

The diagrams included with this article attempt to illustrate these concepts. To see the full presentation from March 17, 2021, you can watch below.   

And finally, we are not suggesting that you travel to Okinawa to discover your purpose in life. Rather, we suggest by leaning into God, it will be your first big step in discovering God’s purpose for your life.  

Thanks for your interest and we welcome your thoughts and ideas.   

Apostles Library Book Review 

Always a Guest by Barbara Brown Taylor 

Perhaps reading sermons and stories are not all that appealing to you but if the author is Barbara Brown Taylor, the author of Holy Envy, you just may change your mind. Taylor’s newest book, Always a Guest, is subtitled Speaking of Faith Far From Home. Her premise that when you are a guest preacher, you speak of faith to people you do not know well by seeking common ground. Her common ground is grace and hope which is reflected in each of these short pieces.  

Each of the 30 chapters has a biblical reference and is a joy to read. I chuckled at chapter six “What Is Your News Source?” as she recounted a conversation with a friend about a Middle East peace proposal when she was asked “Where did you hear that?” Turns out one of them was listening to NPR and the other to FOX news. Elaborating on the sources of news for us, she helps us learn to listen in new ways but being a source of news where you are, too.  

Great reading a chapter a day for an entire month, no matter the season of the year. 

Click here to view the memorials

Among the Congregation

Sympathy To
Shelly Maesse and family on the death of her aunt; Julie Oliver and family on the death of her husband; Mary DeJarlais and family on the death of her sister; Rebecca Christiansen and family on the death of her father; Dan Sailsbury and family on the death of his father.

Recently Baptized
Maryn Helmi, daughter of Tony and Bethany VanyoAnnabelle Murphy, daughter of Tyler and Sophia Jones.

Rebecca Christiansen and her family, with her father (now passed) and mother in the back.

“Thank You” from the Christiansens
“We would like to express our deepest gratitude for the cards and loving support that surrounded our family at the time of my father’s death. We celebrate his new life with Christ in Heaven and look forward to the day when we will see him again.” – Rebecca Christiansen and family 


Make an Offering
The mission and ministries we share are made possible by the generous financial gifts from our community. Thank you for your faithful giving! Click here to give online.

Kairos: April 12: Learning Our Place–Creation Theology in the Book of Job
The book of Job raises profound questions about God’s justice and undeserved suffering. It offers a stunning vision of creation and humanity’s place in creation. What kind of world has God made? What is humanity’s place in this world? These questions will be addressed through art, music and poetry. To what are we called in regards to our relationship with the rest of creation? Kathryn Schifferdecker from Luther Seminary will present.

April 26: Climate Crossroads: Bad News/Good News in Shaping the Fate of the Planet
Hurricanes, fires, species extinction, deadly viruses, weather extremes, human migrations are intensifying because of climate change. We will explore where we find ourselves in 2021 regarding climate change – its causes, threats and approaching markers and tipping points that threaten life as we know it. The good news is we know what we have to do and have the knowledge, tools, and resources to make the changes needed to avoid catastrophe. We will conclude by discussing what we need to do individually and collectively as God’s stewards to overcome the roadblocks to a hopeful and just future. Presented by Rev. Luther Dale, retired pastor from Incarnation.

Click here to register for reminder emails. Click here to see more Kairos topics.

Join Zoom Meeting:
Meeting ID: 826 9291 8315
Passcode: Kairos

Worship Livestream
Join the worship livestream on Facebook at 8:45 a.m. (traditional) and 10:15 a.m. (contemporary) for April 11, April 18 and April 25.

All livestreamed worship will be on Facebook, but you don’t need a Facebook account to view the livestream. The livestream will begin about ten minutes prior to the start of the service so you can make sure you’re able to connect. If you have trouble viewing the livestream, please contact Erin Thorstad, Director of Communications at for assistance. If you’re unable to watch live, a recording of the service will be available around an hour after the livestream ends, on Vimeo and Youtube.

Subscribe to the Youtube or Vimeo channel to get notifications of new videos!
Watch later on Vimeo
Watch later on Youtube


RSVP for In-person Worship – TIME CHANGE
RSVP for in-person worship at 8:45 a.m. (traditional) or 10:15 a.m. (contemporary) for April 11, April 18 and April 25. To help keep those in worship safe, the number allowed in each space will be limited. Please call 651-484-7213 (ext. 105) or email to let us know you plan to attend. You may also just show up (doors will be open 20 minutes before service time) and see if there’s space for you. When you come to worship, you will check-in and proceed to the worship area. Masks are required for attendance and extra masks will be available if needed. If for some reason you aren’t feeling well, we encourage you to stay home and view our livestreamed service. Children are always welcome in worship. We offer activity bags that you can take with you when you leave.

Small Group: Being a Prophet in Modern Times
Biblical prophets spoke truth to “power” and the people, pointing out not-always-popular issues. The issues of today need prophets to champion them, and we can all speak for those without a voice and promote change. This small group will connect by Zoom to talk about the book, The Time is Now by Joan Chittister and the role of prophets in the past and today. Leaders: Cindy Spellman and Linda Brynjulfson. Click here for more information: Register: This group meets once a week on five Thursdays from 1 – 2:30 p.m. on Zoom, starting April 15.

Feed My Starving Children Trial Event Coming to Incarnation April 22-24, 2021
To help Feed My Starving Children (FMSC) prepare for the different configuration and practices required to ensure safety for all involved in packing food, FMSC is partnering with Incarnation to host a MobilePack “Trial Event” April 22 – 24. No more than 50 people will be packing in Incarnation Hall at one time. People ages 5 and over may register to pack in groups of five or less, with family or friends – their “COVID bubble”. Note that individuals within a bubble will not be socially distanced from one another. Each bubble will be assigned to a funnel with funnels appropriately distanced from one another.

Sign up to pack with a group of family or friends here. You will find more information regarding the event, shift times and safety protocols that will be required of all volunteers before you register.

While Incarnation is not being asked to finance the meals being packed during this event, you are invited to make a donation to Feed My Starving Children directly or through Incarnation’s online giving site in support of the All Hands on Hope MobilePack Event scheduled for fall.

Healing Our City, a Virtual Prayer Tent
Join others each morning at 8:00 a.m. via Zoom or the Healing Our City Facebook page to hear a speaker from a variety of faith traditions and engage in a 9 minutes and 29 seconds of silent prayer. The virtual prayer tent will take place through the trial of Derek Chauvin. Healing Our City is an initiative of the Center for Leadership and Neighborhood Engagement, to respond to and transform the pain experienced in Minneapolis, through prayer and actions leading to a more just, equitable and healthy city. 

COVID-19, Children, Hunger and Bread
It’s the time of year when people of faith are encouraged by Bread for the World to advocate our elected officials to work to end hunger. The specific focus issues this year are, of course, related to COVID-19, both domestically and internationally. Incarnation’s Hunger Awareness and Advocacy group will be emphasizing an “Offering of Letters” (or e-mails, texts, phone calls) on Sunday, May 2. Watch for more information in upcoming announcements and how you can be involved through the Incarnation website.   

Fundraising for Children, Youth and Family Summer Camps – Ends April 15th!
The Children, Youth and Family staff have created a digital Wall O’ Money that will make it easy to give a predetermined amount of a donation, or you can choose how much you’d like to give as you please. Click here to check out the Wall O’ Money.

Summer Camps
Start planning your summer fun and check out all the activities on the 2021 Summer Camps page. There is something for children and youth of a variety of ages to do and volunteer opportunities to get involved with – so take a look! Click here to learn more.

I AM Yoga Zoom Sessions
Led by Tina Zerrath, an experienced Yoga teacher, keep your body and spirit healthy and strong. Some prior experience is necessary to ensure a safe practice as Tina is not able to see everything you do and make adjustments. If you are interested in joining, please contact the Incarnation Office at 651-484-7213.

Mondays, Now – May 24, via Zoom
Mat Yoga: 9:30 a.m. – 10:45 a.m.
Chair Yoga: 11:15 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
Drop-in: $10
Checks payable to Tina Zerrath

Caring for others? Connect with 2nd Half with Lyngblomsten for support.
Are you or someone you know helping a spouse, parent, friend, or neighbor with memory loss and you’re looking for support? Connect with 2nd Half with Lyngblomsten for help in navigating your caregiving journey. The 2nd Half with Lyngblomsten Caregiver Services team is available for telephone support, education, access to resources, support groups, caregiver coaching, an online group e-respite program for persons experiencing memory loss, and more. Due to the pandemic, The Gathering (in-person group respite program) continues to be temporarily suspended.  For more information, contact them at (651) 632-5320 or   

Our congregation is partnered in ministry with Lyngblomsten, a senior services organization whose 2nd Half with Lyngblomsten life enrichment centers are connecting adults ages 50+ to community services, resources, and opportunities for enhancing their quality of life.