Lifetimes: August 2019

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The Blessing of The Backpacks and The Great Incarnation Fall Get Together–What It Means to Me  

By Mary Farquhar 

Since I first started going to Incarnation, my favorite service all year is the Blessing of the Backpacks. It brings out the intergenerational goodness that is the fiber of the Incarnation community. At this service I notice people who often sit by themselves on Sunday, bring their families, grandchildren and friends of grandchildren, and some children bring their parents. 

Even though I don’t have children of my own, my heart melts every year as I see many little ones with oversized backpacks go up to receive their blessing. I pray for safety, their ability to learn new things and to be kind to others. 

For me, September really marks the new year; that’s the time I vow to do something differently, break a bad habit, or learn something new. 

A few years ago, I noticed the expansion of my beloved service with the addition of The Great Incarnation Fall Get Together. Initially, this meant my parking spot would be taken and no coffee for me, because those Bouncy Houses were clearly meant for children and those who brought them.

Last year there was a Signup Genius set up and a request asking for help with the event and I thought, really, I could handle being a food runner. Additionally, Ms. Becky Benson asked me to help facilitate a service opportunity and have people make Blessing Bags. OK, sure, I could help out.  

It was a glorious day and there seemed to be even more children, one little girl with her silver tiara waving at her family. Last year, the children, our hope and future, started the service by blessing their teachers, parents and us. Melt my heart, then we, the Congregation blessed them. 

If this could not get better, it did, with Pastor Chris’ sermon of his elderly father turning the tide with his next-door neighbor, a woman who had been cantankerous and unpleasant. Pastor Chris’ father said to her, “God Bless You” and with those simple words the relationship began to mend and a friendship was formed. 

Last year for the first time, I stayed for The Great Incarnation Fall Get Together; running out rapidly disappearing mini doughnuts as people stayed, conversed, made friends and made Blessing Bags. I told Becky: “the making of the bags wasn’t a Service Project, it was an extension of the Blessing Day from the young to the old; as we go out into this world, filled with grace; blessed by our friends and family; we seek out those who need a blessing.” 

What could be better than that? 

This year, who knows what they will come up with? We have a new senior pastor, it’s the start of a new school year; it’s a time we need each other. Hope to see you there. 

From the Council: Greatest Gift

By Kristi Jacobson

This year I turned 40. I wasn’t dreading it like some people do, in fact, I was excited about celebrating by taking a long weekend away at the beach with a few of my childhood girlfriends and about a special trip to Scandinavia with my family that I had planned for this summer. Starting at least a month before my birthday, my youngest daughter started working on a countdown for me. She took little square pieces of paper and on one side wrote the number of days I had left being 39 (for real), and on the back a thoughtful and creative gift that she would give me on that day. One was for us to take a walk together. Another was a detailed drawing of a fireplace, something she knows I’d love to add to our living room someday. On one of them, she offered me a pillow she had sewn for my bed. My older daughter got in on it also, and went online to order a set of figurines that represented the three of us together. I was feeling seriously spoiled by the time my birthday actually rolled around.

I feel like I’ve been spoiled in life in general. I’ve had the opportunity to do rewarding work for some wonderful organizations and travel to plenty of beautiful places. I am raising two girls who humble and teach me every day. And I’m surrounded by loving friends who are walking alongside me through every twist and turn in life. Really, when I reflect back on my first 40 years, there have been people all along the way who have stepped up right when I needed them most. What greater gift is there than that?

Many of the times when those relationships first started, I was in a position of real vulnerability. I was starting a new job or moving to a new place. I was a new mom or I was trying to navigate a new normal of some kind. People always showed up. God always showed up through those people in a deeply loving way. They didn’t have to do anything extraordinary; they just needed to allow God to shine through them and illuminate their natural gifts.

We’ve all been given great gifts of our own that when combined with the love of Christ becomes a kind of super-power. Oftentimes I don’t think we look at our gifts in that way. What have you learned that is a great gift for you to pass along to others? What skills or knowledge do you have that could be used for good in this world? What have you been gifted with that is just waiting to be shared? This faith community has an infinite source of gifts that are exploding with potential. I’ve seen it happening . . . in the love poured out on mission trips, in those who have stepped up to gift their career talents to serve on committees at Incarnation, in someone using their trailer to transport much-needed food to the Ralph Reeder Food Shelf, in the increased financial gifts that have been given this year. These are all ways of turning the gifts with which we’ve been entrusted into an even greater gift for this world!

I love the Eugene Peterson’s translation of 1 Peter 4:8-11 from The Message:

“Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything. Be quick to give a meal to the hungry, a bed to the homeless–cheerfully. Be generous with the different things God gave you, passing them around so all get in on it: if words, let it be God’s words; if help, let it be God’s hearty help. That way, God’s bright presence will be evident in everything through Jesus, and he’ll get all the credit as the One mighty in everything–encores to the end of time. Oh, yes!”

Love makes up for practically anything. Isn’t that the truth? Let’s love each other like our lives depended on it and be ever generous with the gifts that we’ve been given. In that way, we will shine God’s light so brightly in this world. Oh, yes!

From the Senior Pastor

By Pastor Kai Nilsen

Well, I guess it’s official. As of July 28, I was installed (three times, no less) as your Senior Pastor. As you can imagine, this first month has been a whirlwind as I have tried to get my arms around the good and expansive ministry of Incarnation. Much of my time has been designed to get to know the staff and leaders of this community. In those conversations multiple themes have already emerged:

1). Many have expressed a sincere love for this community, its heritage and its people. What a wonderful foundation to build on!

2). Connective relationships, developed through age level ministries or Small Groups, deepen the experience of God’s presence and keep people engaged in this community.

3). There is a hunger for meeting people’s hunger. Those outreach ministries have been inspiring to many.

I’ve also heard some themes that could hold us back as we strive to move forward together. The comment has been made multiple times that some people would rather pay for ministry than participate actively in it. Consistent with that theme, I’ve watched and listened to staff who spend more time than needed doing work that volunteers could easily do. I’ve listened to some articulate a hesitancy to try new things because they were afraid to fail.

Granted, I’m just a few weeks into my new role, so it’s hard to know how pervasive these themes are. But, it is apparent, on some level, that we have work to do to break ingrained habits and begin to shape a new culture.

I recall the story from Acts 6 when the ministry of Jesus’ followers was expanding beyond the capacity of the first disciples to meet all the needs. The first disciples discerned, wisely, that they had a unique role to play as leaders (they would preach and teach). At the same time, they would invite others into the process of sharing their gifts with the community so that the work could be expanded.

In that same spirit, some of the behaviors we will be working on as we move forward include:

  • Empowerment: We want to trust leaders, both paid and unpaid, to make decisions at the lowest possible level. If it is consistent with the mission and there are people and resources to do it – do it!
  • Engagement: This ministry will grow and flourish in direct proportion to your personal engagement in it. That means your time and energy, as well as your financial resources.
  • Experimentation: We cannot simply do what we have always done and expect different results. We want to create a culture that can experiment, can fail, and then can learn from the failure and step out again.
  • Enjoyment: If the first announcement from the angels was of “Good news of great joy for all people,” there should be a sense of joy in our common service.

That’s the spirit we will take into our first fall of ministry together. I can see how it is already starting to shape the minds and hearts of some of our leaders.

Know this: I’m still on track to get to know all your names by the end of September . . . 2025! That was my commitment to you after the second week. In the meantime, I look forward to getting to know this community, little by little, as we join Jesus in imagining and then co-creating a better world—a world more reflective of God’s nature of justice, compassion and love.


Who Doesn’t Love a Graduation Party? 

On Tuesday September 24, the Incarnation community will serve dinner to Solid Ground families who are recent graduates of the Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) program. DBT is a nationally known skills-based training program that helps parents overcome trauma, improve relationships, and advocate for themselves and their families in effective ways. As families move into Solid Ground facilities, the parents are required to participate in this program, meeting in small groups and doing homework over four to six months. The training has been instrumental in helping families become successful in school and work, at home and in the community. The graduation ceremony is an important milestone for the graduates and their families. 

Several volunteers are needed to make this dinner successful, and based on past DBT dinners held at Incarnation, both volunteers and Solid Ground community members have a great time together! Learn about ways in which you can make this a meaningful experience this year by checking out the announcements section of this Lifetimes issue. 

Apostles Library Book Review: The Time Is Now: A Call to Uncommon Courage

Wrtten by Joan Chittister

Need a faithful and urgent nudge to action on behalf of the world? This timely title by Sister Joan Chittister will be your motivation.

Pairing scriptural insights with lively narratives of truth-tellers that came before us, Sister Joan offers a compelling vision to help us combat complacency and to move us toward creating a world of justice, freedom, peace and empowerment. For those of us who are weary, cranky and fearful, Sister Joan’s energizing message invites us to participate in a vision of motion ahead to a world greater than the one we find ourselves in today. This is spirituality in action; this is practical and powerful activism for our times.

Joan Chittister, a Benedictine sister, has been a passionate voice for women’s rights and human rights for over 50 years. You will find a number of books she has authored in the Apostles Library.

Among the Congregation

Hospitalized: Jeff LeMay.

Sympathy toStefanie Straka and Melanie Swanson and family on the death of their stepmother; Ann Fankhanel and family on the death of her sister; the family of Bob Schilling on his death; Diane Anderson and family on the death of her husband; Karna (Anderson) Nelson and family on the death of her father; Veronica Johnstone and family on the death of her mother. 

Recently Baptized: Charlie Patrick, son of Robyn and Brett Hare; Etta Lynn, daughter of Heather and John Lucas; Siena Hall and Eva Hall, daughter of Melissa Hall and Paul Klein.

Congratulations to: Kelsey and Nate Blinn on the birth of their daughter, Noelle Grace.


Meet with Pastor Kai
August 22 from 2 – 3:30 p.m. in the Fireside Room
Incarnation is hosting an informal gathering with Pastor Kai on August 22 from 2 – 3:30 p.m. in the Fireside Room. He will lead a discussion with a series of questions about Incarnation which will be discussed in a round table format. Attendees will have the opportunity to share insights about our community and welcome Pastor Kai. Space at this event is limited to 40 people, please reserve your spot with Emily Schwieters at   

The Blessing of the Backpacks and The Great Incarnation Fall Get Together
September 8
Be a part of
the Blessing of the Backpacks during all worship services, followed by The Great Incarnation Fall Get Together from 9:30 a.m.  1:00 p.m. on September 8! Invite your friends and family to come along with you and/or sign up to volunteer to help that day. Details about the events and volunteer opportunities can be found here. 

Donations for The Great Incarnation Fall Get Together Service Project
Now – September 8.
Donate new shoes and socks sizes for children 0 to 18 years, as well as like
new shoe boxes, which will be assembled into care packages for foster families through the Ramsey County foster care system. Drop off items in the bin near the Ralph Reeder Food Shelf bin between now and September 8. 

Tutors Needed at Solid Ground
Fall tutoring sessions are Monday – Thursday, 3:15  4:15 p.m. and 4:15  5:15 p.m., beginning September 9. Volunteers sign up for one or more sessions a week.   
Tutor Training and Orientation is on Wednesday, September 4 from 4:30 – 6:30 p.m. 
Tutoring at Solid Ground is a wonderful opportunity to form a special relationship with a child. In addition to helping improve academic skills, it is also an opportunity for children to get one-to-one time with a supportive, positive adult role model each week. Older high school students and college students can make a lasting impact on a child and are invited to consider tutoring. All materials are 
provided and no teaching experience is necessary. Contact Hannah Parish at 651-846-9042 or email 

Journey With Jesus Small Group–Information Sessions
Information Sessions on Sunday, August 18 from 9:15 – 10:00 a.m. in Adult Room C 
Are you hungry for a deep dive into a new spiritual practice? This
Small Group will explore the Ignatian Exercises using Journey with Jesus: Discovering the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius and a mix of group and individual practices. There will be readings, reflections and prayers to do individually each day, along with a weekly group gathering. To learn more, attend an Information Session on August 18 from 9:15  10:00 a.m. The Small Group will meet every Thursday, 9 – 10:30 a.m., from September – June. Group leaders: Anne Cremons with pastoral guidance from Jeanne Hartfield. Suggested contribution: $10. To register, email Denise Floe or call 651-484-7213.  

Psalms for Living
Monday, September 30, 6:30 – 8:30 p.m., followed by small group gatherings
The Psalms have spoken to God’s people for millennia, capturing the complexity of the human experience and showing us how to connect with God in seasons of joy and sorrow, in times of change, and in ordinary days. This fall opportunity starts with a kick-off gathering on Monday, September 30 followed by four
Small Group gatherings at a variety of times and places in October and November. For more information or to register, email Denise Floe or call 651-484-7213.  

Beatitudes Small Group
Once a month on Thursdays from 1:30  3:00 p.m., October  May 
Dig deeper into the meaning and messages of the Beatitudes and discover practical ways to live a simpler, more spiritually engaged life. This group will read and talk about the book 
The Power of a Focused Heart: 8 Life Lessons from the Beatitudes by Mary Lou Redding, while connecting with one another. Leader: Meg Gerlach. Suggested contribution: $5. To register, email Denise Floe or call 651-484-7213.  

Psalms for Moms
Once or twice a month on Thursdays, 9:30  11:00 a.m.
What do the Psalms say to the joys and struggles of being a mom? This
Small Group is a chance to get to know other moms (with infants through elementary age children) and dive into the Psalms (based on resources from Incarnation’s Psalms for Living series). Child care is available for an additional cost with registration by September 5. For more information or to register, email Denise Floe or call 651-484-7213.  

Blessing and Prayer Service for Life Transitions
Thursday, September 26 at 7:00 p.m. in the Sanctuary
God is present and walks with us through all of life, including times of change and transition. No matter what type of transition you are experiencing, come to this service to pause for prayer, receive a blessing, and hear God’s word in Scripture and through a message. You are welcome whether you are in a time of transition in your health, family or other relationships, job or volunteer role, school or schedule, where you live, or any other change. You are also invited to attend and pray for someone else who is experiencing a transition.

Save the Date: Discover Incarnation is on a Sunday!
Sunday, October 13 from 1 – 4:30 p.m. 
Discover Incarnation is offered for anyone who wants to learn more about Incarnation’s mission, vision, and values, and is required for those who wish to step into membership. An interactive opportunity is available for children three years and older, and childcare for those younger with an advanced registration. Contact Becky Benson at by October 9 by 4:30 p.m. to register.  

2019 Tons of Love Results
Incarnation, you faithfully gave generously to the Ralph Reeder Food Shelf during this season’s Tons of Love food drive: 9,582 lbs of food and household items plus significant financial donations. THANK YOU! Your continued generosity throughout August and until school begins is also greatly appreciated!

Summer Giving
Getting away during the summer is a wonderful way to relax and enjoy the nice weather. Previously, this could make regular giving more difficult, but with electronic giving options it’s easy to contribute remotely. You can donate online or make a contribution with a textFor more information about electronic giving, click here. Thank you for your faithful generosity!