Lifetimes: July 2021

From the Senior Pastor

Senior Pastor Kai Nilsen

June was a very hopeful month for me, for us. Think about it: We just celebrated a week of “wonder” for almost 170 kids and 50 volunteers in Vacation Bible School. The offices are opening up. We are gathering (not just gathering online) and SINGING in worship. Small groups are meeting in the building and in the parking lot. Mission trips launched for middle schoolers. Household items were gathered for Solid Ground Ministry. Money and food will be given to the Ralph Reeder Food Shelf through our upcoming Tons of Love drive.

It feels like . . . dare I say it . . . CORPORATE MINISTRY and MISSION and HOPE!

I know there was significant ministry happening throughout the pandemic year. But, there is something about doing it together! The smiles, the laughter, the tears, the hopes, the yearnings. Incarnation literally means “God taking on flesh” and human form. When we are together, incarnate, we embody our God’s hopes and dreams in a palpable way.

So, what’s missing? We miss many of you.

I know there are a number of good reasons why many are hesitant to enter into communal space and ministry. The pandemic is not over. Not everyone is vaccinated. But, the numbers in our area are good and getting better. We have a growing confidence in our ability to do ministry together that is safe and honors both those who are confident and those who are growing in their confidence about being together.

Remember, love is both patient and kind. And so are we, as we move forward.

It is also the case that we developed new habits over the past year. Given our, and other churches, online presence it became very convenient to gather in the comfort of our living rooms, day or night, and tune in to worship. We will continue to offer our livestreamed worship services for two important reasons: 1) Outreach: It allows us to speak to people “outside our walls” who are longing to hear the good news we share. Keep sharing the services that are meaningful to you with friends and families who are not connected to a faith community. 2) In-reach: We have a very mobile community based on the seasons. Our online presence can keep us connected when we are away on weekends or away for a season (that season being winter!).

But, let’s not let convenience be an excuse to miss out on community when we are able. Living a Jesus’ life is not easy in our time. We need each other (physically) to be reminded that we are not on this journey alone, to be encouraged to take a next step on our own journey, and to signal to others that our Jesus life matters . . . and it matters, together!

Finally, I feel like I am just getting to know this community all over again. This month I will be starting my third year at Incarnation. The first two years included eight months pre-pandemic and sixteen months of pandemic! If I struggle with your name because I haven’t seen you in over a year, it means nothing more than I haven’t seen you in over a year!

Look forward to seeing you!

Peace, Kai

Tons of Love and Incarnation’s Call to Feed the Hungry 

by Barb Fischer 

Picnics in the park, grilling on the deck, enjoying a meal on a lakeside patio . . . as we jump into the hot days of summer and find our return to normalcy, for many people that normal includes wondering where they will find adequate food. Hunger, or food insecurity, is an issue that has never gone away. The chaos of the past year and the regular challenges in summer with children home for school make this a pressing concern.  

There is always a way to help. Share a meal with a friend, join a community garden, volunteer at a local food distribution site. Join us at Incarnation as we continue our annual Tons of Love campaign in conjunction with our community partner Ralph Reeder Food Shelf.  

Make your financial donation to the Tons of Love campaign online or by check made to Incarnation with “Tons of Love” in the memo. You may also donate any of the specific items requested by the Ralph Reeder Food Shelf that are difficult for them to obtain at cost.

By generously giving of food donations and financial support, we truly have the opportunity to feed the hungry. We can make an impact on addressing the global hunger issue by starting right in our own backyard. 

We plant the fields of blackened earth and scatter seeds of hope. Grain for the world. Feeding all others. Nurtured by sun and water and love. Tendrils of life. Pushing up. Growing strong. Moving us along to create the backbone of sustenance. Food for life and promise of tomorrow. 

We draw the water–crystal clear sustenance. Cascading from mountains and ghosts of glaciers, rooted in the history of time. A drink to quench our thirst. A drop to feed the soil. A never-ending cycle of renewal–feeding the earth and the blood coursing through our veins.  

Our soul longs for food, to do good, as we should, as we would for all others. Our soul longs for water–drowning the parched thirst of our inequities with equality and good. We gather in the presence of each other and share. We gather in the love of one another and care. 

We harvest the crops and feed the world. We share the food. We love each other. We gather the water and quench our needs. We share the water. We love each other. We fill our soul with the nourishment of kindness and love. We share with each other. We save one another.  – Written by Barb Fischer 

A Familiar Name in The Word in Season

By Erin Thorstad

As many of you know, The Word in Season is a devotional published quarterly by Augsburg Fortress using writings from various contributors to guide people’s daily practice. This quarter’s edition features a familiar name to the Incarnation community: David S. Bornus!

David Bornus has been active at Incarnation for a number of years and while his field is in the criminal justice system, he has been an aspiring writer for a long time. Wanting to share his gift with others, Bornus contacted the editor for The Word in Season and asked to be a contributor for an upcoming quarter. Writing for The Word in Season can be very strict as the editor requires a certain style, format, and content for writers to follow closely to create a final, cohesive devotional.

Bornus says, “Writing the devotionals required me to read the passages carefully, as well as cross-reference with larger Biblical themes as well as commentaries and study Bible notes. I found that the week’s texts all seemed to have a unifying theme around meals and commemorations, and so I developed that theme in the devotionals. It gave me a little taste of what it might have been like being a pastor and writing sermons every week (which was a “road not taken” in my college years).

I tried to make the devotionals engaging and simple to understand, hoping they will be of benefit for others to reflect as they engage in their own contemplations and quiet time.
I’m coming up on retirement from my full-time job in a couple years and so I thought that if I intend to ever develop my writing aspirations into a more substantial vocation, I should get to work on specific initiatives! This was one that I was able to see through to success. Now, I have to get back to that “idea list” for some future projects…”
You may pick up a current copy of The Word in Season in the Incarnation Office when the building is open and read Bornus’ devotionals, selected for July 29 – August 4. I enjoyed them greatly and if you’d like to send him a word of praise, I would be happy to pass your message along to Mr. Bornus to encourage him on his journey in writing!

Brand Update

A big part of church strategy is looking towards the future to ensure the longevity of the faith community, which prompts questions like “Are we putting our best foot forward to welcome new people?” and “Are we staying current with today’s world?”. When the pandemic hit and changed how much of our culture now functions, it offered Incarnation the opportunity to grow in online media and to take a look at refreshing our brand. A team of people from the congregation was gathered based on their field of work, experience, and education in design and communication to help guide the process of creating an updated logo. The goal is to create a brand that is fresh, appealing and authentic to our community so we will have a professional and visually inviting look to welcome new people to share in our mission. The brand process is nearing its end and we look forward to sharing with you our new logo when it’s ready!

Staff Updates

Goodbye, Dave and Cindy Ellison

For 56 years Dave Ellison has served in worship leadership and for over the last 17 years served as Incarnation’s Director of Worship and Music. Cindi also served at Incarnation for 17 years with both instrumental and choral groups, including working with youth. After much prayer, they have decided to retire. Effective as of September 1, 2021, they will officially be retired, but their last day in worship will be August 15th at 8:45 a.m. and 10:15 a.m.

Some of the highlights of their time at Incarnation has been:

  • Conducting the Senior Choir
  • Serving as the principal organist
  • The initiation of mid-week Advent worship using Holden Evening Prayer
  • Summer music camp for children in elementary and middle school
  • The Senior Choir invited to sing with the Northern Lights Community Band on two occasions
  • Good Friday Tenebrae worship led by the Senior Choir
  • Easter Sunday worship with the choir singing five worship services
  • Christmas worship led by all vocal choirs, bell choirs, and brass and string players
  • Choir tour to Norway and Sweden

They say that it has been an honor and a privilege to have been called to serve at Incarnation and are grateful for the opportunity to be a part of this community. If you would like to send a note to Dave Ellison, you may do so either by using his email or dropping off a card in the Incarnation Office. We hope that you will also attend worship on August 15th to wish both Dave and Cindi well in their retirement, as they look forward to spending more time with their children and grandchildren and traveling.

Goodbye, Karen Graden and Lisa Setter

Karen Graden has served as an assistant teacher for the Incarnation Preschool and is resigning from her T/TH a.m. and p.m. position to spend more time with her grandchildren and to travel with her husband. With the lifting of COVID restrictions, now is the perfect time for her to enjoy both of these activities. Karen’s educational background has provided valuable insight to our staff and she will be missed at preschool! 

Lisa Setter has decided to resign from her M/W/F 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. & T/TH 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. lead preschool teaching position to possibly teach in a school district. Lisa has been at Incarnation Preschool for approximately 18 years and her enthusiasm for children and learning is beyond compare! Incarnation wishes her well on her new journey. 

If you would like to send a note of thanks to either Karen or Lisa, you may either send a card to the Incarnation Office or email Kirsten Barie and your note will be passed along to Karen and Lisa.

Congratulations, Stefanie Straka

With Lisa’s departure and current staffing positions and preferences, Stefanie Straka has been offered the schedule that Lisa had and she has accepted! Having recently renewed her MN Early Childhood teaching license, Stefanie will be lead teacher in one of the M/W/F 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. classes and the T/TH 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. class. She is a natural choice for this position and we know she will bring lots of energy and great ideas to the classroom. 

We ask for prayers for Karen, Lisa and Stefanie as they move through these transitions, and for our program as we seek to fill open spots. 

Solid Ground Spring Shower Results 

Thanks to our caring community, Solid Ground received an abundance of brand-new household items this spring – everything from lamps, nightlights, vacuum cleaners, mops, crib sheets, children’s dish sets and so much more. The volunteers who organize the household donations at Solid Ground said, “It’s like Christmas morning!” Fortunately, Solid Ground has been able to expand and welcome more families this year to their programs. Your donations will help replenish the dwindling supplies available for new families moving in. 

Our generous community also donated monetary funds which will help supply families with essential household needs when Solid Ground’s inventories are not sufficient. Thank you for your amazing generosity in welcoming our neighbors with your gifts as they settle into their new homes and begin their journey toward a brighter future at Solid Ground.  

Apostles Library Book Review: The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd

The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd is sure to make you think — and perhaps disagree. Or you may find yourself saying “well, it could be . . .”  Could it be that Jesus of Nazareth was married in his early 20’s as would have been expected of a Jewish man? Where would his wife have come from? What might her background have been? Might she have been a part of the crowd at his crucifixion? What might have been her relationship with her mother-in-law Mary? What if her brother’s name was Judas and what might that mean? Who is Susanna?

While Jesus himself is certainly a character in this book, Ana is definitely the main character. Her strength of spirit, her daring and rebelliousness, her devotion to friends and family, and her sense of longing are well brought out. She is an only child whose father is the wealthy head scribe and counselor to Herod Antipas, tetrarch in Galilee. Because of his position and wealth, she has been able to learn and has a gift and a hunger to write. Fortunately for her, an (scorned and not respected) aunt recognizes her abilities and longings and affirms her gifts as being from God. When Ana is betrothed at age 14 to an older man, she yearns to rebel but doesn’t know how. After his death, she is about to be forced to become a concubine to Antipas. Then she meets the young Jesus as they both go into the hills to be alone.

Marrying Jesus and moving to Nazareth to live with his family is a monumental change in Ana’s life. Jesus continues to face the longings he has for connection with his “father”. Then there is Susanna, John the Immerser, fishermen, and Jesus’ widowed sister who is to be married at Cana. Ana and Jesus spend much time apart for a number of reasons but are deeply committed to each other. Ana’s aunt and brother as well as her friend Tabitha continue to appear and reappear throughout her life, sustaining her to the last. You may or may not be surprised at the end of the book – I both was and was not!

Kidd is known to many readers as the author of The Invention of Wings and The Secret Life of Bees. This book is extremely well researched and the author’s note at the end is helpful in understanding historical fact as well as the author’s imagination. I was surprised to learn that someone, like Ana, had recorded the lives of otherwise forgotten women in the Bible. Could this have been? Were Ana’s stories hidden in the jars and found in Egypt? You will read, wonder, ponder, and wonder again. And doesn’t wondering and pondering help us to grow in our faith?



We honor the memory of loved ones in the memorial gifts given below: 

Donor  Fund Name  In Memory of 
Tom Korth  Memorial – Undesignated  David Oliver 
Duane & Marlys Nelson  Memorial – Endowment  Roger Hickman 


Collective Reflection – “Hell, Hope, Healing”
The pandemic has created and uncovered some very deep wounds in our society, our world and in ourselves. On Wednesday, July 14*, 28 and August 11 at 6:00 p.m., we’ll gather as a community and process the last 15 months together with an experience designed to acknowledge the hell, recognize the hope and experience the promise of healing that God extends to us. Come for a space to process life together with prayer, scripture, silence, music . . . and ice cream! Gather outside of Door 6 and bring a chair, blanket or stay in your car.
* Due to the weather, the July 14th service will be in Incarnation Hall and the first 50 treats from 9-Yum-Yum will be free!

2021 Tons of Love for the Ralph Reeder Food Shelf, Now – August 1 

This year’s Tons of Love campaign is a combined financial campaign along with some open donations of specific products that are difficult for Ralph Reeder to source at a discount, together, to make an impact on this great community organization. 

Drop donations in the Ralph Reeder bins any time the building is open. Remember that your financial donation is powerful and Ralph Reeder is able to purchase far more as an organization than we can as individuals–every dollar counts!! Donate online or make checks to Incarnation with “Ralph Reeder Food Shelf in the memo”. During 2020 Tons of Love, we gathered over $50k in donations during Tons of Love; can we do that again or more? Let’s try! Thanks for your generosity.  

2021 Tons of Love Volunteers 

Help the Tons of Love campaign go smoothly and fruitfully by bringing donations from Incarnation to the Ralph Reeder Food Shelf on Mondays. Learn more and sign up here.

Shobi’s Table Kitchen Volunteers and Food Truck Host Volunteers  

Shobi’s Table, a pay-as-you-can café and ministry of the St Paul Area Synod, now has service opportunities available each weekday for kitchen volunteers to do food prep, wash dishes and get meals ready to serve on the food truck; food truck hosts provide hospitality. Learn more or sign up to volunteer here. The same link will tell you where you may pay-as-you-can to have a delicious lunch from 12 – 1 p.m. at one of the three spots in St Paul where the truck is found throughout the summer! Listen to Incarnation’s own Rich and Julie Omland about why they love to serve with Shobi’s Table.

Solid Ground Summer Camp Volunteers 

Summer Camp at Solid Ground provides weekly tutoring, enrichment activities and offsite outings to children grades K-6 living at East Metro Place and volunteers are needed to make it successful: 

  • Academic Tutoring (indoors): Mondays & Tuesdays from 10:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. and Wednesdays & Thursdays from 10:30 – 11:30 a.m. 
  • Enrichment Activities (outdoors): Mondays & Tuesday’s from 1:30 – 3:00 p.m. 
  • Field Trip Chaperon (outdoors): Thursdays, 12:30 – 3:00 p.m. 

To learn more about Summer Camp service opportunities or for questions, email Dylan McDonough or call 651-846-9042.

Preschool Positions Available
Incarnation’s NAEYC accredited preschool program is seeking two qualified part-time assistant teachers for the upcoming school year. One position is for the M/W/F 9-1 class for 4–5-year-olds and the hours would be from 8:00 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. The other position is on T/TH with three-year-olds and is from 8:00 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. Additional hours for both positions are throughout the school year for meetings, trainings, prep work, orientation, school events and substituting. The ideal candidates will be able to meet Minnesota DHS and NAEYC requirements. For more information, contact Kirsten Barie at or 651-766-0723.

Formation Leader for Middle School Students

Incarnation Lutheran Church is seeking a part-time Formation Leader for Middle School students to begin immediately. This position is for 25 hours a week and offers prorated vacation and sick time. The candidate will work with the Teens and Families Formation Team to provide administrative support in the redevelopment and implementation of faith formation for grades 6-9, and their families. It is preferred that the candidate have an associate’s or bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university but must have a high school diploma or GED. To apply, please send a cover email with a brief statement of your faith formation, and resume to Danette Griffith, Administrator at by July 20, 2021.

Formation Leader for High School Students

Incarnation Lutheran Church is seeking a part-time Formation Leader for High School students to begin immediately. This position is for 25 hours a week and offers prorated vacation and sick time. The candidate will work with the Teens and Families Formation Team to provide dynamic leadership, engaging presence, creative vision to our high school ministries by creating relational space and curriculum to nurture the faith of teens, grades 9-12, and their families. It is preferred that the candidate have an associate’s or bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university but must have a high school diploma or GED. To apply, please send a cover email with a brief statement of your faith formation, and resume to Danette Griffith, Administrator at by July 20, 2021.