Lenten Pictures

This is a guest post by Johanna Johnson. She is a newly ordained pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. She currently serves St. Martin Lutheran Church and Bethlehem Lutheran Church in the Upstate New York Synod. 
When I arrived at my current call, there was a huge painting hanging over my office in the hall – a shame, I thought, because in this hall, no one could get its full impact! When I mentioned my dismay about this to people, I got some pretty strong reactions. Turns out that for some, even that hallway was too exposed. It would be better if this were hidden away somewhere no one could see it! I was surprised by this, because I thought it was really neat! But, being fairly new, I let it lie, and put my thoughts about hanging it in the sanctuary during Lent out of my head.


But as Lent approached, I couldn’t stop thinking about this painting. Why did people hate it so much? I wondered. Maybe it’s the colors – they aren’t particularly pleasing colors, I guess? Sort of retro, a very specific style. Maybe it’s too modern – people’s dislike was simply a matter of taste. Scenes of Jesus’ passion, that gruesome story, are not a problem. It’s just too… too modern. Maybe it’s simply too big. I will give it that – it is big! Too imposing? Does it draw too much attention to this difficult story of Jesus’ suffering? The way the different scenes overlap really does add to the intensity of an already intense story. I fear we lose the impact of the story, hearing it as frequently as we do, but this painting brings that back into sharp focus.

Continue Reading »

Tuesday Thoughts


Tuesday Thoughts

{This is a part of a series called Tuesday Thoughts}

  • Last week my website got hacked.  Or should I say — ALL my websites got hacked.  With some patience and lots of phone calls I got everything cleaned out.  This site was built up from nothing.  I also got another site up and running again and the church website.
  • Because of that I have made some enhancements to this site.  What do you think?
  • I just heard about some Biggest Loser contestants quitting.  If this is true I am VERY disappointed.  You can see how these people have a golden ticket to saving their life in their hands and they are going to give that up?!?! Are you kidding me?!
  • I continue to train at No Mercy Fitness and it is going well.  I feel myself getting stronger everyday and I feel my clothes getting loser.
  • Both of my children are a year older.  As much as I love their birthday’s I am glad it is over.

8 Thoughts for My 8 Year Old

Happy Birthday!! You turn 8 today and that just blow my mind!!

Life has been crazy and I am sure that you can agree with that.  We have walked with you through the highs and lows of your life.  You have experienced more in your short 8 years than I did in my first 15!!

You have brought many tears to my eyes.  Through your good heart which makes me so proud of you, to the times which you have felt pain, to the times when you have made me so angry with you.

Almost everyday I see you mature more and more.  You have grown so much in the past year and I hope that continues.

It has been great to see how much you love life.  I love going to scouting events with you, I love how you are interested in music and sports (my two loves) and I love how you are becoming more and more independent.

I hope that some of these thoughts will serve you well this next year and beyond.

1.  Be Positive.  Even when it starts to eat at your gut.  No good comes out of negativity.  You are bright, kind and you do have a sweet side to your personality.  If you stick with that and if you have a good attitude with things so many doors will open for you.

IMG_00432.  Be Flexible.  I know this is hard for you.  It is hard for me too.  However it will serve you well in your life.  We are working on this and if you need my help just let me know.  People are going to make plans with you and then change them.  You are not always going to do what you expect to do — sometimes when you let things go and let God take over great things are going to happen.

3.  Find your passion.  Like your father you are good at many things and a master of a few.  Find your passion and stick with it.  I don’t care if you try a million things and choose not to do them.  The important things will rise to the top and you will be the cream of the crop.  I see so much talent in you I want you to succeed.  There is nothing better than being praised for doing what you love.  Trust me on that one.

Continue Reading »

What is the Right Question for You?

The question I ask each week at the beginning of worship is “Where have you seen God this week?”  But I didn’t start with that question.


Like any good pastor, I steal ideas.  I steal ideas from other congregations that I visit, from pastor friends as we share stories, from reading blogs like this one, or from conferences that I attend.  I stole the idea of asking such a question when I was at Amazing Grace Lutheran Church in Inver Grove Heights, MN two summers ago for my nephew/godson’s baptism.  At the end of the worship service the pastor said something along the lines of “Every week we end worship with ‘Go in peace serve the Lord.’ Where have you seen the Lord being served this week?”

I was amazed by the willingness to answer, and the ages of those who responded, especially the elementary age kids talked about camp.

So I came back to Bethlehem the following week and asked the same question.



More crickets….

(or if you grew up in the 80’s Bueller….Bueller…Bueller)

Continue Reading »

5 Thoughts for My 5 Year Old


Dear Addyson,

It seems cliché but I do remember the day you were born.  It probably was the worst day weather wise.  It was snowy and the roads were terrible.  But we were up early to drop off your brother at a sitters while we went to the hospital and welcomed you into the world.

This past year I have seen you grow up so much.  Your personality is showing through more and more.  Sometimes I forget that you are turning five this year!  You have such a great attitude about so many things and our family is blessed because you are a part of it.

Life is not perfect, you cry and whine a little too much and sometimes you make me want to pull whatever hair I have left out.  But your positives far outweigh your negatives.

This next year is going to be a big year for you.  We are going to help you take the next step in your life.  You will be starting kindergarten, you will become more independent and as that happens I want you to remember a few things:

Continue Reading »

Tuesday Thoughts

Tuesday Thoughts

{This is a part of a series called Tuesday Thoughts}

All the warm weather that CNY is experiencing this year is not getting old.  Today Logan and I were gathering up branches that have fallen.  Next week I think we are going to get the lawn mower ready to go.  I’m serious.

My heart still aches for the New England Patriots Loss on Sunday night.  The thing that is bothering me the most is that New England really beat themselves.  Between the 12 men on the field, the dropped balls in the fourth quarter I am not surprised that they lost….oh and don’t get me started on the safety!!

I know I keep saying it but I am so excited with the direction that ministry is headed at St. Mark’s.  There are many things happening and SO many people involved in ministry.  2012 is going to be our year.

I found out Saturday that I have strep.  I hate being sick and I hate having strep.  Thank God for medicine.

Our healing Service on the 29th of January was the most awesome thing I have ever done professionally.  I could not of asked for a better service and I really feel lives were changed because of the service.

I have been working on the church website a lot recently.  I like where we are at right now….feel free to give any feedback.

Continue Reading »