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March 15, 2019


God's plans

Modern Day Burning Bushes

Reflection by Kelly Meyers

Do you ever wonder if God still speaks to us like he did in the Old Testament?  Over the past several years I have gone through some big changes in my life – primarily with my work.  Both times I turned to God when things felt like they weren’t right, and both times he delivered in BIG ways.  But it was only when I was willing to keep my mind open that I really ‘heard’ him!  And I’m so grateful that I trusted him enough. 

I can only imagine the thoughts Moses had when God first spoke to him in the burning bush.  I’m pretty certain the Bible has left out some of his honest thoughts & feelings!  But thankfully Moses was faithful – even when others thought him crazy. 

In 2014 I was working at a church doing a job that I loved and felt called to.  But due to some changes I started to feel it was time to leave.  I couldn’t believe that I felt that way because after 12 years I still felt like I had a purpose there.  So I prayed.  A LOT.  But this time I prayed for God to tell me what I should do.  I will be honest.  It took a while.  And the answers came in pieces – it wasn’t laid out like a storybook with all the answers.  As I was waiting in my car to pick up my kindergartner and head to my older daughter’s high school graduation ceremony (crazy, right?) I had an incredible, overwhelming urge come over me that I couldn’t shake and I just knew it was God telling me to ‘let go and trust him.’  I quit my job at that moment (in my car!) and within 5 minutes it was ABUNDANTLY clear to me why God was urging me so strongly at that moment what I needed to do. 

Kelly's quaote

I didn’t have another job.  My husband trusted me (and trusted God) when I told him I couldn’t explain it.  And over the course of the next few weeks some very different, and unplanned things fell into place.  It was absolutely God at work.  We took some risks, and ultimately that path led me to something unique and gave me the opportunities to share my faith in new and different ways!  That change led us to Immanuel and we are so grateful to God for this community.

Fast forward to fall 2018 and I had that feeling I couldn’t shake again.  This time I prayed for answers – because I didn’t like either choice I saw before me!  I knew God had a plan and I prayed for specific answers.  This time I had a dream that caused me to wake up and shake my head.  I knew exactly what He was calling me to do.  And it wasn’t easy.  I was saying goodbye to something I had poured so much energy into!  But as soon as I resigned, things fell into place there with people that could only be God at work.  I had fulfilled whatever purpose he had for me there and it was time for me to move on!

I firmly believe that God still talks to us through the Holy Spirit in ways that are unusual and profound.  And I’m grateful I had the courage to listen and act.  I am grateful for where God has led me and my family.  The graphic of what I planned for my life and what happened is accurate and I think it’s much more beautiful because God has been behind it! 

I can’t wait to see (and hear) where God will lead me next and I’m waiting eagerly for him to speak to me in more creative ways.  Who knows, it might just be another burning bush.  But I’m listening, God! 

March 8, 2019


Jerry Martin

Seek and you will find

Reflection by Jerry Martin

Recently I was having a conversation with a friend.  For one reason or another, we quickly felt the familiar entanglement of trying to control everything that was going on around us.  Thankfully, we turned our discussion to our trust in Jesus. 

For me, to find God’s peace is to fully trust Jesus.  I know that not all things will go according to my plan, and that is ok.  Because if I trust in Jesus and ask that he be with me every step of the way, then I can be comforted that I am exactly where He wants me to be.

Jerry's quote

With this conversation, came another worry.  My friend shared she is concerned because her eldest son is questioning his faith.  My response…Good!  That is great that he is trying to find answers and wants to know more.  Encourage him to find those answers.  Dig, read, search, discuss, share and seek! 

From my own experience, the more I seek, the more I find.  But let’s not take my word for it, we have much better authority than my testimony.  Jesus said it is so!

“Ask and it will be given to you: seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Matthew 7:7-8)

March 1, 2019


Pamoja - Together on Kilimanjaro


Reflection by Mchungaji (Pastor) Angela Fairbanks Jacobson

For months ahead of time, our team already knew the Swahili word pamoja (together), since we had our designated pamoja small groups, to connect, share highs and lows, pray for each other, look out for each other, and even practically speaking for head counts on the bus…“Are we all here? Kupanda’s here! Let’s go/twende!”

Of course climbing (and summiting!) Mt Kilimanjaro was spectacular and out of this world! BUT, there was something beyond the extraordinary, even quite ordinary, and that was all things pamoja.

Pastor Angela - Pamoja

Lots of togetherness. Lots of being vulnerable together. We knew all about each other’s aches & pains, altitude headaches, swollen lips, blackening toenails, blurred vision, and occasional tears. Together. Sharing, talking, praying, singing, and feasting. Together. Climbing in the darkness and gale force winds. Together. Trusting our fearless leader Festo and the incredible support crew. Together.

Later we learned the word for Immanuel, Mungu pamoja nasi. Of course! God with us. God together with us. God who chose not to stay in the spectacular, not to stay in the highest heights, but to descend into our ordinariness, to be with us, to work with us, being vulnerable together. This became ever more real for me as we descended from the roof of Africa.

Together we can move mountains. Let’s go!

February 22, 2019



Even those of us with few talents

Reflection by Ruth Lunde

I started thinking about writing a FaithBIT months ago, but I procrastinated, knowing that others are better writers than I am. 

I serve on Habitat for Humanity teams, though I am not skilled at construction.  Others on the team have more experience and skills than I do.

I like singing with Immanuel music groups, though others are stronger at reading music, and have more beautiful tones and techniques in singing. 

One item on my bucket list was to be in a play.  A few weeks ago, I took the leap, auditioning for Godspell with Chaska Valley Family Theater.  Given that I have never done choreography or dance before, it takes me more time to learn what to do with my feet, arms, and all my body.

I like biking.  Though I am not as fast or skilled as many bike riders.

Ruth's quote

A parable that is meaningful for me is the Parable of the Talents from Matthew 25.  You might remember how the master gave one of his servants five talents; to another, he gave two talents; to another, he gave one talent. Upon returning, the master was pleased with how the servant with five talents put those to work, and how the servant with two talents put those to work.  Unfortunately, the servant who received one talent hid that in the ground, and the master was very displeased.

It is an important reminder for me…. even if I am not highly skilled in writing or construction or singing or choreography or biking, even if I have only minimal talent, it can be used, put to work!  Regardless of our level of talent/skills, we can use what we have to serve the Lord.

From Matthew 25:23, “His master said, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’”

February 15, 2019


Kallie and Briley

Recipients of compassion

Reflection by Kallie Nichols

It’s 4 a.m., 11 hours into a 28-hour road trip and our car breaks down in Colorado. After a four-hour wait, Roy (tow truck driver) arrives in his big, white truck to tow us to the Hyundai dealership. On the way, we call the dealer and find out they won’t be able to fix our car for a week. Immediately Roy calls his best friend Ron, a diesel mechanic, and asks if he could fix our car. Without hesitation, Ron says yes, and Roy takes us to his shop. Ron worked late into the evening to fix the car. Rather than take advantage of our situation, Ron charged a very reasonable price.

Kallie's quote

While Ron worked on the car, Roy brought us to a restaurant for breakfast.  After breakfast, we called several hotels to get an early check-in with no luck.  Finally, Tanya from Comfort Suites worked with housekeeping to get a room ready for us by 10:30am!  Several Lyft drivers made our stay in Longmont more enjoyable by sharing stories and travel recommendations. 

Every day, we encounter people who are going through different trials. Through the trial we faced on our road trip, I learned we can offer compassion towards others by simply using our talents to serve others like Roy, Ron, and Tanya did that day in Colorado.

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” (Colossians 3:12)

February 8, 2019


Jerry and Mason

A solid foundation

Reflection by Jerry Martin

My son Mason was confirmed at Immanuel on October 28.  I found it to be a very exciting process that culminated in an awesome Christ-filled weekend for my family. 

Confirmation was a time for Mason to reflect on his confirmation journey and confirm his faith in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  As it happens, confirmation weekend was a time for us all to share our faith journey and consider how we trust in God to set our path.

I especially enjoyed writing a letter to Mason.  The parents, grandparents, Godparents and others were encouraged to write letters sharing with Mason how important he is in our lives and how much we love him.  We also were able to bestow our blessings on him.

Jerry's quaote

The confirmands made stoles to wear on confirmation Sunday.  I enjoyed this more than I expected.  I think because Mason seemed to enjoy it.  It gave my wife Kim and I time to appreciate and think about the important things in Mason’s life. 

I also enjoyed the sharing of Faith Statements where the confirmands shared their confirmation of faith and the incredible impact and strength they receive from their trusting relationship with Jesus Christ and their connection to the Holy Spirit.

I could keep going.  I have many great memories from Mason’s confirmation.  In the end – I am happy.  I am happy for Mason that he has a solid foundation to build upon his relationship with Jesus. 

February 1, 2019


God Squad

God with us!

Reflection by Phil Weber

I had the privilege of leading Sunday school for our 5th and 6th graders (God Squad) this fall. As we discussed the many reasons we come to Immanuel each Sunday, the joy of meeting each other in this special place, and the message of love and acceptance that we carry with us when we leave each week and enter back into active lives at home, school, and work, we recalled the origin of our church’s name—Immanuel, and the deep meaning it has for us in our lives as we experience both the certain joy of creation as well as the sadness of loss and grief in death. 

In Hebrew, the name broken down to its roots by scholars, informs us that “Im or [with], nu [us], el [God], or Immanuel, appears two times in the Old Testament -first in Isaiah and again in Matthew. In Isaiah, the prophet foretells the miracle of Christ’s birth and speaks of Mary, who will bear a son and will call Him Immanuel.

Phil's quote

Especially relevant to our discussion in class on Sunday is its occurrence in Matthew. For, as we share and marvel in the coming weeks together at Jesus’ birth as told through the gospels of Luke and Matthew, we are arriving seven centuries later to a time when Joseph finds Mary with child. In Matthew 1:23 an angel from God joyously announces that the child shall be called, Immanuel—literally, God with us.

Our parting message to each other in the God Squad classroom on Sunday:  No matter what difficulties, sorrows, or losses we endure, we take comfort in knowing that we are God’s beloved children and that He will always be with us to help see us through. We walk as children of light, now and forever.

May all of us share in the joy of our Immanuel children as they listen, sing, learn, run, play, and share as children of light among us at Immanuel!

God with us!

January 25, 2019


Terrie's service at Rock Bottom

A Meaningful Way to Spend Christmas Day

Reflection by Terrie Falkenstein

This past Christmas Day Rock Bottom Brewery (whose General Manager is Immanuel’s Lou Hernandez) opened its doors to well over 1, 000 homeless and lower-income Twin Citians who received meals and presents at the event put on by Miracle, a project of the Craftworks Foundation, the charitable arm of the parent company of Rock Bottom Brewery and Old Chicago restaurants. Families sat at tables with tablecloths, where volunteers served them a holiday meal on china. There was an opportunity for a family photo and a chance to visit with Santa. As they waited, another volunteer interviewed the children about their interests and hobbies. These answers were run down to the basement by volunteer elves who would then assemble a tailor-made gift bag for each child from piles of toys, including soccer balls, games, dolls, books, stuffed animals and even some bikes. 

Terrie's quaote

This is where we came in.  Lori Wannebo and I wanted to do some kind of service project on Christmas Day and Bill and Pat Middeke had served here in the past, so we decided to join them.  While Pat was working in the coat check, Bill, Lori and I were assigned to be “elves.” What fun we had digging through huge boxes and boxes of toys provided by Toys for Tots to fill bags for the children waiting upstairs. And while we didn’t get to see the children’s reaction to getting the toys, just the idea that they would be surprised and happy was heart-warming. Since Pat was upstairs, she did see them with their new toys and the excitement that ensued.

While there are many ways to spend Christmas, knowing that I was a very small part of brightening the holiday for someone else brought me happiness beyond measure.

January 18, 2019


Miracle baby!

Miracles happen every day!

Reflection by Mary Ellen Anderson

5:30 am Thursday Jan 3:  my niece had a baby.  Well, that’s no big deal.  She already had two other babies.  This one however was born at home – again no big deal.  Many babies are born at home.  This one however was born at home on the laundry room floor – with the cord wrapped tightly around his neck two times.

Mary Ellen Anderson - Quote

Daddy Ryan was desperately trying to get Mama Sarah into the car to go to the hospital when she laid down on the laundry room floor and baby just “popped” out with the cord around his neck.  (“Popped out” was Ryan’s description). They quickly got the cord off his neck, but baby was unresponsive and purplish in color.  Sarah picked up baby and took him to the nursery where she knew she had a baby syringe.  She suctioned his mouth and nose and then proceeded to do CPR on him. Sarah is an RN and knew what to do and how to do it.  After a short time (I don’t know how long exactly) he started to breathe.  The ambulance arrived soon after and the EMTs took over. 

All is well and baby Ivan and Mama and Daddy are doing fine.  Ivan weighed in at 7 pounds. 

Miracles happen every day.

January 11, 2019


Dave Nieting

Take a hike!

Reflection by Dave Nieting

You’ve seen the pictures. With as many trips to the Cloud Peak Wilderness area as this church has done, is there anything left? What can I possibly say that hasn’t been said? Well, maybe you are new and have not seen the pictures or heard the stories. Maybe you have, and yet you still love to hear them new every time. It’s a bit like Easter or Christmas isn’t it? You know the story. It was a long ride. It was beautiful. It was wonderful, hard, difficult, thrilling, challenging, satisfying and amazing. So, lets start fresh.

I went on a hike with a group of people that was very diverse. I was the eldest, and the youngest was, well younger than me. We live different lives, but on the trail, we had a common goal. Put one foot in front of the other. I think we all succeeded very well in that, as far as I am aware nobody did a face-plant. Our trek in the mountains brought us across cold cold streams where trout could be seen. You walked in and by the time you hit the other side, your feet were a bit numb. Our trek brought us up mountains where the air is thin. Sometimes the terrain was so tough I felt I didn’t hike, I just huffed. I would catch up to my group, all in my good sweet time, and when I got there, they were light and fleet of foot again – I wasn’t… We toiled, and ate, and toiled some more. We stank, well I know I did, I couldn’t really smell anybody else. 

Dave's quote - Take a hike

There was a lot of sharing, snacks, meals, beef jerky. We shared sunscreen (thanks P. Paul) bug juice, and chores. We also shared tales and stories, and best of all faith things. We shared our highs and lows of the day. The lows tended to be difficult stretches, or something like mosquitoes. The highs were vista views, overcoming those difficult stretches, and more vista views. Of the highs that I heard, my favorite was “right now, doing this, sitting with all of you”. The present, what a Present! We also got to share faith. We weren’t all just Lutheran’s, we had a wonderful cross section of the body of Christ. Even with all those different faiths we could see one common thing with which to marvel. God’s great and beautiful creation. Every ridge, mountaintop, and corner brought a new view, a different lake, a different peak, a different snow field. Snow? Yup, don’t eat it though. It’s not yellow snow, on no it’s a bit pink. It looks like pink cotton candy just to tempt you. It’s actually an algae that has laxative properties, not a good thing when you have no ready bathroom, and to do…that…you have to dig a hole. 

As I walked and huffed, usually at the end of the line, sometimes sore and tired I got to spend some time with God. I would have random Bible verses float into my head to keep me going. “I lift mine eyes to the mountains— where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD”. “They will soar on wings like eagles; they will hike and not grow weary…” and of course, sometimes I had to burst out in song, “In the jungle the mighty jungle the lion sleeps tonight”. Hey, it’s not all church.

I hope you can do a hike. Take yourself out of your comfort zone. You will see things up there that you cannot see any other way, and you will thank God for showing you them.

Backpacking in Wyoming, July 20 - 27
This is a multi-generational experience for young adults, adults and youth who have completed 8th grade. Students who have completed 7th Grade may attend with a parent. All are welcome! More information:

Family Friendly Wyoming Base Camp, July 20 - 27
You could stop by for a couple days on your way to or from Yellowstone or the Black Hills, or stay for the whole week. More:

January 4, 2019


Karen Nelson

Camping with grand kids

Reflection by Karen Nelson

I know, I know, it’s only January, but I’m already starting to think about camping! Yes, it’s cold and the ground is somewhat covered with snow, but I get so excited about camping experiences already as I start to plan for the coming year!

One of my very favorite experiences over the course of my life as a child, mother and grandmother has been family camp. I was lucky as a child to spend a family weekend at Camp Vermilion when I was about 5 years old and I treasure the memories. Paul and I were able to experience family camp with our two girls at several churches, and especially remember our family camp weekends with our Immanuel family! The games, the stories, the skits - the connecting and bonding time with other members of Immanuel are some of my very best memories and some of my most profound experiences in sharing God’s love with the people I love.

Karen Nelson - Family Camp

We were again able to experience family camp a couple of years ago with our granddaughter Savannah - and what a joy that was! She was just 3 ½ years old and one of the most enthusiastic campers in the world! It was so much fun her to camp with us and she wholeheartedly embraced the whole experience learning all of the great camp songs, playing games, eating camp food, sleeping in bunk beds, getting to know other kids. It was wonderful way for us to share God’s love with her and keep passing on faith to the next generation. My prayer is of course that she keeps growing in that faith and I know that I will keep sharing my faith and God’s love with her. To all grandparents out there, know how important you are to your grandchildren in sharing your faith and God’s love with them.

December 28, 2018


Totall kids

That’s a wrap!

Reflection by Kari Totall

Well….that’s a wrap!! Three kids, three EP grads?! This time really does go so fast! That old saying blink and they are heading to college couldn’t be more true. But, this is also a wrap with Immanuel stepping stones.  We start these at baptism and continue all the way through to 12th grade (Stepping Out Into The World).  We are all so busy and we have so many things going on, but all of the sudden we are in the last Stepping Stone ever with our last high school senior? How can that be??

Kari's Quaote

This intentional time together is such a blessing! We have had many caring conversations in our home that have been a direct result of this time spent together. It’s so great to be able to say to your kids as they enter the dating world, “remember when we met together at church and talked about living faithfully as guys and gals” or that first time they leave the house in the car (yikes) we review the vehicle use covenant we created during that intentional time together! Time goes by so fast and those 3-4 weeks of sitting together once a year for an hour of real conversation is a gift that Tom and I sincerely thank Immanuel for!

Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.  Proverbs 22:6

December 21, 2018


St Lucia

Pondering the “why” of Advent

Reflection by Kim Rathjen

On December 13 we celebrated St Lucia Day. The Swedish version of St Lucia became part of my life in High School when I sang in the Svenskarnas Dag Girl’s Choir and St Lucia pageants were part of of the season.  Several years later my friend started invited people to her home to celebrate St Lucia Day.  Today was the 23rd year we have gathered.

The early morning ritual begins around 6am and involves a processional of children (now all young adults who, sometimes reluctantly, continue the tradition) who dress in white gowns and carry candles in the dark.  They are led by St Lucia who also wears a wreath of light on her head and reads the St Lucia legend to the gathered group.  This is followed by breakfast with yummy Swedish treats.

Kim's St Lucia Quote

One legend says that St Lucia came from a wealthy family, and against their wishes, she decided to serve the poor as an act of faith and devotion to her Christian beliefs. After she was martyred, legend has it that she appeared wearing a wreath of light guiding a boat full of food across a lake to feed the poor.

While I cherish the gathering of friends over the years and the tradition in which my children still participate, St Lucia Day has become an important faith ritual as well.  December 13 has become the turning point in the season of Advent for me.  The first weeks of December are busy decorating, organizing donations and opportunities to help those who have need, and running around.  But by December 13 most of that is finished and I am reminded by our ritual gathering to stop and take time to ponder the “why”. 

There is also great focus on light in our tradition – the 13th of December being the longest day of the year by the Julian calendar.  The name Lucia means “light”. We gather in the dark and focus on the light of the candles and the light in our lives, Jesus.  The remaining days leading to Christmas give me time to reflect on Jesus, The Light of the World, who comes into the darkness to save us.  Come, Lord Jesus, come.

December 14, 2018



There really is a God!

Two reflections by George Schell

There really is a God!  For you doubters or you of little faith, I can testify that the older you get, the stronger your faith gets and the closer you are to God.

We’re having chicken tonight!
There’s nothing so powerful to help you grow in faith as the job of caregiver, especially for one’s spouse.  One of the toughest jobs for me in this category was trying to find something that my wife would like to eat. I ran out of ideas fast.  One evening I was challenged with, “What are we having to eat tonight, George?”  I responded by saying that I didn’t have a clue.  At that point, the doorbell rang.  There on our doorstep was an Immanuel church family member who had a rotisserie chicken for us.  Faith restored in a big way, a prayer, and big thank you.  “Judy, we’re having chicken tonight!”

George - Quaote

God at work
I walk with a cane to assure a little more balance than I usually have and to keep from falling friends invited me to a Vikings exhibition game. For convenience we rode the light rail downtown. When I stepped into the car a young college girl saw me wobbling with my cane.  She promptly rose and said, “Here, sir, you can take my seat.”  I was surprised at this offer - did I really look that old?  Yes, you do, I told myself.  I sat down and thanked her.  I just wasn’t used to such a polite and kind act, which renewed my faith in young people.  As the train sped downtown, I thought of a saying I saw on a t-shirt, “I can’t believe how old some people my age are!”  I said a little prayer of thanks - God was at work for me!

December 7, 2018


Grace Olson

Get to work in broken places

By Grace Olson

“I’m a survivor of sexual violence. My choice to say no is really important to me.” Asma Muhamed said this on April 25th as she spoke at the Minnesota Women’s Press event, Powerful Everyday Women. She talked about all the ways she had been showing up at marches and press conferences and rallies and legislators’ offices, and how as a Muslim woman, the work of fighting for her rights, like so many others who are marginalized in our society, falls on her.

As Asma spoke, a question formed in my mind and my heart: how do I need to start saying yes, so that she has the choice to say no? Basically, God was saying tag, you’re it. Since then, Asma’s words have been ringing in my head, reminding me that I am called to show up and help carry the load.

Grace Olson - Quote

As I think about showing up, I feel a certain sense of guilt. Like many other 25-year-olds, one of the places I haven’t been showing up is church on Sundays. But on June 30th, as I marched in the streets with thousands of other Minnesotans holding a sign that said families belong together / familias unidas y libres, I felt powerfully that not only was God calling me to be there, but that this is where Immanuel had taught me to be. Every mission trip I went on, every service day in confirmation, and countless sermons taught me that God calls us to show up in broken places and get to work.

Micah 6:8 says “And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” I’m trying.

November 30, 2018


Briley - The Camino!

¡Buen Camino!

By Briley Nichols

On May 26, 2018, I embarked on a journey for which I had few expectations. A bus dropped me off in a small village of the French Pyrenees and the next day I would begin walking, making my way to Santiago, Spain, about 500 miles in 33 days. Day one began with rain and escalated from there. At the top of a pass, about 10 miles in, a storm rolled in, nearly knocking me off my feet. Hail was pelting and pilgrims were scrounging to find any place to hide. When continuing became possible, I walked 9 more miles. Approaching a monastery, my resting place for the night, the reality of this journey set in, seeing the other pilgrims lying in the sun, attempting to dry, some laughing and sharing stories, others in overwhelming tears after an emotional first day. Day two was another steep and soggy day and I nearly limped the whole 18 miles with exhausted legs and torn up feet.

Briley's quote

After a startling beginning to The Camino, I was feeling defeated. Blisters covered my feet after walking in soggy shoes two straight days, my Achilles had become very swollen, and my body was not yet acclimated to walking 18-20 miles a day. Thoughts of never making it the remaining 750 kilometers stormed my brain. That night I sat down to read my Bible, and with little motivation, started from the beginning. The familiar imagery of God opening the floodgates to make way for new growth now seen with new eyes, wrecked me. As the floodgates opened on my own journey, I was forced to give up my own ego and my reliance on my own strength, and allow Him to deliver. Little did I know, His deliverance would far surpass my expectations.

The remaining 31 days were far from seamless (a lost phone, shin splints, countless blisters, and bed bugs to name a few), but the ways God revealed Himself were nothing short of spectacular. I encountered countless people from every corner of the globe, each with their own beautiful story and insights on the world. I got lost, sometimes literally, in thought and conversation. I built relationships with people I shared no common language with. I met people and minutes later knew their deepest passion, their deepest hardship, their deepest desires. I woke up at 5am and walked as the sun rose over the mountains. There were tears and a whole lot of laughs. There was confusion, but so much clarity. And through each encounter, I left knowing the character of Jesus a little more by knowing a little piece of another heart. But more than anything, the generosity, kindness, and compassion I met along the way allowed me to experience the goodness of God that lives within each of us in a more profound way I could have ever expected.

November 23, 2018


BWCA - Immanuel Women

My compass in life

By Kelly Kautz

At the beginning of the 2017-18 school year, I chose the word “TRUST” as my word to guide me throughout the year, and it continues to be the word that I turn to as I take on new adventures.

This summer as I canoed in the Boundary Waters for the first time with a group of ILC women, I was worried about getting lost, and grateful for my friends, Barb and Deb, who had been in the BWCA before and knew how to read the maps. We headed out and before long we were surrounded by water and islands and land that all looked the same to me. My map was in front of me, on my Duluth pack, but it made no sense to me in relationship to my surroundings. Yet, I trusted Barb & Deb (and Deb’s compass) and we arrived safely at our destination at day’s end.

My compass in life

The next day, I began to learn how to read the map and notice the landmarks, not yet independently, but with guidance. I learned how vital the compass is in navigating, to confirm our location and to guide our path. Often my idea of where we were, based on looking at the map and studying our surroundings, was wrong. Proceeding without checking the compass would have taken me in the wrong direction.

Sometimes I feel overwhelmed and lost in life. I question myself and my abilities. Then I remember my word - TRUST! I don’t trust blindly. Just as I must rely on my compass in the BWCA, so I rely on my compass in life - God’s word, prayer and my “faith friends.” Reading the Bible reminds me of God’s promises for me and what God expects of me, through prayer I put my trust in God (yet again), and my faith friends encourage and guide me as God is at work in and through them. Trusting in my faith compass, I am able to walk along life’s path with confidence.

Proverbs 3: 5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”

November 16, 2018


Poem by Beth Hansen

The Way

By Beth Hansen

We each have our way
Our paths aren’t the same
We each have our day
To act in His name

Our backgrounds are different
Our talents may vary
And so do the demons
And crosses we carry

Step into His word
Let go of your sins
As you walk in His path
Redemption begins

Open your ears
Listen to His song
Sing as you walk
It can be your own

We each have our way
But His way has a place
In our actions and thoughts
As we each run this race

We each have our way
Our paths aren’t the same
But don’t wait a day
To act in His name

November 9, 2018


Dinosaurs at church

Dinosaurs at Church

By Pastor Angela

Kids love dinosaurs.  Once a little 4-year-old boy I know was sorting his little toy dinosaurs on the floor and was asked by an adult if he was sorting them by color, and he said “Nope.  Carnivores and herbivores.”

Angela's quote

That little kids (and big kids!) love dinosaurs – and know a lot about them – is not news to us.  So, what a joy to visit the 5th and 6th graders in “God Squad” one recent Sunday morning to draw a random question of theirs from the bucket… about dinosaurs.  Rather than answer solo, I decided to include them fully this time around.  That day there were 6-7 kids who happen to be wearing bright green T-shirts (like dinosaurs), so I decided to ask them to wrestle together with what they think of all of big “W” questions (who, what, when, where, why – and how) of creation/dinosaurs.  They were amazing (and dove right in!), recognizing God’s great imagination, especially with respect to God’s timing, and of what little we know.

Ultimately, we all decided that the most important thing we do know about creation (& dinosaurs) was WHO created.  GOD.  I see God continually at work through our 5th and 6th graders every week… through their faith-filled responses as we explore questions together as children of God – green shirts, or otherwise!

November 2, 2018

FaithBIT - Stewardship Edition

Ben Orton

Letting Go

By Ben Orton

My first big lesson in generosity came when at age 20 while in college at the Air Force Academy.  Cadets could not own cars until they became juniors so upon reaching that milestone, USAA offered an extremely low interest rate loan of an amount that could fund the purchase of a new car (a very successful tactic).  Not long after receiving those funds, I was approached by family with a large need which those funds would go a long way towards meeting.  I found myself initially burdened by this request and the thought of paying back a loan for years which I wouldn’t receive any benefit from.  But God used this opportunity to reinforce that all I had was from Him and all of it, including me, were His to be used for His Kingdom building work.  Further, I was richly blessed and well positioned in life to have a blessed future, one in which I would be given opportunities to be a part of building His kingdom of which this was one. 

Ben's Quaote

The act of letting that money go was a step of faith which was richly rewarded as I saw a tremendous burden lifted from someone dear to me.  In the end, I didn’t miss the money or what it could have purchased but rather felt a deep sense of gratitude and connectedness to God’s work that He allowed me to be a part of. 

Hosea 13:6 says “When I fed them they were satisfied, when they were satisfied they became proud, when they became proud they forgot me”.  God gives us all we need.  Jesus taught us to pray each day that God would provide our daily bread and asserted in the desert that it isn’t just bread that sustains us but every word that comes from God.  Ultimately, Christ, and his grace are sufficient.  The opportunities God brings us to be generous are invitations to remember Him, to believe these promises, and to draw nearer to Him as He performs His world changing work through us. 

October 26, 2018

FaithBIT - Stewardship Edition

Brian Vik - All about giving

All about giving

By Brian Vik

On the corners of Immanuel’s altar platform sit two banners which echo the church’s and our own individual missions - - one reads “Called to Care” and the other “Sent to Serve”.  When we depart from church each Sunday we are told to, “Go in peace and Serve the Lord”.  The message to each of us? Go out and serve!

For 12 years the Lord has granted me the privilege to serve one of the ministries Immanuel supports, Cornerstone. I signed up as I enjoy this type of work - never once thinking that this would last for 12 years. I also never imagined that in serving others I would be rewarded way beyond description. The smiles and thank you’s from the families we serve inspire me and remind me that the power of simple giving is amazing. 

Brian's quote - Cornerstone

But the real blessing is seeing my fellow members of Immanuel assist with the meal and interact with the families. Jesus taught us to care for the least of his children and to love our neighbor. I see each month how the kind actions of my Immanuel brothers and sisters help those we serve feel love, and know that Jesus and his many servants care.

I have come to realize that being “called to care” is all about giving - and in doing so, you receive the gift of knowing you made a difference and that you are continuing to do the work that Lord started and expects of you.  My wish and hope is to do more, as I feel that I have more to give.  The weekly call to action, “serve the Lord”, is a continual reminder to continue to pay forward the many blessings I have been given. 

October 19, 2018

FaithBIT - Stewardship Edition

FaithBIT - Bible Study

The center of life

By Gary Hammer

On a Thursday morning in February 2009, I walked into our Men’s Bible Study at Baker’s Square in Eden Prairie.  Someone asked me, “How’s it going, Gary?”

I replied, “Well, my 401(K) is a 201(K) now!”  I was half joking, but my comment was serious, too, following the drop in the stock market and retirement planned within 10 years.  Yet, I felt a calmness that was much different than Black Monday in 1987.

Why?  God has been changing my attitude toward money over the years.  A big part of that is the story of the widow in Mark 12: 42-44…

“Presently, there came a poor widow who dropped in two tiny coins, together worth a penny. Jesus called his disciples to him and said, ‘Truly, I tell you this poor widow has given more than all those giving to the temple, for the others who have given had more than enough, but she, with less than enough, has given everything.’”

A widow gives two tiny coins—all she had—for the temple.  Not only was she extremely generous, but she trusted totally in God for her care.  She didn’t fret.

Gary's quoate

I realized that she had removed the power of money with her generosity.  The center of her life was God, not money.

Now, when a financial disaster (or any disaster) strikes, I know that I remain in God’s continuing care and that’s all that matters.

October 12, 2018


Jon - Hot Tub Prayer Machine

Hot Tub Prayer Machine

By Jon Ebert

Like many of us I’ve prayed sitting, standing, kneeling, at church, at work, in the car, and most anywhere the time and place felt right; however, my favorite and most common place to pray is in my hot tub. I’m a morning tubber and I’m in the hot tub nearly every morning year-around. I suppose you can say it’s my substitute for morning coffee as it energizes me in both mind and body and I find it the perfect place to connect with God for my daily prayers. I have a ritual for my prayers but I’m always revising to keep them fresh. I start by thanking God for my family and that we may be a blessing to others. I pray for critical needs for those whom I know as well as broader needs for our brothers and sisters throughout the world. In closing, I thank God for our “special angels” (naming family members who are watching over us from heaven) and end with the Lord’s Prayer.

Quote - Hot Tub Prayer Machine

There’s something very calming and relaxing about water and combined with the symbolism of baptism it’s the perfect place for me to connect with God. My travels have brought me around the world and given me unique settings from which to pray. Some of my most spiritual memories while traveling are floating on my back in a pool of water gazing up at the clouds praying to God and reflecting on how the sky is the same no matter where we are on the planet—bringing me emotionally closer to my loved ones and making my away-from-home prayers so much more meaningful. My morning hot tub prayer machine enriches my faith walk each day by connecting me with God in a peaceful setting that guides me throughout the day on a path of purpose and gives me clarity for a meaningful life.

October 5, 2018


Emilyn and Kids - Sisseton

Loved to love

By Emilyn Ryski

It was a day like any other; I was up way too early and doing a million things at once. I decided to take a break and go to Kids Club to see my kiddos. What I didn’t know was that Jace, a 6-year-old I hadn’t seen in a year was going to be there waiting for me. I walked into the craft room and was immediately greeted with a huge smile and a hug. Reconnecting with Jace who loves unconditionally and remembered me from last summer was a turning point for my week. It was one of those weeks where I needed a reminder of unconditional love.

Emilyn's quote

This summer I was reminded to love our neighbors as ourselves. Our words and actions impact the people around us more than we think. And although that may be intimidating to think about, it is really easy to love others. Kind words, a compassionate heart, and a welcoming smile are enough to change someone’s life. Every day I took time to listen and care for the kids of Sisseton and because of that, my faith grew. These kids have been through so much in their lives yet they are so quick to love others and open up their hearts to new friendships. Sometimes people just need us to sit and listen for them to be reminded that they matter. And the beautiful thing is we are all neighbors and beloved children of God.

September 28, 2018


Cari Larsen and small group

Rejoice in the day!

By Cari Larsen

“This is the day which the Lord has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24

I have to admit that while this is a Bible verse I’ve known since I was a child, I don’t always take it to heart. Some days I get caught up in frustrations at work – some days parenting takes its toll – some days I’m a grumpy wife, sister and daughter – some days the lament of my neighbors weighs heavily on my heart. Before I know it, I’ve let a day pass by without experiencing the joy that God intended for our lives.

In May I finished up co-leading a confirmation small group for a group of Immanuel students – including Faith. This fall I’m starting to co-lead a confirmation small group for more Immanuel students – including Caroline. I remember when I was preparing for Faith’s group – three years of Wednesday nights seemed like a huge commitment and a stretch of time that would go on forever. Now, as we are kicking off activities for this year’s 7th graders, I know that these three years will go by in the blink of an eye; that the Wednesdays will turn into weeks, months and the three years will fly by.

Cari's quote

I believe God has been using this time of reflection to remind me to slow down, pay attention and rejoice in the days that have been created for us! I know God doesn’t want us to ignore our neighbors’ laments – or not to work through the challenges of being a member of a family – or not acknowledge difficulties with co-workers or other relationships in our lives. I have just been sensing that God wants us to experience true joy that comes from the day that the Lord has made.

So, as the school year starts for my kids and as confirmation and many other programs kick off for the year at Immanuel, I’m going to try to remember each day to rejoice in the day that God has made and share that joy and the love of God with my family and neighbors.

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