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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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