Lent: Grief, Part 2

In an interview with a father of one of the children killed in Parkland, Florida, I heard him say the following:

“When people say to me, I can’t imagine what it is like losing your daughter. I say back, please try hard to imagine it then maybe you can feel what my days are like.”

This grieving father’s words hit like a hammer. He is begging us to waken with him every day as he sees his daughter’s still neatly made bed, no clothes on the floor, no complaining when the 6:00 a.m. alarm rings, no loud music, no laughter, no fights with a sibling. Just silence and an empty room. Imagine. Imagine.

He is asking us to live with him in his grief and pain. To be connected to him.

His request to try to imagine what it feels like to lose a daughter is a universal cry for companionship.

We have all lost loved ones. That is the only education and experience we need to walk with each other in the grief that forms our days and our world.

Yes, we all grieve differently. It is our own path to travel, but we all grieve.

When we go to funerals and we weep again for our own loss as well as the lost one, that’s beautiful. It can connect us to a universal grief.

Could the power, love and empathy of grieving be a hope for a broken world?

May we grieve as if every hungry child is ours.

May we grieve as if every abused animal is ours.

May we grieve as if people living in fear is also what we fear.

May we grieve with all the wounds of the world this week.


Rev. Jolene Bergstrom Carlson
Executive Director/President

Lent: Grief


Personal grief is real and can be raw. We have all known loss. Lent invites us to visit our personal grief and all the ways it wants to teach us. As hard as it is, acknowledging our grief can bring healing and growth. This week we are invited to welcome our personal grief and listen to what it wants to bring to us.

Let us listen to our grief through Father Thomas Keating’s, “The Welcoming Prayer”. The words of the prayer are more inclusive of all that we can welcome, if more than grief surfaces, simply embrace what comes. 

Welcome, Welcome, Welcome
I welcome everything that comes to me today
Because I know it is for my healing.
I welcome all thoughts, feelings, emotions, persons,
Situations and conditions.
I let go of my desire for power and control.
I let go of my desire for affection,
Esteem, approval and pleasure.
I let go of my desire for survival and security.
I let go of my desire to change any situation,
Condition, person or myself. 
I open to the love and presence of God and 
God’s action within. Amen

As we welcome our personal grief so may we, too, welcome universal grief. We have much to learn from grieving together for our world. We will visit that next week.


Rev. Jolene Bergstrom Carlson
Executive Director/President

Lent: Longing

The energy coming through the screen is palpable. The voices will not be silenced. The teenagers’ message is clear, “We will not stop until we have action.”

I think of Jesus who said, Let the children come to me, do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the Kingdom of God belongs. Luke 18:16a

Are we listening to the longings of these children? They aren’t asking for fancy computers and phones, they are longing to be safe. They are longing for common sense action from the adults around them.

I think of Jesus weeping over Jerusalem as he said, …If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace.  Luke 19: 42:a

They are trying to remind us what makes for peace and what can silence their longing for safely.

Of course, they simply want their lives back, too.

They are longing to have their teachers back.

They are longing to have their friends back.

They are longing to prepare for tests and think about graduation and prom and baseball games.

But right now, they are desperately longing to be heard. For until they are, the laughter and joy of their teenage lives cannot return. Even when it returns, it will be forever changed.  

Do we long with them? Be still and listen to the longings of these students.
It really doesn’t matter where we stand politically, what is at stake is far beyond any political party or issue.

Can we see the tears of Jesus as he wept over Jerusalem and still weeps for the children and for all of us, longing and begging for us to recognize what makes for peace?

These children are trying to save us. Can we hear them?


Rev. Jolene Bergstrom Carlson
Executive Director/President

Lent: Sacrifice

As a child the Lenten theology that received the most emphasis was that we must be aware and thankful that Jesus sacrificed his life for us and died for all our sins.

This is the message of the cross for certain, but as a small child that message put a cold chill throughout my whole body as well as my emotional being. That little girl screamed: “No, I’m not good enough. I’m bad. Don’t die for me, I’m not worth it!”

Though most of the time I know differently about my self-worth and the unconditional love of Jesus, every time I peek into darkness those messages pound at me to come back and claim as home that space that frightened a fragile little girl.

I could go directly from here into the importance of what and how we teach our children, but I won’t. That is beyond my focus, and I trust that our children no longer receive the loving sacrificial message of Jesus laden with false guilt and self-disgust.

But I do wonder how we receive the message that a sacrifice was made for us in the name of an unconditional love that remains an unanswered mystery about how it works?

Perhaps we have a glimpse of it as we watch a teacher laying over the bodies of their students trying to shield them from bullets. Or a dad desperately preforming CPR on a young son who was found at the bottom of a pool.

Can we begin to grasp it when we realize that we are like the little girl and don’t deserve a love that we can’t earn, or a love that has no strings attached, a love that is complete?

Can we live with a sacrifice so complete that the words of the theologian Virginia Ramey Mollenkott have meaning?

There is nothing you can do to make God love you any more. There is nothing you can do to make God love you any less. God simply Loves You.

Next week we will look at longing.


Jolene Bergstrom Carlson
Executive Director/President 

Lent: Reflection

Reflection, sacrifice, longing, and grief are at the core of Lent. Let us begin with reflection.

As we sat at an outdoor cafe, my heart was drawn into a time of reflection. This cafe was one of the last places my late husband and I enjoyed eating while visiting our son and his family. This day we were celebrating our family’s February birthdays: our son, our daughter, and son-in-law. It was a joy filled time with grandkids playing on the restaurant’s playground and adults laughing and sharing stories.

But my eyes were drawn to the table where we sat several years ago with our much younger grandchildren. My reflecting began. Where would we be this Lent? What would we be doing together this Lent? Would we be giving something up together?

My personal reflection continued.

  • What is Lent, really?
  • What does it mean to experience the journey Jesus took toward the cross in our 2018 world?
  • What do I really “give up” for Lent? 
  • What do I need to give up for Lent? 
  • Who cares what I give up for Lent? 
  • What does the world need to give up?
  • What does the church need to give up?
  • What do out false selves need to give up?
  • Then I was hit with, “so what?” 
  • What difference does Lent really make to our lives, our churches and our world? 
Our invitation this week is to reflect on the “so what” question of our Lenten journeys.

Next week we will look at sacrifice.


Jolene Bergstrom Carlson
Executive Director/President 

Ash Wednesday

The seminary, where my late husband taught for over 35 years, established a scholarship in our names and dedicated a room in his honor. During the program dedicating the room, several people spoke of him and the different ways he had been present in their lives.

Many themes evolved, but the most consistent description was of how he walked with colleagues, students, and friends in times of darkness, depression, doubt, and confusion.

I know that he, like so many of us, was able to walk with them during times of darkness because he walked there himself.

Our dark/shadow sides have much to teach us.

Shadow work is not easy. It releases the content and power of our “imperfections.” This exploration can range from being uncomfortable to devastating.  But ironically, it is on this honest and vulnerable road that we have the chance of being lifted into our deepest humanity and fullest self and other awareness.

On this Ash Wednesday, we are invited to go within ourselves and to walk with each other as we enter the shadows of Christ’s Lenten journey.


Jolene Bergstrom Carlson
Executive Director/President 

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