Anders and Advent

Do you look forward to a piece of chocolate, a picture of a cuddly, furry kitten, or a tiny Lego toy? If you are my 6 year old grandson, the answer is a resounding YES!

On the morning of December 1 at 3:00 a.m., he rushed into his Mommy and Daddy’s room with an intensity of expectation that could only be met with,

“No, it is still night time. You must go back to sleep and wait until your clock says 6:00 a.m.”

To contain and change the energy and force of a young child eager to see his surprise is nearly impossible. I could go into all kinds of parental advice on how to deal with early Advent risers and affirm the affects it has on the whole family as crabby and tired people try to navigate the day, but I really don’t have much to advise.

But it makes me ponder how long has it been since I’ve experienced the force of the anticipation of a surprise?
What will be the surprises on my Advent Calendar this year?
Will I look to a well-known theologian for daily inspiration?
Will I journal each morning about my life to see if a surprise reveals itself?
Will I reflect on the ducks on the pond that I walk around each morning as I notice how steady paddling affects the water?
Will I find time to notice another’s tears?
I wonder if I will truly be open to the force of the anticipations in Advent.

For sure, I’m going to buy a calendar that has chocolates!

Jolene Bergstrom Carlson
Executive Director/President

Gratitude is a Way of Being

I subscribe to a daily email that has a gratefulness word for the day. Some days it hits me just where I need to be. Other days, I delete it quickly.

No matter the specific quote or message, it always pulls me into a grateful state even if only for a few moments. I realized the other day that I have become dependent on this daily reminder to be grateful.

Gratitude is at the core of our Thanksgiving message. Yet it is more than a message. Gratitude is a way of being. It is a way of seeing. It is a way of living wholeness in the midst of our broken lives.

Might that be what Jesus is saying in the story of feeding the 5,000?

He ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground, and he took the seven loaves, and after giving thanks he broke them and gave them to the disciples to distribute; and they distributed them to the crowd Mark 8:6.

Giving thanks feeds beyond boundaries and limits.May we give and live gratitude.


Jolene Bergstrom Carlson
Executive Director/President

A Safe Place

The memory is clear. I can still see our first born walking into her first day of kindergarten. I wore sunglasses thinking they would disguise the tears that I desperately tried to contain.

But nothing could hid the reality that she was now a part of the larger world to be loved and judged, confused and challenged, hurt and hugged.   Her world and the whole family’s world dramatically changed that day. There is hardly anything more important that knowing that children have safe places where they will be loved and respected by the world outside their immediate families.

As adults as we begin the usual busy fall schedules it is a good idea to pause a moment and remind ourselves why we do what we do and what is important to us.

Jesus asked us to love our neighbors as ourselves. He asked us welcome the stranger, feed the poor, release the captives. What does that mean for us today in the midst of all the chaos and hurt in our world? These are risky requests. These aren’t safe places.

Yet, we want to know that our lives matter for something beyond ourselves. We want to feel like we can contribute to a greater good.

Just like a kindergartner on the first day of school, aren’t we asked to be in the world where we will be both judged and loved, confused and challenged, hurt and hugged?

Our young children need to know they are safe. Jesus modeled that as he welcomed the children to be safe by him at a time in history when a child was not safe in the larger world.

However, our safely releases us to go into the “unsafe” world to work together and give of ourselves.  

Pastors lead us there. God provides care for us there. May we go out and bring safety and hope to help heal the wounds of our world.

Rev. Jolene Bergstrom Carlson
Executive Director/President 

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Vacation and Vocation


We were traveling to grandparents in Florida for vacation when our son was about ten years old. He and his dad began a conversation about why his dad was a seminary professor and pastor. His dad began to explain that he was doing what he was supposed to be doing. He added how important it is to give of ourselves to others and the world. His dad said that his work was more than a job. It was something he just loved to do. Then, utilizing his incredible gift of teaching with story and real life, he talked for several miles about call and vocation.

Our son was quiet for a long-time. Finally he said, “Oh, I get it. A vacation is something you take like we are doing. A vocation is something that takes you.”

My husband and I both have used this story many times in care for pastors and their understanding of vocation. Vocations take each of us into the place of passion and purpose.

Inherent in our vocations is the need to take vacations! Sometimes, we can forget that a healthy vocation cannot survive without taking time for a vacation.

Letting go of our work to take a vacation can be a challenge. It can be hard to truly believe that the ministry, or any other vocation, is safe in someone else’s hands.

Taking a vacation also means letting go of our vocation for a time of rest and refreshment, play and exploration, and connecting with ourselves, family and friends.

The challenge to all of us is to risk letting go to enter into the place of trust in others and full trust in the Spirit to provide what is needed. Vocations and vacations are both sacred.

I’m going to take my vacation in the next few weeks. I hope you can do the same.

Rev. Jolene Bergstrom Carlson
Executive Director/President 

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Inside Out

The movement of the spirit we remember at Pentecost may be a quiet presence longing for space in our lives. We often rightfully seek God’s presence from an external source but not notice the presence of spirit of God inside. I wonder if we miss this internal spirit because we think we need to be better people before we can receive the spirit. Or we are so damaged that we don’t deserve the spirit? Or we are so self-sufficient that we don’t need the spirit? No matter where or who we are, the spirit wants to be alive inside of each of us and hopes to find a way to enter.

Leonard Cohen’s song “Anthem” offers a picture of how the spirit may enter:

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering

There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.
There is an old India fable that shows how God’s spirit comes in through our internal cracks and flaws to use us for spreading beauty.
There once lived a water carrier in India. He used two large pots for his task. He suspended a pole across his neck and attached a pot at each end of the pole. One of the pots had a big crack in it while the other pot was perfect. The perfect pot delivered a full portion of water from the stream to the master’s house, while the cracked pot arrived only half full each day. For two years this water carrier made the same journey. The perfect pot became proud of his accomplishments. The cracked pot was ashamed of its imperfections and miserable that it was able to accomplish only half of what it had been made to do.

Finally, one day by the stream, the cracked pot spoke to his owner about his bitter failure, “I’m ashamed of myself, and I want to apologize that I have only been able to deliver half my water to the house. There is a crack in my side which causes water to leak out. Because of my flaws, you don’t get full value from your efforts.”

Then the water carrier replied, smiling, “As we return to the master’s house, I want you to notice the beautiful flowers along the path.” 

On the trip from the stream, the cracked pot looked around. The water carrier said, “Did you notice there are flowers on your side of the path, but not on the other pot’s side? That’s because I have always known about your flaw and took advantage of it. I planted seeds on your side and every day while we passed these spots, you watered them. Without you just the way you are I would not have had beautiful flowers to grace this house.”

Rev. Jolene Bergstrom Carlson
Executive Director/President 

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God’s Great “YES!”

“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.”  

This message, written by theologian Virginia Ramey Mollencott, clearly and simply states the whole reason and mystery of the Resurrection.  Resurrected love is God’s great “YES.”  We are simply loved and accepted just as we are. It is a gift given to us. 

May we be open to receive the gift of the “YES” of Easter.

Rev. Jolene Bergstrom Carlson
Executive Director/President 

Link here to subscribe to Ministry Mentors e-newsletters on the Contact Us page.

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