Nov 14, 2017

What We're Reading (November)

Every now and then, we share what some of the SDMW writers have been reading lately. What about you? Do you have any titles to recommend? 

(NOTE: speaking of books, there is still time to sign up for the SDMW Advent book exchange!).

Nov 10, 2017

Join Us for another Advent Book Exchange

Hi Everyone!

We all need the humanizing influence of good stories, and once again, SDMW will be hosting an Advent book exchange. Join us if you would like to share a favorite book with a fellow Lutheran lady (and receive a book in return!).

Like last year, the rules are simple; but we’ve tweaked them a bit. Here is how to participate:

1. Fill out the participation form at the end of this post no later than November 23rd

2. I will email you with your recipient’s mailing address and her comments about her favorite types of stories. Choose a story-driven book (i.e., novel, memoir, or nonfiction narrative) that is in good reading condition and reasonably cheerful (avoid anything excessively disturbing. The overall message should be hopeful even if the characters experience suffering). Feel free to include a note explaining why you love this book. 

3. Send a book to your lovely recipient no later than December 9th (you will have two weeks in which to do this). You should include your email address with the book so that the recipient can let you know she got your gift. 

Are you in? It will be fun!

Here is the form:

Nov 1, 2017

Talking to Children About Death (Podcast Episode with Allison Kieselowsky)

Living Our Vocations, Season One, Episode 4: "Talking to Children About Death and Loss" with Allison Kieselowsky.
Recently my son asked me, "But Mommy, what did Jesus save us from?" It's a tough question. The answer doesn't make any sense unless I talk to him about death. Yet death is a very uncomfortable subject. In this episode, Allison Kieselowsky--a pastor's wife, teacher, and mom--shares some wonderful, theologically-driven examples of how she talks to her kids about death and loss.

You can listen-in here in this post or head over to iTunesLibsyn, or Stitcher. As always, we are grateful for reviews (more reviews on iTunes will allow more people to find our podcast). 


Singing About Death

Oct 31, 2017

That's what the Reformation is all about, Charlie Brown

By Heather Smith

Decades of planning, thousands of special resources, and over a million Playmobil Luthers later, the 500th anniversary of the Reformation has finally arrived. It is huge. It is important. Christians everywhere are energized to commemorate this event that is still so significant for us today. So significant, in fact, that we might well ask that quintessential Lutheran question, “What does this mean?”

And suddenly we are deafened by a hundred competing and contradictory answers. Like Charlie Brown in the classic Christmas special, it is easy to be overwhelmed by the commercialization and to be frustrated by trying to understand what the whole celebration is really about.

Nor is the proliferation of rival viewpoints entirely unintentional. In fact, the re-interpretation of history is quite a deliberate pursuit for many in our time. In a document published by a joint commission of Roman Catholics and ELCA Lutherans in commemoration of the Reformation’s 500th anniversary, the authors state, “What happened in the past cannot be changed, but what is remembered of the past and how it is remembered can, with the passage of time, indeed change. . . . In view of 2017, the point is not to tell a different history, but to tell that history differently.”

However, historical retelling almost never leads us deeper into truth. In searching for the true meaning of the Reformation, we can begin by weeding out the obvious misreadings of it.

Oct 27, 2017

Luther vs. Thoreau and the Meaning of Ordinary Life

By Cheryl Magness

When I was a teenager, I became quite enamored of the writings of Henry David Thoreau and other American transcendentalists like Ralph Waldo Emerson and Walt Whitman. They appealed to my idealism, my seeking for meaning, my yearning to believe in the goodness of people, and my desire to feel as though anything were possible, even for a shy, insecure, small-town Texas girl with all kinds of earthly limitations.

Then grownup life happened, and with it a hefty dose of realism: not everything is possible. People are sinful. Dreaming something doesn’t make it true. And sometimes life seems less imbued with meaning than utterly absurd. No wonder Edgar Allan Poe mockingly called the Transcendentalists “Frogpondians.”

Yet there is still much in those 150-plus-year-old musings that resonates. Thoreau didn’t just talk about his vision for what we might today call “intentional living”; he put it into practice (for five years, no less):

Oct 24, 2017


By Leah Sherman

Recently, I signed up for Instagram.  It seemed simple enough: a few questions, a username and password. Filling out my profile, however, posed a challenge.  “About Me.”  What about me is worth putting out there for everyone to see? I left it blank.

Years ago, I had great ambitions. I was learning Hebrew and Greek. I was planning to student teach in Australia, and would graduate college in the spring.  I had been accepted in graduate school and would eventually obtain a doctorate.  I wanted to do something with my life.

My ambitions were interrupted when I met a boy.  My Greek studies fell by the wayside, the Australia trip fell through, and my plans to obtain a Master’s degree came to a halt.  I graduated in spring, and was married in summer.

Looking at the lives of my friends, I sometimes wonder if I did something wrong.  One friend is living in Korea teaching music. Her pictures are exotic and happy.  She travels to all the places I wanted to see, and more.  Another friend started a successful business making and selling granola, then sold it for a nice profit. Friends get graduate degrees, friends get swanky jobs, friends get their names on the covers of books.  What about me?

In these past ten years of marriage, I can’t lay claim to mastery over anything.  I cook great food, but still burn the meat occasionally. I bake, but those gluten-free muffins I just pulled out of  the oven fell.  I clean, but can’t keep the counter clutter-free. I quilt, but can boast no County Fair ribbon.  I am a mother, but only to one, so certainly no expert.  I read great literature, but can’t understand Virginia Woolf. I homeschool, but my teaching certificate expired.  I garden, but forgot to thin the carrots. I write for a blog, but my afternoon musings haven’t earned any money or prestige. A little of this, a little of that, a kind of Jane-of-all-trades. What about me is worth putting out there for everyone to see?

Oct 20, 2017

Three Things I Want My Catholic Friends to Know about Reformation Day

By Anna Mussmann

This is the time of year when my Lutheran friends share photos of Reformation choirs and Luther-themed socks on social media. Yet to my Roman Catholic friends, the Reformation isn’t something to celebrate.

In their eyes, our admiration for Martin Luther is as misguided as holding a big party in honor of one’s divorce. They argue that the Reformation ushered in a world where each individual’s personal taste in interpretation became supreme--leading to the moral chaos and postmodernism that riddles the cultural landscape today. At best, they see Protestants as limping along without the spiritual blessings God bestows through the Church; yet, like anorexics, rejoicing in this near-starvation.

I readily concede that the Reformation brought costs as well as benefits. Yet as a Lutheran, I am profoundly grateful for the sixteenth-century return to Scripture that reminded us of Sola Scriptura, Sola Fide, Sola Gratia, and Solus Christus. I am deeply appreciative of the Lutheran determination, demonstrated in the Book of Concord, to find and cling to Biblical truth. That is why I want my Catholic friends to know three things about the event I will be celebrating on October 31st.

Oct 17, 2017

Why It's Important to Learn the Art of Writing Thank You Notes (and how to do it)

By Heather Smith

Three months of marriage is not enough to hone expertise in most areas of married life, but it has sharpened my skill in one small area: the writing of thank you notes. As of a few weeks ago, I had written well over 200 of them in conjunction with my wedding. Being prone to ponder deeply upon even mundane tasks, I naturally found myself musing over the art of the thank you as I compelled  my throbbing hand to scrawl out “just one more” before resting. But what really made me contemplate this topic was the number of people who thanked me for their thank you notes.

I began to realize that people truly are moved by sincere expressions of gratitude. Furthermore, like any other art, writing such notes is not an innate ability, but rather one that can be learned and heightened through thoughtful practice. Writing lovely, true, kind thank you notes is good for author and recipient alike. It honors the gift-giver’s generosity while training the receiver in graceful humility, and it ultimately speaks to the value of human beings over material gifts.

My habit of thank you note writing began early under the tutelage of a mother who made sure I wrote a thank you note for every Christmas and birthday gift. No doubt many of these were simplistic, but in my high school years, thank you notes often became an outlet for my burgeoning rhetorical skills. I remember one in particular, written in thanks for a glass apple, in which I waxed eloquent about how viewing the bubbles suspended within the glass inspired me to ponder the rare quiet moments that seemed suspended in time . . . or some similar over-the-top philosophizing.

I expanded my habit of gratitude during my college years when I made it my custom at the end of every semester to write a thank you note to each professor under whom I had studied. Sometimes a small card could hardly contain the effusive gratitude I wished to extend. Sometimes I struggled to find anything both true and gracious to say in thanks.

Oct 13, 2017

That Time When Motherhood Changed Our Story

By Rebekah Theilen
“Even if you don’t sense joy in your immediate circumstances, that doesn’t mean God doesn’t intend to give it to you.” Leslie Ludy
Nobody likes it when the main character dies. This was the opinion of director George Lucas, the original Star Wars film producer. In the book You Are What You Love, James K.A. Smith highlights an interesting conversation between Lucas and his co-writer, Lawrence Kasdan. While writing Return of the Jedi, Kasdan tries to convince Lucas to kill somebody off, to give the story an edge with emotional weight and personal impact for the audience. Lucas protests again and again, finally putting his foot down to reveal the heart of where he stands: “This is a fairytale. You want everybody to live happily ever after and nothing bad happens to anybody.”

I like the way the man thinks. Who hasn’t, at least once in her life, dreamed of a world where nobody dies and everyone lives happily ever after?  Wouldn’t it be fun to be friends with the adorable mice who could craft us a beautiful dress for the ball and for all it took to arrive there was the waving of a wand to make a pumpkin come alive?  But that’s not how it works. Our hearts are being shaped by a different kind of story, far bigger than any of us. The story calls us to be all in--to know and love the Truth. The truth is there are two kinds of knowing. One kind of knowing comes with an agreeing nod of the head. The other kind of knowing comes only through tears.

It’s the tears we often find so hard to accept. The long days. The hidden years. The steady and rugged uphill battles and struggles. There is no choice but to fulfill what is required, to face the real world head on, to pick the vomit out of the car seat cracks. The vocation of motherhood gives us an up-close-and-personal relationship with life and death in ways we never signed up for. Upon entrance into the life-giving work of bringing up children, there are times it can surprisingly feel an awful lot more like dying than living. We’re receiving a painful, but liberating lesson in the God-ordained story of the world. The truth is we are not the main characters. We are not Cinderella, we’re more like the pumpkin.  A pumpkin doesn’t glow unless somebody guts it.

Oct 10, 2017

Making Peace with the Vocations We Don't Have (From our Archives)

Note: This piece first ran in 2016.

By Anna Ilona Mussmann

Barbara Cooney’s classic picture book, Miss Rumphius, tells the story of a lady who fulfills all three of her childhood goals.
“In the evening Alice sat on her grandfather’s knee and listened to his stories of faraway places. When he had finished, Alice would say, ‘When I grow up, I too will go to faraway places, and when I grow old, I too will live beside the sea.’ 
“‘That is all very well, little Alice,’ said her grandfather, ‘but there is a third thing you must do.’  
“‘What is that?’ asked Alice.  
“‘You must do something to make the world more beautiful,’ said her grandfather. 'All right.’ said Alice. But she did not know what that could be.’”
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