Lifetimes: June 2022

Lifetimes Newsletter


Pastor Kai Nilsen
Pastor Kai Nilsen

Have you ever noticed that major house projects rarely occur on your timing? You plan to host a holiday gathering and that’s the day the sink clogs or the dishwasher dies and there is no plumber available on a moment’s notice. The week of the scorching summer heat wave is the same week that your air conditioning fails. The repair person might be able to get there… in a week!

Well, this summer is that summer for us at Incarnation. In this edition of Lifetimes, Wyatt Stahl, our congregation president, outlines the two projects that Incarnation has been putting off for too many years—the water intrusion project on the Incarnation Hall walls and the parking lot project. Last month, we finished evaluating the bids to each project and now we are ready to launch.

We have good news to share so far. A few members, including our council, have already given or made upfront commitments totaling more than $150,000, with more coming in the next few weeks.

Now it’s your turn.

As members of a community, we each can take responsibility for providing a healthy space for our ministry og all ages—our youngest kids to our most senior adults. Time is of the essence if we want to finish these projects this summer. We are asking you to consider giving over and above your yearly commitment so that we can do these two projects.

If you have any questions after you read through Wyatt’s article, don’t hesitate to ask him or me.

What’s the best time to do necessary improvement projects?  We think it’s now!

Summer Worship Series
The idea for our summer sermon series, “Questions God Asks Us,” comes from Trevor Hudson’s book by the same title. In the preface to the book Hudson says, “Recently I read that of the 185 questions that Jesus was asked in the four Gospels, he directly answered only three! (I will leave you to find out which three these are!) This little-known fact often surprises people who believe that Christianity always provides us with clear answers. Apparently, Jesus saw things quite differently. By asking us questions he wanted us to know that God really values what we think and feel.”

Beginning June 12, we will enter into eight different questions that God asks God’s people throughout the scriptures.

Where are you?
Where is your brother? (or sister!)
What is that in your hand?
What is your name?
What are you looking for?
Who do you say that I am?
Do you want to get well?
Why are you crying?

We hope these questions will ignite our curiosity and enflame our desire for knowing, experiencing, and living the life that God invites us to lead.

Ignite. Enflame. Pretty good Pentecost ideas I’d say!

See you in worship this summer. If you desire, join a small group that dives more deeply into these questions. And… maybe it’s also time to invite a friend to take this journey with you.

Peace, Kai


Wyatt Stahl, Congregation President
Wyatt Stahl, Congregation President

When I attended the 8:45 am service on Sunday, May 15, I sat in my usual pew near the front row and in the center. As the service started, the pastor told us the  hymn number of the first song in case we wanted to use the new hymnals. I had completely missed the fact that we now have a sanctuary filled with the new red hymnal also known as the “the cranberry book”.  Although I am not the most observant person, I think part of the reason I had not noticed the hymnals until that moment was that things looked like they were “in place”; that we have entered our new normal. And that felt wonderfully good.

Thank you to Amy Maakestad for her work to make the new hymnals a reality and thank you to everyone that donated to help purchase these “cranberry book hymnals” and bring them to our congregation.   Each time I open one, I read the names of those who donated and who they are honoring, and those individuals “come alive” to me.

And thank you to everyone that took the time to complete the survey.  Please read the article about the survey in this issue. The survey feedback is in the process of being reviewed and organized. Once done, the results will be made available and will be used by the Faith Formation Team at Incarnation to shape and guide decisions.

The council voted in favor of continuing forward with the fundraising work necessary to start the Parking Lot Project and the Water Intrusion Repair Project (see updates below). Many generous individuals have already committed funds, and now we are starting the further work to build those funds until they completely cover the project costs. Please seriously consider helping grow these funds while also supporting our general budget needs. We have a gap between donations and the budget that has been growing during the last two months, and the council is committed to actively managing this financial gap.

Update on Projects

Water standing in rotted window frame.
Water standing in rotted window frame.

COST: $197,798

RAISED TO DATE: $107,200

ISSUE: Rotting window frames due to improper installation

HISTORY: In the past couple of years, windows in the 2005 addition called Incarnation Hall have begun to leak and rot. In the last year, attempts were made to see if the damage could be claimed on insurance and repaired. A legal firm was also hired to see if there was any ownership of the problems with the orginal construction companies. None of this proved available.

PLAN: Replace the 33 windows with new windows and install them with proper techniques. The outside walls will be redone with new material and the insides around the windows will be repaired and sheetrock installed.

INFORMATION: Rick Gravley, Facilities Manager OR Danette Griffith, Administrator

SUPPORT: Online or checks, stocks, grants to Incarnation Lutheran with project indicated.

Pastor Joel hoping for a catch in the pond created by improper runoff.
Pastor Joel hoping for a catch in the pond created by improper runoff.

COST: $328,275

ISSUE: Improper runoff of drain water and no handicapped parking near building.

HISTORY: The parking lot has served well for many years but needs proper drainage installed to avoid water pooling. The handicapped parking is not next to the building which makes members and guests cross moving traffic to get into the building.

PLAN: Redesign parking lot with handicapped slots next to the building. A sidewalk will be installed along the south side of the building to connect Door One and Door Two. In this first phase, the south parking lot will be resurfaced and restriped. Future phases will include other parking areas.

INFORMATION: Rick Gravley, Facilities Manager OR Danette Griffith, Administrator

SUPPORT: Online or checks, stocks, grants to Incarnation Lutheran with project indicated.



Electronic Design Company (EDC) is scheduling the installation for the new Incarnation Sanctuary speaker system. Speakers have been purchased from the speaker company, L-Acoustics, located in France, but due to difficulties with supply chain, they’re having trouble getting the speakers to us. At the moment, the installation date will be sometime in late September. EDC is contacting the Twin Cities representative for L-Acoustics to see if there’s a chance that the speakers will arrive any sooner and will keep us updated on their progress. Your patience is appreciated as we eagerly await the installation!

Hymnal Update

We have received all of the gifts we need for the new hymnals. Here is a link to see the list of donors.

Vacation Bible School Workday!

June 4, 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Grace Hall (outside too)

Join the VBS team and come help build the set and decorations for VBS. You do not need to be an artist; the curriculum comes with step-by-step instructions. All supplies will be provided! Contact Rebecca Christiansen, Director of Children’s Ministries at

Congregational Check-up Survey 2022

Thank you to everyone who took the time to fill out the Congregational Check-Up Survey. We are so appreciative of your feedback and continued support of the ministries going on here at Incarnation. Throughout the first two weeks of May, 208 people took the survey! People were asked to respond to the areas where they were involved, so not everyone took every part of the survey, by far most people filled out questions regarding our Sunday Worship Services (192 responses) the next highest was ILC Kids (with 23 responses).

Just over two-thirds (69%) of those who filled out the survey for Sunday Worship typically attend or watch the traditional service. Just over half (51%) prefer a traditional style of worship, whereas over one-third (36%) prefer a contemporary worship experience leaving around 13% of people who prefer both traditional and contemporary styles of worship.

Whereas seven-eighths of respondents prefer to worship in person there are a whole myriad of reasons as to why some are choosing not to worship in person. When asked, “If your preferred worship service engagement is in-person BUT you have been worshiping online or elsewhere, is there anything that would bring you back to the building?” The most common response was connected to COVID. Most reflected some anxiety about the current rate of COVID infections saying: “Continued lower COVID number and a vaccine for under 5-year olds”. Or “For COVID to be more manageable”. Or “Solve COVID pandemic”. At the same time a few respondents reflected the opposite advocating for Incarnation to consider: “Lifting COVID restrictions to allow more personal interaction”.

Other common themes that emerged from this section of the survey include:

  • Moving the traditional worship service time a little later
  • Adding more liturgical elements to the traditional worship experience, (i.e. additional Scripture readings, using the kneelers during Confession, acolytes and pastors processing in)
  • Adding an evening worship service option

When asked to reflect about why you worship the way you do, most respondents shared that it had more to do with what was convenient for them given their personal situations. “Worshipping in-person requires me to be physically present (up, dressed, etc.) and on-time at the building, whereas online I can conveniently attend in my bathrobe any time . . ..” Another person said, “100% convenience. I can participate from my couch with coffee or if I miss the live version, watch it at a time that’s more amenable to my schedule.”

For those who typically choose to worship in person, the biggest reason given was being able to connect with people in person. “I like coming to the building, seeing people I know, communion and the sacredness of church.” Someone else put it this way, “I get a lot more out of being there with other people, singing together and taking communion.” And another said, “We are a faith community, and ‘community’ is best experienced in person.”

There is a lot of great learning that came out of this survey. We are a community who cares deeply about how we experience God in worship together and how that worship leads us into the way we interact in the world throughout the rest of the week. Whether you choose to worship online or in-person, it is evident that experiencing God in worship is crucial towards developing life-long faithful followers of Jesus.

So, now what? The Faith Formation Team and the Council will categorize the hundreds of comments that were received to extrapolate major themes that came out of this survey regarding both worship and ILC Kids/Confirmation/High School ministries. Based on those categories, we will  discern the difference between things we can directly address now, things that we will need to address later, and things that are outside of our control—we’re sorry, but we can’t solve COVID. But we can all continue to care for our community in life-giving ways!

The next step will be to get these items into the hands of those on staff or Council who are responsible for overseeing those items. A part of this process will invite us to consider, “What are the resources, skills, or training that need to take place in order to address this specific issue?” (Thankfully, for many of these items, we have the needed resources, skills and professional expertise to address them.) As a part of that process, we will be reaching out to some of the ninety-seven respondents who included their contact information to engage them in further exploration.

Again, thank you for taking the time to fill  out the Congregational Check-up Survey. And whereas this article merely scratches the surface to all that we discovered, know that you are heard, cared for, and loved.

Preschool Positions Available      

Our NAEYC accredited preschool program is seeking qualified candidates to fill lead teacher and assistant teacher roles for the upcoming school year. These positions will be on either Mon/Wed/Fri or Tues/Thurs. Additional hours for positions are required throughout the school year for meetings, trainings, prep work, orientation, and school events.  Substituting hours are also available if interested. The ideal candidates will be able to meet Minnesota DHS and NAEYC requirements.  For more information and job descriptions, contact Kirsten Barie at or 651-766-0723.

FMSC Action Group Volunteer Opportunity

The Feed My Starving Children Action Group at Incarnation is looking for one or more volunteers who are interested in serving as the Hospitality Coordinator to support our MobilePackTM events. If you are someone who is hospitality-minded and wants to share in the important ministry of Feed My Starving Children, this job is for you!

This on-going volunteer opportunity is responsible for:

  • Greeting, guiding and directing packing volunteers during MobilePacksTM held at Incarnation
  • Coordination of meals and snacks for FMSC staff and core volunteers during MobilePacksTM
  • Coordination of the Food For All MobilePackTM picnics held July 29 and 30, 2022, including assisting in volunteer recruitment and working alongside the ILC food coordinators to serve the picnic.

The Action Group meets on the last Tuesday of each month from 5:00 – 7:00 p.m. throughout the year to plan MobilePacksTM and other initiatives in support of this ministry partner. For more information, contact Deb Rykken.

Volunteer Registration is Live for the Food for All MobilePackTM

The days are getting warmer and longer.   Families are counting down the number of days until school is out. Docks are in, boats are launched….all signs of summer. That means that the Food For All MobilePackTM  is just around the corner!

Starting today, volunteer registration is open for the Food For All MobilePackTM , held July 29 and 30 at Incarnation. This event will cap off the month-long Tons of Love campaign hosted by the Ralph Reeder Food Shelf Action Group, and supports Incarnation’s mission of feeding the hungry, in heart, body, mind and spirit, impacting local and global hunger issues.

There will be two packing shifts per day as well as opportunities to help set up and tear down the event. Visit the FMSC website and sign up for a day and time that is convenient for you. Invite your friends and family members ages 5+ to join you. The event is open to all Incarnation members and non-members from the greater community alike. All are welcome here. Throughout the two days of packing, we hope to host 400 volunteers plus additional team members to help behind the scenes, packing 100,000 meals to feed 273 of God’s kids for one year.

Deb Rykken, the FMSC Action Group’s Volunteer Coordinator, states, “I look forward to coming together as a faith community and doing something impactful. In just two hours, we can make a big difference for hundreds of children who live with extreme hunger and turn that hunger into hope”.

And don’t forget, between the two packing shifts, Incarnation will host a picnic for all volunteers coming from or going to their shift.  This is another opportunity to gather as a community and celebrate summer with traditional picnic fare, games and fun. More information will be available soon regarding volunteer sign up to help with the community picnic.

To support the Ralph Reeder Food Shelf Tons of Love campaign, the FMSC Action Team is encouraging MobilePackTM volunteers to bring donations of non-perishable food or make a financial contribution to support our local food shelf during the month of July, typically a low volume month for food shelf donations.

Thank you in advance for your support of this important ministry. For the most up to date information, visit our web page or follow our social media sites to stay up to date on news about this MobilePackTM. For questions, contact Sally Lawless.

The Tons of Love campaign will be back in July!

Tons of Love, Incarnation’s summer food drive to support the Ralph Reeder Food Shelf will be held throughout the month of July. Both physical and monetary donations will be accepted. With fewer COVID restrictions, we can accept more non-perishable physical items this year. The good news is that we will be able to collect them all year round again.

Needs are always higher in the summer. There are fewer donations. Kids are not in school.

For Tons of Love, Ralph Reeder has provided us with lists of items they especially need. These are items they may have a difficult time buying or may be difficult to obtain due to supply chain disruptions. There will be a different focus for each week in July. These items are suggestions. We are happy to accept anything you chose to donate, but consider including some of the items from these lists.

We start off the week of July 3 with Summer Essentials! These items include:
sunscreen, kid-friendly bug spray, band aids, Neosporin, ketchup, mustard,
mayonnaise, BBQ sauce

Week of July 10 Snack Items: graham crackers, granola bars, fruit snacks, fish/cheese crackers, pudding, Triscuits, Wheat Thins, saltines

Week of July 17 Lunch is Served: macaroni and cheese (boxes and microwaveable cups), canned chili, canned soups, canned stewed, Ramen, tuna, canned tuna

Week of July 24 Squeaky Clean: laundry detergent, toilet paper, Kleenex, all-purpose cleaner, paper towels, dish detergent, dishwasher detergent

Week of July 31 Breakfast Items: juice (no glass jars), cold cereal, hot cereal, pancake mix, pancake syrup, cereal bars, breakfast bars.

Monetary donations, of any amount, are always appreciated. For every dollar donated Ralph Reeder is able to purchase up toeight pounds of food.

This year Tons of Love will be incorporated into Incarnation’s new event, Food for All. This will happen at the end of the July. We will be having a “Drive By” drop off for Ralph Reeder donations Monday July 25 through Thursday July 28. Feed My Starving Children will be having a packing event on July 29 and 30. Participants are being asked to bring donations. Bring a bag from any store you choose! Have some fun!

Apostles Library Book Review

Learning to Pray: A Guide for Everyone  by James Martin, SJ

Learning to Pray: A Guide for Everyone by James Martin, SJ comes recommended by many who are neither members of the Catholic Church nor Jesuits.

If you are looking for one title which can be most helpful for you as you learn to pray, struggle to pray, want to expand your prayer life, and want to learn some new prayer practices, this book is for you. Perhaps that’s why the subtitle says it is for “everyone”. I think Martin could also have included the word “practical” because even though there are 400 pages, it is very readable; you may even want to consider for your own purchase. (Tempting to underline and highlight – – not recommended for church library books!)

Learning to Pray explains what prayer is, what to expect from praying, how to do it, and how it can transform us when we make it a regular practice in our lives. Martin lays out the different styles and traditions of prayer throughout Christian history and invites us to experiment and discover which works best to feed our soul and build intimacy with our Creator. He makes clear there is not one secret formula for praying. Like any relationship, each person can discover the best style for building an intimate relationship with God, regardless of religion or denomination. Prayer, he teaches us, is open and accessible to anyone willing to open their heart.

This author and title is recommended by several Incarnation members.

The Saint John’s Bible – Jesus’ Family Tree

The Gospel of Matthew starts with what seems like an endless list of names connecting Abraham to Jesus. Can you imagine trying to turn that into inspirational art that sparks the spiritual imagination? After putting aside his dread of this assignment, Donald Jackson decided to show them as a family tree – Jesus’ family tree. And to emphasize that all the names leading up to Jesus are Jewish, Jackson fashioned the tree as a menorah, a candelabra with seven lights that is used in Jewish worship.

Donald Jackson is quoted as saying, “My idea was to suggest a bridge between the Old Testament and the New, so I used the menorah as a foundation of the design to acknowledge Christianity’s Jewish roots.” Menorahs are also found in a number of Old Testament illuminations. As Christians and Jews have worked to strengthen the connection between these sibling religions, Christians have been reminded that the Bible Jesus knew is the Hebrew Bible. Apostle Paul described Judaism and Christianity as two branches of the same olive tree. Jonathan Homrighausen’s book, Illuminating Justice, outlines how much of the imagery and illuminations in The Saint John’s Bible show the linkage and important connection between Judaism and Christianity.

Another strong symbol of the Jewish people is the Star of David. Two Stars of David appear in crucial illuminations in the Gospels. In the Baptism of Jesus in Mark 1, a Star of David hangs in the sky above Jesus, possibly symbolizing the presence of God. And in Eucharist in Luke 22, the Star of David is used in the border to symbolize the connection between the Passover meal and the Last Supper. There is additional symbolism of Jesus’ and Paul’s Jewishness in illuminations of the New Testament, such as Jesus’ Aramaic words added to the margin or illumination, and Paul depicted wearing a prayer shawl.

While reflecting on the illuminations of The Saint John’s Bible, take the opportunity to look for the connections between Christianity and Judaism, and remember that Jesus was Jewish. The God of the Old Testament is the God of the New Testament.


The Saint John’s Bible Small Group
Explore the illuminations (artwork) and calligraphy (written text) of the Saint John’s Bible. Hear how this illuminated Bible was created and how it is being used at Incarnation and in the community to ignite spiritual imaginations. Experience the faith practice of Visio Divina to see and hear how the illuminations speak to you and to others. Led by Grant Rykken, this group will meet twice a month for five sessions on Tuesday evenings at Incarnation. Find out more here.  Register by emailing Denise Floe, Director of Small Group Ministry at

Outdoors Small Groups to Bike, Hike or Walk with Others
Connect with others and enjoy the summer weather! Discover new local trails with the Men’s Hiking small group on Tuesday evenings, once a month. For a more casual pace, gather with the Casual Walking group at Silverwood Park for devotions and a short walk once a week on Wednesday mornings (open to all). Or bike with a group from Incarnation on Saturday mornings, twice a month (designed for ages 18+), starting in June. Find out more here.

Summer Theme: Questions God Asks Us Small Group
The Bible is typically a place where we look for answers, but God asks plenty of questions too! Explore some of the questions in a summer small group based on the book, Questions God Asks Us, by Trevor Hudson. The summer sermon series will also pick up this theme. Groups will meet for five sessions, once a week or every other week, starting in mid-June. Find out more here.  Register by emailing Denise Floe, Director of Small Group Ministry at

Writing for the Soul Small Group
Is your writing mostly for to-do lists? Do you love to write but most of your writing is for technical or professional purposes? Do you have a practice of journaling? Whether you consider yourself a writer or not, explore writing as a spiritual practice as you connect with others this summer. A variety of approaches to writing will be introduced, accessible to writers of all levels. Led by Kathy Ginsbach, this group meets once/week on Thursday evenings, on Zoom, starting in mid-July Find out more here.  Register by emailing Denise Floe, Director of Small Group Ministry at

Summer Small Group for Ages 18-22
Connect with others who are post-high-school or college-age around the topic “Questions God Asks Us.” Pastor Kai Nilsen and others will guide the conversation, with plenty of time for simply connecting with one another and enjoying the summer. The group will get together for five gatherings in June and July. Interested? Contact Denise Floe, Director of Small Group Ministry at


SYMPATHY TO:  The family of Doug Oliver on his death; the family of Carol Swanson on her death; Molly Scanlon and family on the death of her father; the family of Krista Sanda on her death

RECENTLY BAPTIZED:  Aurora Phoenix, daughter of Nate & Camille Bahr