Good Morning God!

Posted January 11, 2015 by Pastor Todd Nelsen
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“Ascribe to the Lord the glory of his name, worship the Lord in holy splendor.”

Psalm 29:2

It seems like a lifetime ago, but the memories and songs from church camp came flooding back as I read the Daily Text Watchword for the week. In my youth, attending bible camp at Luther Point in Grantsburg, Wisconsin meant making new friends, songs around the campfire, camp food, and morning worship.

One of the songs we sang as we gathered together in the chapel for morning worship was a song titled, Sing Good Morning God. What is most memorable about this song is the refrain, which rings out…

Sing good morning God, good morning God

But not good God its morning!

Sing good morning God, good morning God!

Oh God it’s a beautiful day!

The Psalmist invites us to sing Good Morning God! Daily and express our love and gratitude to God for all that the Lord has done and is doing in the world today.

Often it is too easy for us to get involved in the busyness of our days an forget this invitation to “ascribe to the Lord the glory of his name.” Some of us may even want to roll over in bed, hit the snooze button a half a dozen times and then have to rush through life.

I want to encourage you to find time in your day, to “Sing Good Morning God” and “Ascribe to the Lord the glory of his name.” I try to start my day with the Daily Texts, which is a devotion of Bible verses and prayers for each day of the year. You can find out more about the daily text at . Of maybe you can check out God Pause, which is a daily e-devotion from Luther Seminary. Find out more at . What ever you do, don’t forget to sing, “Good Morning God!

Just another Passing Thought!


Light in Dark Places

Posted January 4, 2015 by Pastor Todd Nelsen
Categories: January 2015

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“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.” Ephesians 1:7


At Faith Lutheran Church in Spicer, Minnesota where I serve as pastor, we asking members of the congregation to share pictures of light, which will be used as slides during our worship services in the season of Epiphany.   Many of the pictures are of beautiful sunrises or sunsets, and these pictures are often taken from the shore of one of the local lakes. They are beautiful. And inspiring, so I though I would give it a try. A few days after Christmas my brother-in-law and I were ice fishing, on Green Lake in Spicer. Just as the sun was setting, I took this picture.


Winter Light on Green Lake

Winter Light on Green Lake


As the sunlight was fading under the dark clouds of a cold December night, I was able to catch a sliver of light as the day was drawing to a close. I have been thinking about this picture a lot, and wondering about fading light. As darkness was creeping in from the east, the light was still there to remind the world that it does not disappear. Soon after picture was taken, the lights from homes, cabins and solitary fish house on the lake became quite visible even in the thickness of the dark sky. it was like little glimmers of hope and light were coming to life in the darkness.

The Daily Text watchword for this first full week of this New Year is “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.” Ephesians 1:7  It seems to me that in the midst of the darkness of our sin, our falling down and our failing that the forgiveness and redemption we receive from Jesus is like the glimmering lights shining in the darkness on a cold winters night. This abundantly rich grace and forgiveness brings us hope and light, even in the darkest places of our lives.

As the season of the church change from Christmas to Epiphany, the season of revealing and light, may the promised hope of the riches of God’s grace be a light in your lives.


Just another Passing Thought!


P.S. If you have a picture of light, and the hope light brings that I could share with the community of believers at Faith Lutheran Church in Spicer, please send it to me at

Wonderful Wondering-Christmas Eve 2014

Posted December 24, 2014 by Pastor Todd Nelsen
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Dear Friends,

It has been a long time since I have posted to this blog, so I figured my return should begin at Christmas.  Please find below my Sermon in verse for this Christmas Eve 2014.  This sermon was shared at Faith Lutheran Church in Spicer, Minnesota where I now serve as Lead Pastor.  It is my plan to share my Passing Thoughts into the New Year with reflections on the Daily Texts for 2015.  Enjoy and Merry Christmas!


Wonderful Wondering

Have you ever wondered or have tried to conceive,

Why we gather together each Christmas Eve?

We get our families all dressed up and looking their best,

Then we fill up the pews, and gather with the rest.

The rest of our friends, with neighbors and strangers,

To hear this story of the babe in the manger.

Have your ever stopped for a moment just to contemplate,

Why the whole world seems to pause and remember this date?

Are you like me, who wonders about this moment in history?

Reflecting on Mary and Joseph and this most divine mystery.

A mystery so deep that is almost too wonderful to believe,

That our Heavenly Father would choose a virgin to conceive,

To conceive and carry God’s only son,

And that a girl named Mary was God’s chosen one.

Yes, Mary was the one upon whom God’s favor did rest,

But have you ever wondered if she was the best?

God sent a messenger to Mary, Gabriel was his name,

And as he first addressed her, “Do not fear”, he proclaimed.

“For God has favored you and his presence is near,

He has a purpose for you, dear Mary, and his promise is clear.”

Gabriel proclaimed, “For you have been chosen to carry God’s child”

And so started the promise, for Mary, who was meek and so mild.

But perplexed by this greeting, she asked, “How can this be?”

“I’ve never been with a man. I’m a virgin you see.”

“And I am pledged to a man named Joseph; I’ll soon be his wife,

And now you expect me to carry new life?”

“This marriage can’t begin with me being pregnant and un-wed,

What will people say? They will all shake their heads.”

But Gabriel spoke words of comfort to Mary,

“God’s plan for you is really not scary.”

“For from on high God’s Holy Spirit will come upon you to rest,

And you will carry his Son, Mary you are up to the test.

And to offer up assurances so that she would believe,

Gabriel spoke of her cousin Elizabeth, and how she had conceived,

A child at her age, even though she was quite old,

And that child Elizabeth carried, would be a preacher so bold.

“You see,” he said to Mary, “though it seems a little bit odd.”

“Nothing is impossible for our Fatherly God.”

“And the path you will walk, God will walk too,

His presence to strengthen and help see you through.”

Mary accepted the promise, and sang loud and clear,

A hymn to God’s glory, of God’s blessings so near.

“My soul proclaims your greatness,” she sang in confident voice,

“You have looked upon me with favor, and in my spirit I rejoice.”

So maybe we gather together to hear about Mary,

Who was chosen by God for a baby to carry.

Maybe her story reminds us that God calls us to see,

Not what has happened, but what things can be.

Possibly we see in Mary’s acceptance of a call from above,

That we too are invited to carry God’s love.

This could be one reason people gather in churches tonight,

To be assured that we, like Mary, are called to bear God’s holy light.

And have you wondered about Joseph, to whom Mary would be wed?

Can you imagine the thoughts, which ran through his head?

Wondering what he should do with a pregnant fiancé,

What would people think, what might they say?

For people could be judgmental, and rumors might fly,

It was clear his intended was pregnant, that was hard to deny.

Such a situation could be shameful, and bring much disgrace,

Being pregnant before marriage was quite out of place.

Joseph worried and wondered what to do next,

The news of this pregnancy had him perplexed.

Joseph thought the only solution was a quiet divorce,

But then came a vision from heaven to keep him on course.

In a dreamy like vision an angel appeared,

Who told faithful Joseph there was nothing to be feared,

For the child was conceived from God’s Spirit Holy,

And the son born to Mary would save the meek and the lowly.

Now the child Mary carried would give the world life,

So Joseph should stay by her side and take her as his wife.

Joseph remained faithful, and took Mary as his bride.

He pledged to her that as her husband he would abide.

Maybe tonight you are wondering about Carpenter Joe,

And the promise he made, so long, long ago.

To remain faithful to Mary, who soon would give birth,

To a son, he would name Jesus, who would bring peace on earth.

Is it possible that you see yourself in Joseph’s sandals?

That somewhere along the way you’ve been caught up in a scandal.

And seeing that Joseph was strengthened for this incredible task,

That God strengthens you too when he comes to ask.

To ask you to serve, to play a role in the God’s holy story,

To let your light shine brightly, and give God the glory.

Maybe Joseph reminds us that faith is about God and not us,

And when God comes calling we simply must trust.

And what about Bethlehem, have you wondered about that place?

Why God would choose to little known Bethlehem to reveal his grace?

Should not the Messiah have arrived in a town of renowned?

Like Holy Jerusalem, where the temple was found.

Have you wondered like me, about the location of this birth.

That Jesus our Savior was born in a shack with a floor made of earth.

It seems so curious and so incredibly odd,

That a stable out back would serve as the nursery for the child of God.

Imagine for a moment, if you are able,

The noise and the smells, which came from that stable.

There in the stable with the goats, cows and sheep,

Mary gave birth to God’s only Son and then rocked him to sleep.

Then the new baby was wrapped up in soft cloth and laid in a manger,

Could the birth of a king sound any stranger?

Born right there in the midst of the smells and the mess,

Was Jesus our Savior our heavenly guest.

Now maybe there is something about where this took place,

That fills us with hope in the possibility of grace.

Isn’t it in the mess of life’s living where we most need to see,

That Jesus has come for you and for me?

Isn’t that what Emmanuel, God with us, means for us today?

That in the midst of the mess, God comes to stay.

To stay with us and love us even though things are not always so neat.

Into life’s mess God brings us joy, and we have it complete.

Maybe as we gather together tonight,

We let our minds wonder off to that warm stable bright.

And we see ourselves there looking in on the scene,

Beginning to now understand what Emmanuel means.

It means God comes to us in the helpless and hopeless moments of life.

It means God understands our stresses and strife.

It means God makes his home where we need him to stay,

Even if it means in a broken down barn filled with straw and soft hay.

Maybe you’re wondering about the rest of the story,

Of shepherds and angels singing of Glory.

Shepherds seem like a strange lot to be the first to hear,

Angels singing songs of good news and great cheer.

Shepherds were often viewed as a low social cast,

They were the least, the lowest, and most often the last.

So it seems kind of strange that shepherds would be the first,

To be there on the scene when angels did burst!

Burst into songs of peace and good will on the earth,

As they flew and sang out the news of this birth.

The birth of the Savior, the Messiah, and King,

And it was first to poor shepherds this good news they did bring.

Imagine that… Good News first came to the lowest and last,

That the Messiah, foretold by the prophets of a long ago past,

Had been born in the city of David, who once was a shepherd boy.

And now these poor lowly shepherds received good news of great joy.

Then those poor shepherds ran as fast as they could,

And arriving at the stable they stopped and they stood,

Taking in the whole scene just as they were told,

Was a baby all warm, pink, and precious just few hours old.

There with the baby were his parents, Joseph and Mary,

So they told them about the message that they angles did carry.

As they spoke, they told how his birth was to be a brand new start,

And Mary treasured each word, and pondered them in her heart.

Maybe you have been wondering about shepherds tonight,

And how God invites the last and the least to witness to the light.

Can you imagine yourself all alone, in an isolated place?

Only to be surrounded by Angels whirling through space.

Then they tell you good news that you just have to share,

So off you go, be bold if you dare,

Tell your friends and neighbors about the birth of the king,

Of the promise of new life and forgiveness he brings.

Is it possible tonight your thinking of the innocence of a baby?

And how in this story you are wondering that maybe,

The most precious gift of Christmas comes from heaven above,

As we find it in Jesus who embodies God’s love.

Possibly we see in this baby promises which only the Almighty can keep,

That this child born in a stable would be the Good Shepherd of sheep,

A Good Shepherd who feeds and protects us in strife,

Who for the love of his sheep would lay down his life.

For in the midst of the hustle and bustle of this most busy season,

There are times we fail to remember that Jesus is the reason,

We sing all the carols and burn candles bright,

And why we gather to worship on this Christmas Eve night.

 As we are now gathered in this sanctuary illumined by light,

May the love of our Savior be with us tonight.

May we know that on this night as we ponder his birth,

Jesus has come and brings peace to the earth.


 Merry Christmas!

Sabbath Keeping

Posted June 26, 2013 by Pastor Todd Nelsen
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Note to followers of PT’s Passing Thoughts:  I apologize for my lack of posting.  In December of 2012 I decided to accept a position as a Church Development Consultant with Miller Architects and Builders in St. Cloud, Minnesota.  This postion meant leaving the wonderful call of serving Fields of Grace Parish in Rural Lafayette, Minnesota.  Since that time I have been able to return to parish ministry on a part time basis as Associate Pastor for Stewardship Development at First Lutheran Church in St. James, Minnesota.     I was approached this past weekend by a follower of PT’s Passing Thoughts who wondered if I was just going to post once every 6 months.  I assured him, that I would get back to it soon.   So after a hiatus, here is a new Passing Thought…

 Sabbath Keeping

Six days you shall do your work, but on the seventh day you shall rest, so that your ox and your donkey may have relief, and your homeborn slave and the resident alien may be refreshed”.  Exodus 23:12


            It had been so long, I almost forgot what it was like.  The “it” I am referring to is leading worship.  Having spent just a little time off from pastoral duties, I had wondered to myself, if I had it in me anymore?  Happily, I am able to report, that the ember of the spirit was still glowing and all it took was a fresh breath of wind to bring it back to a kindle. When the service of installation was completed, I felt alive, refreshed, and renewed. Thank you to Pastor Christian Johnson and the members of First Lutheran Church in St. James, Minnesota for being part of returning me to the spiritual practice of Sabbath Keeping.


A new beginning at First Lutheran Church Saint James, MN

            The word Sabbath comes to us from the Hebrew word “Shabbot” which can be translated at to “cease or desist”.  After accomplishing the perfection of creations, God suspended all other work, evaluated that which was created, “it was very good” and then “ceased” working and rested.  Sabbath is such an important concept, that God gave it to the children of Israel as a covenant gift.  “Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy…For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.”  Exodus 20:8,11  This rest can and does come to us as a gift.  It is a time of “ceasing” from the busyness of the week, and centering oneself and the relationship God has established with us.

            In the brief time I was away from serving as a pastor, I had too quickly forgotten the balance of  “ceasing and centering”.  The ceasing part was easy to get use to, but I got off balance on the centering side of the scale.  That is not to say that I was a “church skipper”,  I actually found myself in worship services as part of my work with Miller Architects and Builders, but I was often distracted from worship because it wasn’t my primary reason for being present.  When I was able to attend worship for the purpose of “ceasing and centering” the experiences were great.  Those experiences brought to mind this scripture, “I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord!” Psalm 122:1

            Now some of you might be thinking, “but as a pastor, worshiping is part of your work.”  In one sense that is true, but in a much greater sense, walking with the body of Christ as a worship leader, I find a sense of refreshment and renewal in worship.  The work of worship (if you can call it that) is a grateful response to the blessed gift of rest, refreshment, and renewal.  In this time of summer relaxation and refreshment, I hope that you will find your “ceasing and centering” balance point so that you may proclaim:  I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord!”


Just Another Passing Thought!




The Word of God Came To John

Posted December 4, 2012 by Pastor Todd Nelsen
Categories: December 2012

“…the word of God came to John son of Zechariah…”  Luke 3:2

Some of us have heroes of the faith, people who do great and extraordinary things because of their relationship with God.  For some people, these hero’s are the patriarchs and matriarchs of the Bible, folks like Abraham and Sarah, who receive the promise, trust God’s faithfulness, and become the forebears of a great nation.  Others have as their biblical heroes, people of power and strength, like David or Sampson, who draw upon God for their strength and courage.  Still others have as their hero’s one of the disciples, committed followers of Jesus who were willing to leave it all behind to fish for people.

My hero is John the Baptist.  Why?  Because John the Baptist is an unlikely hero.  As Luke tells us the story of the beginning of John the Baptists ministry, he provides us with some historical context.  He does this by listing the power brokers of the day, ” In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene,  during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the Word of God came to John, son of Zechariah.”  Luke 3:1-2.  In the midst of all the big shots of geopolitical, regional, local and religious importance, God’s Word comes to John.  In terms of power and prestige,  Zechariah’s son John is a nobody.  And yet, the Word of God comes to John, who will prepare the way for Jesus.

This gives me hope because Luke is about to unfold a story which shows how God works in that which is often overlooked.  God will be at work in the lives of two distant cousins, John who will “prepare the way” and Jesus who will repair the wayward.  And in the telling of the Good News of Jesus we will hear over and over again how God uses the least and the least likely to bring about our salvation.  In the wilderness a Wild and Wooly preacher will prepare the way for the one who is to come.  He will fill in the potholes on the road, he  will straighten out the paths, he will help us see the roadblocks and the obstacles that get in the way of or relationship with God.  And the one who is coming will remove the final obstacles and roadblock, our sins and bring us to the promise of new life.

As you continue your Advent-ure in faith how is God’s word coming to you?

Just Another Passing Thought!

Looking Forward

Posted November 27, 2012 by Pastor Todd Nelsen
Categories: December 2012, November 2012

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 “The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah.”  Jeremiah 33;14

We are now in a time of transition, as we move from our celebration of Thanksgiving and lean into the season of Advent.  On the secular side of the coin, people are busy shopping for “the perfect gift”, decorating their homes, baking holiday goodies, writing Christmas letters, and making arrangements for family Christmas gatherings.  In many ways, this is a time of looking forward.  People look forward to holiday concerts, receiving Christmas greetings from distant friends and relatives, getting together with friends at Christmas parties and open houses, and of course children look forward to the arrival of the guy in the red suit with a bag full of toys. So what is it that you are looking forward to?

As we enter the season of Advent the church finds itself in a time of looking forward.  Jeremiah reminds us that we are invited to look forward to promises that only the LORD can fulfill.  This promise is one of an everlasting covenant, an agreement of grace and forgiveness that God will establish with his chosen people.  Our thoughts are drawn to the one whom God will send, “the righteous branch of David” (Jeremiah 33:15) who will usher in a time of justice and righteous in the land.  This righteous branch is Jesus, who comes to put us in a right relationship with God.

In the busyness of the season, sometimes we can lose track of what is important.  We look forward to all the events which surround our celebration of the promised Savior’s birth, but this sometimes distracts us from the central message of the good news  that God has come to live among us and with his arrival salvation has come.  As we begin this season of Advent I invite you to ponder this question, “What is it that you look forward to?”

Just Another Passing Thought!

I Am Grateful!

Posted November 22, 2012 by Pastor Todd Nelsen
Categories: November 2012

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“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.”  Colossians 2:6-7

This week families, friends, and neighbors will gather around bountiful tables filled with delicious Thanksgiving feasts.  As part of this annual ritual, many people take time to reflect upon the things for which they are thankful.  Often during this time of reflection there is a focus upon naming the blessings of family, good health and well-being.  Our celebration of thanksgiving is an important reminder to the necessity for us to recognize the source of our blessings and offer our gratitude.

The Thanksgiving Holiday should also remind us of the importance to daily express our gratitude for the abundant blessings God bestows upon our lives.  On those days when the wind is howling across the prairie carrying with it snow and freezing temperatures, we should thank God for warm coats, hats, and mittens.  When your children bring home report cards, are you grateful for teachers, school para-professionals, and all the individuals involved in education?  As you drive down the road, passing the fields of the farmers in our communities, do you pause to think about the processes that turn seed to bread?

Being grateful and expressing our gratitude is a necessity  in our lives as Christians.  It helps us to recognize that all of life is a gift, the big things and the little ones.  Daily expressions of gratitude lead us into a deeper relationship with the one who provides daily bread.  Being grateful also builds up the relationships God has given us in our family, friends and neighbors.  Gratitude also reminds us that on our own we can do nothing, but when we live our lives with an attitude of gratitude, we can recognize the innumerable blessings God bestows upon his people.

Our gratitude also helps us to see the needs of our neighbors.  When we consider our blessings, God invites us to share the abundant blessings we have received.  We are not called to be hoarders of God’s generosity, but vessels, which God uses to pour out blessings upon others.  Maybe this Thanksgiving you and your family can begin a new tradition of sharing blessings.  Gifts to a local food shelf, a meal delivered to a neighbor in need, or a visit to a nursing home or assisted living can become wonderful new way of giving thanks.

As you celebrate this thanksgiving, may you recognize God’s abundant blessings in your life.   And may each of your days be filled with gratitude and overflowing thanksgiving.  So be encouraged by these words of the Apostle Paul,  “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.”

Happy Thanksgiving!

Just Another Passing Thought!