Author Archives: Halcyon Bjornstad

The Faces of Grief

James H. Scott Apr 15, 1940 - Jul 2, 2004

James H. Scott (Intern Jennifer’s father)
Apr 15, 1940 – Jul 2, 2004


A few days ago (Saturday, July 2nd) was the anniversary of my father’s death. And I must confess that with the busy-ness of my life this past week, I did not even realize it until I saw a Facebook post from my sister talking about how much she missed him. And that made me think about the one and only time that I have ever tried to visit my father’s grave.

It was on a Memorial Day a few years ago… my mother asked if I would go with her to the cemetery. It was a breezy, sunny day… one my father would have enjoyed. I was surprised by my mother’s request at the time. You see, neither she nor I had visited this grave since my father passed away nine years before. We lived only five minutes from the cemetery (and I passed it at least once a week on my way about town), but in all of these years neither of us had gone there even once.

Out of respect for my mother’s request, I agreed. And then I found myself walking up and down the rows of gravestones, looking for where he was buried, wondering what I would do or say once we found him. I mean, I hadn’t been here in nearly nine years… what did that say for me as a grieving daughter, one who still misses the sound of his hearty “belly-laughs” and still wishes I could feel his arms around me in that bear-hug that lifted me off my feet?

The Women of the ELCA has a resource called The Faces of Grief. The opening of this resource begins by reminding us, “When we grieve, we each walk a different journey. No one can tell you how to grieve. Your process is your process.”

So, perhaps my way to grieve is not sitting at the foot of a gravestone and thinking of the day of my father’s funeral. I’d like to think that my grieving takes form when I hear one of “our” songs or when I hold a letter he wrote me in my hands and trace his “Love, Dad” with my fingers. I’d like to think that my grieving is less about a visit to the cemetery and more about pausing for a moment whenever I think of him.

We never did find the gravestone that day… but as we walked each row, we thought about James Hugh Scott… father, husband, grandfather and friend. And we felt connected to him in those moments…

As The Faces of Grief says, “What does grief look like? It comes in such a variety of colors and hues, and it wears many faces.” Mine is just one version. What is yours?


JMichael 3This is Intern Jennifer Michael’s final blog post.  She and her pug, Squishy will be returning to Dubuque, Iowa next week to begin her final year of seminary at Wartburg Theological Seminary.  She wants everyone to know how deeply grateful she is for the time she spent with our congregation at Trinity.  She will be missed!


With compassion and consideration, the Church Council has agreed to provide Pastor Rachel medical leave to address some health concerns.  In addition to her treatment, she needs rest and time away from the office to recover.  We anticipate that she will return to her duties at Trinity in early September.

In the meantime, our Church Council is working with the Synod office and Wartburg Theological Seminary to make sure our Sunday worship services are covered and that other pastoral concerns are addressed.  We will continue to update the congregation as more detailed information becomes available.   If you have any questions, please contact Stephen Boss or Mark Stayton.  Thank you so much for your understanding and support during this period.  Please keep our pastor in your thoughts and prayers.

Who is Christian?


In college I took Modern Jewish Thought, a course covering the last few hundred years of Jewish theology in one semester. It required a hectic pace and a lot of reading, much of which I failed to do. At one point, Prof. Benjamin assigned an essay “Who is Jewish?” Like any good liberal arts student, I avoided giving a direct answer. But as I worked though my texts and resources I realized that, for once, my vague answer was completely correct! It turned out that there was a very active discussion among Jewish theologians with answers including maternal lineage, observance of practices and law, physical traits, degree of importance placed on Zionism, and many others. I concluded that this was an open question, because none of these answers seemed quite right. They all cut out some people who didn’t fit the offered definition, yet clearly were Jewish by any intuitive understanding.

So why don’t we see this question in Christianity as often? Are Christians too free spirited to settle on a definition? Is defining who is Christian a pedantic and pointless exercise? Are we so individualist that we let anyone who finds it convenient to join or leave our group to do so as often as they choose to self-define? Does God’s new covenant with the Gentiles through Jesus and the Spirit preclude humans attempting an earthy definition? Some other reason?

Intuitively, we know Christians when we see them do Christian things, and voice Christian beliefs. This matches up nicely with the Catholic doctrine of being saved through works, and the Protestant doctrine of being saved through faith and grace. Christianity doesn’t have the complex cultural, geographic, and hereditary elements, that Judaism does. So maybe we got lucky, and the definition is easier, like my biology professor’s tongue-in-cheek definition for a species:  If it acts like a duck and talks like a duck, then it’s probably a duck!

I still think there needs to be a proper definition for what makes us Christians, but until then, we can make do with the tongue-in-cheek definition even though it doesn’t cover every Christian:
If it acts like a Christian and believes like a Christian, then it’s probably a Christian!

“Quack!”… Excuse me, I meant, “Hallelujah!”



Charles Nye, (MS Geology, BA Religion, BA CompSci) is a research scientist with the Carbon Management Institute. He is currently evaluating alternative Rare Earth Element resources around Wyoming.

Me and We


Last week, Sally and I celebrated our 44th wedding anniversary. What was going to be a fancy Italian/French dinner for the two of us at Bella’s in Saratoga ended up with four friends at the Bear Tree Tavern and Café in Centennial. (I can highly recommend both!) As they say in small town newspapers, “A good time was had by all.” Interestingly, the four guests represented three couples, with two of them having lost spouses. So, out of the four couples of us, all have or had marriages of 40 years or more. And, while the national divorce rate is around 50%, most of our friends are in their first marriage. Some of that is generational. When couples got married in the 60s and 70s, the anticipation was that you would stay married. Since most of our friends are of that age group, that anticipation was the norm. Sadly, I don’t think it is that way anymore. (One other interesting factoid, Sally and I were 22 when we got married. As this is our 44th anniversary, it means we have been married for two-thirds of our lives… to each other! Or another way of thinking of it, we’ve been married twice as long as we haven’t! Pretty neat!)

So, why is it that most of our friends have beat the national statistic? Easily, I would say that most of them have a church (or synagogue or mosque or temple) association. But, what is it about that association? I don’t think it is specifically the rejection of divorce that most religions profess, but rather the outlook of ourselves in relationship to God and to the world. It is a sense of something greater than “just me.” When we are “me” oriented, relationship becomes secondary. When we are “we” oriented, that relationship is our definition. Hence, serving others reflects into serving me as well. It is a gift to the other and a gift to ourselves. The belief system also gives a way for forgiving those sins, great and small, that we live with daily. Sally has sometimes intimated that I may be a little difficult to live with on rare occasion. Go figure. But there is also a way forgive those ills that I do. Forgiveness acts as a pressure relief valve to keep the relationship from blowing up!

It reminds me of a saying that I heard long ago and remembered. “Love is not two people together looking lovingly into each other’s eyes, it is two people standing next to each other looking the same direction into the future.” My view has always been to the West, across a wide prairie, to some mountains and a red/golden sunset that we see from our living room. God is good.



Thomas V. Edgar, P.E., Ph.D., F.ASCE, is an emeritus professor in Civil Engineering after teaching at UW for 34 years. He received the Ellbogen Lifetime Teaching award in 2014. He and wife Sally have two adult children, Erik and Elizabeth.

Being honest with God…


Psalm 27 begins with these confident words of trust: “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?” The psalmist continues in this vein for a good while and even says, “God will shelter me in the day of trouble and set me high upon a rock.” It seems like nothing can cause him to waver.

But then comes a crack in that shield of confidence. “Do not hide your face from me. Do not turn your servant away in anger… do not cast me off, do not forsake me, O God of my salvation.” The ache in this plaintive cry for help is almost palpable. The psalmist is so beset by his enemies that he fears that God has forsaken him. How can such disparity in thoughts and feelings be contained in the same prayer?

This contradictory mix has a beauty all its own. Why? The psalmist feels comfortable being honest with God. Without reservation he expresses the tangled muddle of his experience. Underlying this honest expression is a trust that God hears and will answer. How reassuring this is on those days when my thoughts swing from buoyant confidence to hesitant second-guessing.

This is why Psalm 27 is one of my favorites. It reminds me that real fear can live alongside honest faith. Doubt can hold hands with genuine trust. In fact, both are essential to an authentic relationship with God. It comes down to this: God expects us to ask our deepest questions and to voice to our most troubling doubts. And… God promises to listen.

The psalmist knows that holding this tension between doubt and trust involves a good bit of patience. He concludes his prayer with this: “I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord.”

Thanks to Lindsay P. Armstrong’s for inspiration in her commentary on Psalm 27 (Feasting on the Word, Lent Series C)


Pastor Rachel Larson is the pastor of Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church in Laramie, Wyoming.  She is spouse of Don Holmstrom, mother of Susanna Holmstrom, and caretaker of Dooley the dog.