A little journey through this topsy-turvy journey of joys and sorrows and hopes and dreams with plenty of grace from God along the way.

Evidently, it was on April 10, 1872, when Arbor Day was first celebrated in Nebraska of all places. From the Arbor Day Foundation:  

As pioneers began moving into the Nebraska Territory, the lack of trees was felt deeply. Not only did the new residents miss the trees they left behind, they were also left without the trees they needed as windbreaks to keep soil in place, for fuel and building materials, and for shade from the hot sun.

Nebraska newspaper editor — and resident of Nebraska City, NE — J. Sterling Morton had an enthusiasm for trees and advocated strongly for individuals and civic groups to plant them. Once he became secretary of the Nebraska Territory, he further spread his message of the value of trees. And on January 4, 1872, Morton first proposed a tree planting holiday to be called “Arbor Day” at a meeting of the State Board of Agriculture.

Part of the Easter standard operating procedure is people in higher up positions putting forth their official statements of blessings or greetings. We posted such proclamations on our Facebook page from our Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), Elizabeth Eaton, and the Bishop of the Northeastern Ohio Synod, Laura Barbins. Those were obviously geared to ELCA congregation members, as well they should, in such communications. But I also noticed something different in an email I received from my college alma-mater in Wittenberg University. The campus pastor, The Rev. Tracy Paschke-Johannes, wrote, “Blessings of Spiritual Growth and Peace.”

This past Tuesday of Holy Week, our Northeastern Ohio Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) invited rostered leaders to come together and renew their ordination vows. Many of the 65 synods throughout our wider church do the same: providing clergy and deacons and other leaders a space and time to feel a bit of spiritual nourishment amidst what can often be the most chaotic time of the year. For some reason, many show up in spite of all that still has to be done for a Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Resurrection Sunday, and whatever else in between. For some reason, many insist on that sacred space and time to not have to worry about worship-planning and the seemingly endless to-do list, and just sit in the assembly space and take all that Holy Spirit in.

And so it begins, yet again: the NCAA men’s basketball tournament will be in full swing come tomorrow (Thursday, March 21, even though it technically started with a few games on Tuesday, but minor detail). Some may not care whatsoever, but the ratings across multiple television networks, not to mention the absurd financial wagering over the 67 games played, show that millions upon millions do, to say the least. But even for the non-collegiate-basketball-enthusiasts, there is one tradition that might still pull at the heartstrings.

It was on this day (March 13) in 2013, when the wider church felt a bit of a jolt. Our Roman Catholic siblings in Christ were already taken aback when their Pope Benedict XVI announced he would basically retire from his position. And then, an archbishop from Argentina, of all places, named Jorge Mario Bergoglio, was lifted up to fill the pontiff role. After all, the ones south of the equator typically didn’t receive hardly any due consideration by their higher-up brethren. As much as the joke can be made about however many Lutherans it takes to change a light bulb (or anything for that matter) with the conclusion, “Change!?!?!?!” our Roman Catholic neighbors aren’t exactly the new-anything lovers, either.