Mennonite Women and Football

This feels like a confession and I’m not sure it has to be. (I’m sure each reader will have and express their opinion about that.) 

In my lifetime I have tried and enjoyed countless sports and yet, playing tackle football as a kid might be one of my favorite sport memories (unless you count crawdad fishing a sport). 

For me there was nothing like the thrill of going out for (or throwing) a long pass on a crisp January afternoon. Still today, at least once a year, I feel the urge to tackle my spouse or kick a football as far as I can. Yes, there are issues with the game—traumatic injuries and the corrupt dealings and behaviors within professional (and college) sports are just two of many potential problems. Still, when I heard there was a women’s tackle football league in Kansas City, starring two Mennonite gals from KS who I knew when they were young, I was in those football stands before you could count to ten (with posters, friends, and family/church members to boot!

I even rushed the field a couple times, threw and kicked some balls, and began to contemplate whether my 40 year old body could try out for the team (and whether the church I pastor would support this side gig).

That dream of trying out for the Kansas City Titans ended when, during one of the games I watched, the ambulance was called onto the field for an apparent neck injury. That’s the moment I decided to continue sticking my neck out as a preacher and not a football player.

These two gals I mentioned earlier will be in Miami this weekend for the Super Bowl. Katie Sowers will be serving in her role as the 49ers offensive coach and her twin sister Liz will be cheering her heart out. I hope to see both of them rush the field at some point. These two are inspiring to watch as they compete, support each other, and support athletes of all genders inspiring people of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities. They take after their parents—both of whom are inspiring in their own ways. (Floyd Sowers was my college basketball coach who taught me the power of the bounce pass.) 

Here are some pictures of Katie and her friends leading a football clinic for our Rainbow Summer Program.

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You can read all about Katie and Liz online. There is so much wonderful press out there about these two. I am thinking about adding to that press and writing a sequel to “Mennonite Girls Can Cook,” called “Mennonite Girls Can Tackle.” What do you say, Katie and Liz, are you game? 

I hope to see both of your contagious smiles on the big screen on Sunday. And Katie, on Sunday how about wearing that Rainbow scarf we gifted you when you preached at Rainbow?

Here is a video link to that sermon she preached at Rainbow in June of 2019. (Katie, your mom gave permission for me to post this on your behalf! Does she do that often?)


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Imago Dei

“Me,” I heard this young boy said, as he pointed to our one-of-a-kind Advent light sculpture. Meanwhile I stood back and saw this young one’s beautiful face reflected in the sculpture’s mirror. Yes, you, I thought. And me. We are all sparkling light.  

The creator of this light sculpture, Arlie Regier, is no longer living so I can’t ask him why he put a mirror front and center. Perhaps he was hoping we would see ourselves through and in the light of God. If Advent and Christmas is a time of celebrating Immanuel—God with us—the mirror  reminds us that we, too, are part of this unfolding truth and drama. Imago Dei—made in God’s image and light, created to shine, not shrink in fear. You, me, us, made in God’s image and light. 

Many of us have complicated relationship with mirrors, especially brightly-lit ones. Sometimes we like what we see in mirrors, sometimes we don’t. Like glass itself, we are both fragile and strong, capable of shining and shattering.   

I remember as a teen facilitating between avoiding mirrors and spending too much time in front of mirrors. I experienced first-hand what David Giuliano writes in his article, Mirrors for Youth:  “Many of the mirrors (both figuratively and literally) that youth encounter reflect back soul crushing messages—too fat, ugly hair, crummy clothes, zits, not enough money, failure, stupid, unloveable, the list is endless.”  

Giuliano believes faith communities have great potential as places where people of all ages learn to see themselves and others beyond social acceptance or a culture of consumption, or narrow notions of success. While he focuses on teens in his article, his word of encouragement could apply to all ages: “In our eyes youth need to see God’s eyes, reflecting back to them their beauty, lovability, and freedom, and calling them to live lives that manifest those truths. We need to hold God up to youth as the mirror they carry into adulthood.” He poses such a good question: Are we holding up God-shaped mirrors— mirrors that help people of all ages see themselves as the loved, free, beautiful miracles they are; that we all are?

For the remainder of Advent and through Christmas, I encourage everyone to linger in front of this sculpture mirror and contemplate to what degree we see or don’t see the light of God in ourselves and others. And perhaps we can join in this prayer/hymn, hoping that that we will indeed make manifest God’s image and light in the world. 

Let there be light, Lord God of hosts!

Let there be wisdom on the earth!

Let broad humanity have birth!

Let there be deeds, instead of boasts!

Within our passioned hearts instill

the calm that ends all strain and strife.

Make us thy ministers of life.

Purge us from lusts that curse and kill!

Give us the peace of vision clear

to see each other’s good, our own,

To joy and suffer not alone:

the love that casteth out all fear!

Let woe and waste of warfare cease,

that useful labor yet may build

its homes with love and laughter filled!

God, give your wayward children peace.

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Native American Heritage Month

Earlier this month, Rainbow’s Director of Faith Formation and Youth Ministries, Sarah Neher, invited our church’s middle and high school students to reflect on the following questions:


What images come to mind when you think of/imagine native or indigenous American people(s)?

What stories inform these images?

What are your experiences with native/indigenous people(s)?

She then asked the students if they had heard of indigenous-related movements or protests such as the Keystone XL pipeline? Or have they ever heard of what is called a Land Recognition? And finally, did they know that November is Native American Heritage Month?

They then watched this video:

I share this in part because Sarah is going to preach with these matters in mind on Sunday, November 24. What if we all reflected on these questions as we prepare for Thanksgiving?

Thank you Sarah!

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Burying Bibles

A reflection from my dad, aka Keith Harder
We were moving to smaller quarters and needed to downsize, including downsizing our library. Books collected over years that documented my intellectual and spiritual pilgrimage and their authors who were my friends and mentors and in some cases my tormentors needed to go. Lovingly I held each book and tried to remember its impact on my life and why I kept it before it was sent to a second hand bookstore or library or the trash.

And then there were the Bibles that filled one whole shelf that were outdated or literally falling apart. There were Bibles that we inherited from our parents and Bibles that we had received as children. There were Bibles that we read to our children and Bibles that we used in college and seminary. Bibles that had inspired us, challenged us, disturbed us and bemused us. Bibles that inspired sermons and Bibles that had been marked up but also neglected and ignored.
What should we do with these Bibles? On line resources said they should be burned or buried. Making a big enough fire to burn multiple thick books was impractical. So we opted to bury them. On a cold day in November we dug a hole in the coral and deposited the Bibles with gratitude and some remorse and some anticipation for when we will join them. From dust to dust and ashes to ashes.
Click here to read more about this tradition of burning or burying sacred literature:
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Sign me up!

We take volunteer leadership and involvement very seriously at Rainbow. Just ask Uncle Gottfried. (For those who haven’t met Uncle Gottfried, he’s a regular around Rainbow. He is much more than a puppet on a string! In German the name Gottfried means “man of peace” or “God’s peace.”

Want to watch more?

You can see Uncle Gottfried interacting with the WorshipArts group at Rainbow by clicking here.

Also here are a few more fun tidbits about Gottfried!

Uncle Gottfried

Mike Horner and his great Onkel Gottfried in eastern Germany. As Mike says, “Gottfried is almost 89 but still rides his bike on the cobblestone streets of his village, Gottesgnaden, to get to his garden and tend to his rabbits. My Oma, Gottfried’s older sister, was a bit taller than he is, but not by much.”



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Communal cape

I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, lives in you. For this reason I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline. -2 Timothy 1:5-7

A good friend recently asked me what this “laying on of hands” business is all about. She had never heard that phrase before and was rather wigged out by the sound of it.

In response I sent her this picture from my ordination 10 years ago as well as the accompanying reflection.

I’ve always loved team huddles. And so I figured this was just another team huddle with fewer high fives and a little less sweat. Sure, I felt awkward and self-conscious, but when I saw my family coming forward, followed by church members and mentors, I tried to surrender to the moment and let myself be crowded for a moment, and affirmed.

I felt transported to when I was a little girl, standing in worship at Fellowship of Hope in Elkhart, IN. Adults, whom I loved, were all around me with hands raised. I thought I spotted some sort of spiral thread or energy of some kind, and so I reached my four year old hands as high as they could go. Whatever the adults seemed to be reaching for seemed intriguing to me, even beautiful.

Unlike that moment 35 plus years ago, I’m kneeling here in this picture. Heads are bowed in prayer, arms and hands gently placed and/or folded in prayer. It strikes me that I’m like a child again, or I am at least the height I was when I had my earliest known encounters with what I considered and experienced as holy.

I remember falling into that place I sometimes go when I pray, or when I stand at the basketball free throw line—that place where people, sounds, and distractions fade and I’m just there, alone but somehow not alone, in an empty, but not-so-empty place.

My Alaskan friend Kara, who I didn’t even know was there for my ordination, was seated in the last row of the balcony. She said this moment of laying on of hands looked like a communal cape from where she was sitting.  I have always loved that thought. Church or religiosity is not her thing and certainly not part of her routine. But she wanted to be there for me, and that means more than I can express in words. She is part of this communal cape too, even if she never steps foot inside a Christian church again.

So what is laying on of hands you ask? Maybe it’s a communal reaching for this not-so-empty place where we reach out and seek encounters with the holy together in community.


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Hurry up and wait

It was July 5. I had just heard Meghan Good, teaching pastor at Trinity Mennonite church in Glendale, Ariz., preach a moving message, which you can read here: Breath of God. 

At the end of the service, she gave us all paper seed cards with the hand-written words, “I wait for you.” Trusting Meghan, I did as I was instructed; I rushed home and planted this seed card.


Every day since July 5, I have waited. I’m still waiting, no longer with patience or with much anticipation.

I’m to the point of second guessing myself: Too much sun? Not enough sun? Too much water? Not enough water? Was it all a fraud? Did Meghan not expect someone to actually plant it? I demand answers.


I know it’s not Meghan I should be blaming, although I have a feeling she, being the wise and faithful person she is, has thoughts on the matter. Instead, I’m demanding answers from this sad-looking, empty flower pot.  Why aren’t more things blooming around me and in this world? Why is there so much pain and conflict? Why is there so much mistreatment of others, animals, the environment? Why are good intentions sometimes misunderstood or misconstrued? Why so much illness and disease and devastation? Why so much injustice? And where do I/we even begin to address these difficulties?

Kind of like my empty flower pot, a lot of environments don’t seem habitable for growth and vitality right now. Whether it’s due to discriminatory or unjust policies or attitudes, a lot of people are suffering in this country and in the world. Environmental disasters are reaching such scary levels, creating additional hardship and loss of life. And I know this all too well as pastor, sometimes our church communities aren’t healthy environments for growth either. Whether its abuse, other misconduct or misdeeds, misunderstandings, conflict, violations of trust and respect, loss of accountability—you name it, it’s probably (and unfortunately) here in the church.

So yeah, I’ve been having words with this flower pot. I’ve even kicked it in frustration on a few occasions.  Today, after my husband caught me pouting by this lifeless flower pot,  I came across the phrase, “Hurry up and wait.” Perhaps this is the change in attitude that I’ve been waiting for, or better yet, the change God wants me to discover and practice.

Relando Thompkins-Jones writes this:

When I say hurry up and wait, I do not mean be complacent, I do not mean do not act. I mean go boldly. I mean be brave. I mean act with urgency. I mean be great. I mean work with others, and build coalitions. I mean all of these things and more. Because some things can change quickly.

Hurry up, but also wait. In your passionate haste, take care of yourselves and your comrades. Recognize that you will encounter things that may shake your very core, and that in order to keep going you’ll need to remember where you were before you started, how far you’ve come, and why you chose to start. Know that seeking support and taking time away to recover is necessary for your own survival.

Hurry up, but also wait. Whatever your area of practice and passion might be, situate yourself as being a part of a long continuum of folks who’ve dedicated their lives to pushing the needle for justice a bit further than it was before, and remember that the work towards transformational change is more of a sprint than a marathon. Consistency is key.


May it be so.


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Why we (Don’t) build the wall

My summer music listening list has included an album written/produced by a friend of a friend, Anias Mitchell. It’s called Hadestown. It’s more than an album—it’s also musical theatre. It’s basically a retelling of the Greek myth of Orpheus, the great musician and poet who tries to rescue his lover from the Underworld. In Mitchell’s retelling of this age-old myth, the Underworld isn’t the land of the dead, but rather, a walled city underground whose citizens engage in mindless, soulless work in exchange for the financial security promised by their boss-king Mister Hades. The citizens of the underworld aren’t dead, but they are lifeless as a result of being indoctrinated by Hades and his obsession with the Almighty dollar. 

There is one song from this album that I can’t get out of my head. It’s called “Why we build the wall.” Apparently Mitchell began writing this song in 2004, but given our nation’s current conversation about wall-building, you’d think she wrote it today. 

If you take a listen in the link provided below, you’ll hear slick billionaire Hades sing first. (It’s more like a growl.) And then you’ll hear the indoctrinated citizens of the underworld respond in this interesting, rather upsetting, liturgical call and response.


A song like this has potential to stir up many, contentious ideas and beliefs about border security, identity, nationalism, and culture.

Speaking personally, the temptation feels strong to spend all of my energy pointing fingers at others—being critical of citizens today who are chanting things about wall-building. But this song has actually caused me to reflect more critically on how I/we have all been indoctrinated to some degree by the powers that be. We all have fears and insecurities and desires for safety and well-being, and the lure of the Almighty dollar is strong.

What I keep trying to hold onto these days, not always successfully,  is Jesus’ call or way of life through the various obsessions, temptations, lures, and fears. I hear in Jesus’ message a persistent call to keep building rituals, friendships, and connections that help us find our way toward abundant life that isn’t based solely on material possessions and self-security at the expense of other people’s suffering.

These summer months at Rainbow we have prayed the following call and response prayer. How I hope these words are not only prayed, but lived.

From greed and selfishness, from a society in which the rich get richer and the poor get poorer…From racial prejudice and religious intolerance, from a society which makes its weakest and most recent members into scapegoats…From indiference to the needs of other countries, from the delusion that you love any other nation less than you love us…From self-indulgence and indifference, from a society in which fidelity and responsibility have little place….

Everyone together: Compassionate God, deliver us.


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Kansas City here we come (again)!

This article is adapted from a piece I submitted to the Kansas City Star four years ago, the last time the Mennonite Church USA convention was held in Kansas City.

I wish I had a field guide to give Kansas City residents and businesses on how to spot, feed and care for the close to 3,000 Mennonites who will attend the biennial Mennonite Church USA convention July 2-6 at the Kansas City Convention Center.

Of course no such guide exists, nor could it exist. That is because the denomination I belong to (MCUSA) is made up of geographically and theologically diverse conferences, churches and peoples.

One cannot and should not make sweeping generalizations about membership within Mennonite Church USA. Our denomination is made up of urban, rural and suburban congregations. Every Mennonite has a different story of how they or their ancestors became Mennonite. Some of us have belonged to a Mennonite church all our lives, and others of us have come to the Mennonite church by way of a partner, a friend, a book, a website or by mistake.

Some Mennonites will arrive to Kansas City on trains, planes or bikes. And just in case there are any rumors going around, no, there will not be an increase in horses and buggies downtown.

MCUSA is made up of Anabaptist Christians. Amish, like Mennonites, trace their history to the 16th-century Anabaptists, but it would be erroneous to conflate Amish and Mennonites today. Some refer to Mennonites and Amish as distant denominational cousins.

There is nothing about our physical appearance that will identify us as Mennonites. That being said, some of our theological convictions do sometimes make us stand out in the Christian denominational landscape. Like all Anabaptists, we believe that Jesus was the one who transformed worldly greed, power, violence and ultimately death. The Mennonites I am most inspired by are those who take seriously prophet Isaiah’s vision: “They will beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.” (2:4)

We struggle, just like all people of faith, to respond to the injustices and human suffering experienced in this world. And despite our commitment to peacemaking, we experience conflict, division and controversy within our churches, conferences and denomination.

For example, just like a lot of Christian denominations, Mennonites are not of the same mind when it comes to LGBTQ justice. Personally speaking, I am supportive of the Pink Menno movement, and the way that movement has been a visible, vocal, and nonviolent presence supporting sustaining and furthering witness to the goodness of LGBTQ people. Next week at convention many of us will celebrate the 10th anniversary of this transformative movement.

So with that, I invite you to check out this video about Pink Menno. It was created by another organization many of us at Rainbow support, Brethren Mennonite Council.



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Forged anew

This coming Sunday, June 9, we will dedicate a gardening tool (pictured below) for use in our Rainbow garden. It was forged just this past April by RAWtools , using guns donated by Rainbow community members.

Click here to read an article written by one of the gun donors: Dad’s gun

Garden Tool

Etched at the bottom of this tool is the RAWtools logo (see below).

As RAWtools Director Michael Martin writes, “it represents an olive branch, like the dove carried after the flood–a promise of hope as well as a nod to never again.  Its the same shape as the olive branch in our logo inside the anvil. The anvil is the Christ figure for me, the forge is God/Spirit.  I love Pentecost for all of this. The best thing about the fire of the forge is that its not allowed inside- it forces us to go out.”

For these reasons and more, this gardening tool will be present in our Pentecost worship this coming Sunday, June 9. We will place it on the communion table along with this gardening tool blessing lovingly written by Lonnie Buerge:


May it be so.


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