Thoughts from Kat Nyg

On the journey


  • Psalms in Space

    This semester, I had to find “space” for the Psalms. In the most practical sense, I had to figure out how to fit the course on psalms into my schedule and routine. Since it is the first independent study course I’ve taken, I also had to decide how to make the course fit me, as well. But most importantly, I had to find space for the Psalms in my life on a daily basis. I had to find a space where the Psalms could settle into my bones and become a part of who I am. I had to allow the Psalms to shape my faith and ministry.


    One of the ways that I’ve made space for the Psalms in my life is to experience them through YouTube© videos. Over the past 6 weeks, I’ve watched over 60 videos on the psalms. It has actually become a very enjoyable and engaging part of my daily routine! The range is wide- from classical choir renditions composed by Mozart and Schubert, to contemporary praise music, bluegrass and punk rock.  Some of them are videos of live performances. Others are slide shows put to music. Others are simply still shots of an album cover while the music plays in the background. There are also videos that feature the spoken word with images. I’ve  found a predominance of videos and songs focused on psalms of praise or thanksgiving and trust with a decidedly upbeat flavor.  The options have been far fewer when I select a lament psalm for my listening pleasure.   And even in the event that those exist, often they’ve been whittled down to a positive verse or two and omit any sense of angst or woe from the scriptural text.


    I’ve also noticed a pattern in which verses with specific references to Israel or the heritage of Israel are omitted, presumably to provide a more Christian perspective. Additionally, the videos that accompany the Psalms on YouTube© typically depict Jesus throughout. The exceptions are those Psalms videos created by the Jewish community.

    Just thought I share a little bit of my experience with the psalms with the rest of you.

  • People You Can Count on When the Going’s Tough

    As a child, I spent many Saturday afternoons enthralled by the adventures of Marlin Perkins (usually in a helicopter hovering above the wilderness) and Jim Fowler (usually in the midst of dangerous beasts below) on TV’s Wild Kingdom.  Or to be more exact…Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom.

    The insurance company was the sponsor of the program, linking us with exotic places around the world and expanding our horizons well beyond our own living rooms. And I still remember the words to their commercial jingle: Mutual of Omaha is people you can count on when the going’s tough”.

    Wild Kingdon

    These childhood memories came flooding at me when I began to ponder the assignment before me this week for my seminary class Gospel and Global Media Cultures. This week’s theme is community care and lay mutual ministry. Points of discussion include: “How does one go about empowering communities of care within digital media? How do we engage pastoral boundaries appropriately, and think missionally about our presence in such sites?”

    As I contemplated the meaning of “mutual”, the old insurance jingle ran through my head again and again.  According to Unabridged, mutual is an adjective which means: 1. possessed, experienced, performed, etc., by each of two or more with respect to the other; reciprocal: to have mutual respect.

    This week, our exploration of online social media led us to which provides a cyberspace for individuals facing a health challenge (or their families/friends) in which they can share updates, progress and setbacks.  It is a place where others can then offer support, prayer and encourage to the one who is ill or suffering.

    So what if we modify that old insurance jingle? The Church…people you can count on when the going’s tough.

    What role do we, as the Church (as individuals, collectively, as leaders) play in these places of online support and concern? As a future pastor, I know that an online message from me cannot be used as a substitute for being physically present with the individual who is suffering. Never can social media be used as a way to avoid a difficult and uncomfortable situation. In a hospital or a nursing home or beside an individual in hospice care who is in their own home, words are often unnecessary. Simply showing up and being present is what matters.

    In the online world, you do have to use some words. Maybe to be that presence, we have to say in a brief way “I’m here”, “I’m thinking about you”, “for the next hour, I’m going to sit here on my end of the computer/phone/tablet and pray for you while you rest”, etc. But social media can’t replace everything. It can’t hold someone’s hand, even if you use the little parenthesis thing. It can’t sing a song. It can’t breathe. It can’t cry.

    Social media can’t replace real, physical human interaction, but it can certainly supplement it and it can make powerful connections where once there was a void.

    Photo from

  • Can I Get a Witness?

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    Lutheran worship isn’t known for its call and response sermon format.  There are probably few Lutheran pastors, who in the midst of their sermons, have called for a witness to validate the truth of what lies in the message.  It simply falls outside the comfort zone in our Lutheran culture.  It’s not that Lutherans don’t have something to say about the mercy of God and how that is known through the person of Jesus Christ, it’s just done in a different, perhaps quieter, way. However, giving testimony in a digital culture might be a more comfortable format for Lutherans to provide public testimony.  Lutherans not being known for their spontaneity, may be drawn to being able to create a blog or prepare a video with the options for editing before posting.  After all, we have a great example in Martin Luther about how to do this: “I believe that…this is most certainly true”.

  • The Power of the Gospel


    The challenge for this week in my Gospel and Global Media Culture class is to define “gospel” in 500 words.  I find it is not an easy undertaking despite a lifetime as a Lutheran and several years of seminary education.

    As a Lutheran from the womb, I will launch from the words of Martin Luther defining gospel.  He said, “The gospel, then, is nothing but the preaching about Christ, Son of God and of David, true God and man, who by his death and resurrection has overcome for us the sin, death, and hell of all men who believe in him”. (Martin Luther’s Basic Theological Writings (Third Edition) editors Timothy Lull and William Russell, pg. 95). “Nothing but”, says Luther. He makes it sound so easy.

    The book of Mark opens with this tantalizing teaser, “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God”.  This is the biblical equivalent of a trailer to the gospel, not just to the book of Mark but to the whole story of Jesus Christ and the redemption for humanity through Jesus’ life, death, resurrection and continued action in the world.  Most dictionary definitions of “gospel” seem to leave something lacking for true understanding.  They miss the vital point that the gospel isn’t a static proclamation of the past nor is it limited to four books of the New Testament of the Bible categorized as “gospels”.  While not fully encompassing, I did like this definition that I found on “The proclamation of the redemption preached by Jesus and the Apostles, which is the central content of Christian revelation”.

    The gospel is a living thing, vital to the faith of Christians and essential for all humanity, for all creation.

    The gospel is telling the whole story of Jesus, fully divine and fully human. It is rooted in the action of God from the time the world began. It is the proclamation about the vast love and mercy of a God who so wants to be in relationship with humanity that God sent Jesus to live among humanity in our broken world. In Jesus’ victory over death in the resurrection, gospel is the promise and gift of eternal life for all who believe in him. Paul says this in Romans 5:8: “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (NIV). The gospel is God’s work to bring all humanity back into relationship with God and with one another.

    A perhaps more succinct approach is this pithy response by Shawn to an online challenge to sum up the gospel in 10 words or less: Jesus died and rose to save sinners. You qualify.

  • Baba Yetu

    For my class on the Gospel and Global Media Cultures we had to watch this video on the social media revolution. 

    Despite all of the incredible statistics flashed across the screen, I was most taken by the background music selection, Baba Yetu. Yes, I realize that Christopher Tin wrote Baba Yetu for the video game Civilization IV and I even know the song won a Grammy Award. But that’s not what amazed me about this video/music combination. Here is this video full of numbers and information about the reach and impact of social media in our world and it’s coming at us completely under-girded by the Lord’s Prayer in Swahili!

    The Lord’s Prayer is a key element in forming Christian identity in community. Christians around the world recite this prayer together in worship. In January, I had the opportunity to worship with the community of Christmas Lutheran Church in Bethlehem (yes, the Bethlehem). While typically an Arabic language service, visiting clergy added English (sermon) and Norwegian (benediction) that day. But the most moving moment during worship for me was when Pastor Mitri Raheb instructed us to join in praying together the Lord’s Prayer, each in our own native language. Brothers and sisters in Christ, those who live in Palestine and those of us who had joined them from various places around the globe, shared in the prayer that quintessentially identifies us as Christians. These words were spoken in Arabic, English, Norwegian, Spanish and German as the one body of Christ.

    Worship at Christmas Lutheran Church, Bethlehem. January 13, 2013
    Worship at Christmas Lutheran Church, Bethlehem. January 13, 2013 with Rev. Mitri Raheb and Bishop Johan Erling Pettersen.

    In the world of social media, that sacred prayer finds its way into the secular world and becomes part of the landscape of things. While some would argue that this devalues the prayer, today I am thinking that it frees this prayer from the “Jesus Box”. Social media lets Jesus out of the four walls of our churches. Social media puts Jesus and those who profess to believe in him as savior and lord, out in the world.

    The people of God, gathered to worship and scattered to serve.

    (If you want a translation of Baba Yetu from Swahili to English, check on this video Baba Yetu with English translation).

  • Along the way


    A few things I’ve learned accidentally this week:

    How to video chat on Facebook

    A hogreeve is a civil officer charged with the duty of impounding hogs running at large

    It’s really hard to clean the remnants of tahini out of an adjustable measuring spoon

    The Sedar meal and its tradition in Jewish ritual did not develop until after 70 CE

    Jeremiad is a prolonged lament or complaint

    You need to use less flour to make pitas than you do for making lefse

    I’d rather have a cough than drink “ginger tea” (ginger, garlic and lemon- mmm)

    My cat can tell time

  • Telling the Story

    No, I did not wander into the wrong cyber class space and jettison myself back to one of my earliest seminary courses, an introductory course on preaching called “Telling the Story”.

    Rather, the watching the the video, “An Anthropological Introduction to YouTube” by Michael Wesch for my Gospel and Global Media class got me thinking about what it is that draws people to media outlets like YouTube or Facebook or spurs them to write a blog that anyone can stumble upon as they surf the web.

    I think it links to our innate human need to belong and to matter in this world. But how does that happen with inanimate things such as webcams and computer screens? We come to an understanding of who we are by telling our story. In my life as a social worker, journaling (which, by the way is apparently not a real word) was a useful tool that I often suggested for the youth and children that I worked with in foster care. Often a private matter, a journal can be used to record your thoughts, feelings, doubts and fears in an uninhibited manner. It is a place to make your mark, so to speak, becoming tangible evidence of your existence. A journal tells your story. Coupled with therapeutic support, it can become a means of healing.

    An online personal presence can function in much the same manner as the old pen and paper journal. And it adds a therapeutic support piece. Others can engage with the story that you share. They can provide words of support or encouragement. Sometimes they can redirect or admonish when you’ve lost your way. It’s a strange place in many ways for such intimacy to occur, but it does have a certain allure.

    God has created us to be in relationship with one another. The way that relationship and community form has changed with our ability to link instantly across our computers, tablets and cell phones, but the need hasn’t.

  • Stranger in a Strange Land

    My original intent with this blog site was to share information while I was traveling in Israel/Palestine for a J-Term class. However, I didn’t get the site set up until a day or two before my departure and I really hadn’t mastered the process before I took off.

    Now that I’m back and the spring semester has begun at Luther Seminary, I will use this as a space to reflect weekly for course called “Gospel and Global Media Cultures”. In many ways, I feel like a stranger in a strange land in the world of blogging and some social media. I tend to “dabble” rather than garner any level of proficiency. I guess that makes me an immigrant in this world of technology. I take online courses and I’m on Facebook, but it’s still a second language for me and I spend a lot of time figuring out the translation because I’m not fluent in the process. Perhaps through this course I will be able to move from permanent resident alien status in the land of technology to becoming a naturalized citizen. Time will tell.

  • Ashes

    “Um, you have something on your forehead”.

    “Yep”, I reply, “and today you can see it”.

    Today is Ash Wednesday and I have a black ash cross marked on my forehead, a vivid reminder of my own mortality. Often on Ash Wednesday, I find myself a little sad as I catch a glimpse of my own death.

    But today I am thinking about that invisible cross marked on my forehead at baptism, forever freeing me to live life anew each and every day. Each and every day, my frail and mortal self has been given the opportunity by an awesome God to live in this world, in all of its complexity. Jesus, let me live in this world as a reflection of you. Amen

  • Here we go…

    I am about to head off to the Holy Land for two weeks, so decided to start a blog to keep friends and family posted about my adventure. It’s actually my class for J-Term at Luther Seminary. The trip is described below:
    The Holy Land: Its Prayers, People and Places
    January 9-22, 2013
    Prayers in the Holy Land come from Muslims, Jews and Christians. Witness first hand the faiths in these poignant prayers for peace in the midst of strife. Attend to the struggle among Palestinian and Israeli
    “peoples” with varied histories and cultures, and hear their hopes. Visit ancient religious “places;” experience present geo-political realities; and imagine possible futures. As Christians we will offer our own as “prayers;” as “peoples” of quite different histories we will reflect on our own cultural tendencies; as citizens from different “places” we will encounter our own global responsibilities.