Believing Thomas

An Easter devotion based on John 20:1-29

On that first Easter day, we are told in the Gospel of John, Peter and another disciple visited the empty tomb and returned home, “for they did not yet understand” (John 20:9). Mary Magdalene sticks around the garden by the tomb and encounters the risen Christ. She goes to the disciples and witnesses: “I have seen the Lord” (John 20:18 NRSV).

That evening, we find the disciples hiding, frozen with fear. They have locked themselves in and locked the world out. Jesus appears in the midst of them, offers a blessing of peace, shows them his wounds, reveals their new “sent” mission and equips them with the Holy Spirit (vv. 19–23).

Thomas missed all this; he was not there. Why wasn’t he hiding with the rest of the disciples?

The other disciples witness to Thomas in the same way Mary witnessed to them, saying “We have seen the Lord” (v. 25). And, just like the other disciples, Thomas found that hard to believe.

And so, a week later, Jesus makes a special trip just for Thomas. Jesus finds them all in the same house. Were the doors still locked? Were the disciples still afraid? “Peace be with you,” Jesus says again (v. 26). He invites Thomas to touch his wounded body and believe.

Mary, Peter, Thomas and the other inner-circle disciples share an Easter epiphany. They believe when they encounter the risen Christ.

Many generations and countless witnesses later, we can feel a little smug when we hear Jesus say “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe” (John 20:29).

We can also feel ashamed: We remember our fear and doubt. We realize that we lock ourselves in and lock others out. We confess that we miss seeing Jesus in our wounded neighbors. We admit that we find the witness of others a little hard to believe.

The good news is Jesus comes to us and stands in the middle of our fear and doubt. In the Holy Meal we are invited to touch the embodied Christ. In the waters of baptism the risen Christ gifts us with peace and equips us with the Holy Spirit. In Christian community we are blessed to see the Lord and believe. Alleluia. 

Sue Edison-Swift (4/7/2012)

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A future with hope

DSCN0335, photo by Sue Edison-Swift, 2004

Kagemulo’s smile in this picture is misleading. She smiled upon seeing the video just taken during a visit to her home outside of Bukoba, Tanzania. Kagemulo had never before seen a picture of herself.

Indeed, Kagemulo said, “I cry all the time.” Three of her four sons are dead, and the fourth has advanced AIDS. Kagemulo cares for her son in her home, is the guardian for his two children, and is the guardian for two other grandchildren orphaned by AIDS.

When asked, “What do you hope for?” Kagemulo shakes her head and said, “I’ve lost all hope.” Later, though, when asked, “What do you pray for?” she does share three hopes: She hopes her son will die before she does. She hopes her grandchildren can live in her home and on her plot of land after she dies. She hopes her grandchildren can survive without her. “All they want to do is play,” she said. “If I am sick and don’t tell them to do it, they won’t collect firewood or look for food.”

Kagemulo is grateful for Nelson, the HUYAWA (“Service to Children”) field representative who makes regular visits to her home, bringing bedding, school uniforms, and supplies. He arranges for free medical care at the church clinic.

HUYAWA, a program of the Northwestern Diocese of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania, offers relief and development services to children orphaned by AIDS. Your contributions to the ELCA World Hunger Appeal, through ELCA Global Mission and in partnership with the Lutheran World Federation, help HUYAWA offer Kagemulo’s grandchildren, and too many others orphaned by AIDS, a future with hope.

kagemuloStory and photograph by Sue Edison-Swift, adapted from
“Reproducible Stories,” shared with congregations in the
Spring 2004 ELCA World Hunger Resource Packet. Learn about current ways to support ministry in Tanzania through “Always Made New: the Campaign for the ELCA.”

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If you’re going to use my name, get it right

If you're going to use my name, get it right.

If you’re going to use my name, get it right.

The other day, a Ranger Rick subscription offer arrived our mailbox, a print version of a cold sales call. No doubt the National Wildlife Federation, publisher of Ranger Rick magazines, got our name by purchasing a list of recent subscribers to Highlights magazine.

It was a lovely sales package, customized in several places with the family name. So why was I annoyed instead of intrigued? Ranger Rick broke a cardinal rule of sales and appeals: If you’re going to use my name, get it right. The Edison-Swift family lives at my address, not the Swift family.

The basics
Let’s review basic rules about hyphenated last names. Continue reading

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Remembered Recipe

For my mom’s 60th birthday, I made a book of her recipes. It was a present for her and a gift for me. Are your family favorites recorded in a place you can find them?

While Doot-Doot cake is the go-to Edison-Swift family treat when zucchini is abundant, for daughter Annie’s January birthday I remembered “Swiss Chocolate Squares.” I brought the recipe home from my seventh grade home-ec class, and it became an Edison family favorite. So yummy. Enjoy.

Swiss Chocolate Squares

Preheat oven to 375 degrees
Grease a 15 ½ X 10 ½ jelly-roll pan

In a good-size saucepan, combine the following, bring to a boil, then remove from heat:

1 cup water
½ cup (1 stick) salted butter (original recipe called for margarine)
1 ½ squares unsweetened chocolate (e.g., Bakers) Continue reading

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2015 Thanksgiving Card

Click on the family picture to enlarge the panel and read through the card.

To download, print and share the Advent/Christmas devotional booklet mentioned above, save this PDF and print double sided, flipping on the short edge. To print out just the prayer journal, save this PDF and print double sided, flipping on short edge. The first devotion is tied to the Sunday before Advent, November 22. The prayer journal is dated from November 23 to January 5. Advent blessings, dear ones!

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Come, Lord Jesus

Joy-Sue-BasicCome, Lord Jesus: Devotions, Prayer Journal and Prayerful Coloring for Advent and Christmas is a booklet I created for and with Lutheran Social Services of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan (LSS).  It includes seven devotions linked to the Sunday before Advent, the four Sundays of Advent, Christmas Eve, and the Twelve Days of Christmas. The prayer journal offers dated boxes to note prayer prompts between November 25 and January 5. The line art in the booklet invites prayerful coloring. Request free print copies or download pages online. To print the devotional in a booklet format, save this PDF and print double sided, flipping on the short edge. To print out just the prayer journal, save the PDF and print double sided, flipping on short edge. Below, find additional information and ideas to help individuals, families and Continue reading

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Life-Changing Grace

Since 1985, every year on October 9, I remember a terrible-wonderful time of healing and abundant grace upon grace. The first time I told the story was in the December 1986 issue of Family Computing magazine. On October 9, 2010, “Life-changing Grace,” a LivingLutheran blog post remembered the 25th anniversary with gratitude. Below is a slightly edited version of that post. —Sue

It’s been 30 years. Thirty years since the time of amazing, undeserved and life-changing grace upon grace.

Paul, Sue & Annie Edison-Swift, November 1985.

The Edison-Swifts in 1985

On September 24, 1985, I took almost 5-year-old daughter Annie to the pediatrician to be checked for a possible ear infection. He discovered an abdominal mass.

After 36 surreal hours, we had a diagnosis: Stage 4 Neuroblastoma, a deadly childhood cancer. We had a prognosis: My husband, Paul, and I were told it was highly unlikely that Annie would live to see her sixth birthday.

Normal ceased, replaced by test upon test, procedure after procedure. I imagined handing out a list of things not to say after Annie’s death. The don’t-say list included, “God needed another angel in heaven,” and “It’s for the best.”

At this point in the story, even after 25 years of practice, I stumble. The details, etched in my memory, heart and face make the story too long. So, I will summarize: For 10 days there was no hope. Continue reading

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Let Go and Let God

Let go and let God graphic
Graphic: Kathryn Brewer /The Lutheran

As a piece of popular theology, “Let go and let God” is trite and profound, hurtful and helpful.

It is hurtful when served with a side of “get over it already” or “you just have to trust.” The thinly veiled accompanying message might be “You are taking too long to grieve” or “If you faith was stronger you wouldn’t worry–consider the lilies of the field” (Matthew 6:25-29).

It is trite when the perceived meaning reduces God to a Magic 8 Ball decision-maker (“It is certain”) or absolves personal responsibility (“God’s work, not mine”).

Continue reading

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A transformational act

On the last day of the NGO Forum on Women (Beijing, China, 1995), I witnessed a transformational act.

It had been an empowering, world expanding 10 days. I listened to women wanting to be both faithful and feminist, demanding full human rights, protesting globalization and its representative Ronald McDonald, celebrating the power of “Grandmothers for Peace,” selling and singing, cooking and eating, walking and talking. And, everyone was talking about the keynote speaker for the closing event: Hillary Rodham Clinton, then the U.S. First Lady.

Continue reading

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2014 Christmas Greetings e-Edition

December 2014


We jumped on a Thanksgiving-weekend promotion to create this Christmas card, to double as a “We’ve Moved” announcement.  The e-edition you are reading now offers additional “hyphenated life” news.



While setting up the tripod for the family photo session, we captured this favorite picture of Walter and Sally.




Lest you think all was “Christmas-card perfect” that afternoon, here are some of the outtakes.

We're putting down roots in Watertown.In June, we bought a 15-year-old ranch house in Watertown, Wis. It has three bedrooms, two baths, two-car garage, home-office for Paul, dining room, eat-in kitchen, small laundry-room, living room with a fireplace, and an enormous basement. Before moving in, we had wood floors installed and replaced the tub in the master bath with a walk-in shower. It’s close enough to Bethesda for Sue to come home for lunch.


Check out photographer Annie in the mirror.


The bedroom where Walter sleeps has capacity to sleep four: a bunk bed with a trundle and the original Umma’s motorized saucer chair. When Sally graduates from the Pack n Play, she’ll take the trundle. The storage-chest steps for the bunk bed remain in boxes until the kiddles are old enough to be trusted on the top bunk.


Initially we made great progress unpacking the boxes in storage for three years. Once our household reach enhanced operational-level, however, our motivation plummeted. Anything takes precedence over further unpacking and organizing.

DSC_0918For the first time in years we put up a full-size Christmas tree. Here’s the story about buying our first Christmas tree.

Last week Sue learned of her acceptance in the 2015 Certificate in Theology and Ministry program from Princeton Theological Seminary.  There are six five-week online classes, meeting Thursday evenings: Old Testament, New Testament, Forgiveness and Reconciliation, Theology for Faith and Life, Pastoral Care, and Congregational Leadership.

Annie tells us that Walter led their Advent devotion before lunch today. He sang “This Little Light of Mine” and gave this prayer: Dear God, We know you have been there a long, long time in heaven. You shared with people a lot of things and you’ve been nice to them. Amen. This reminds us of almost-5-year-old Annie’s Song of Community, and prompts us to ask, Hello, hello, how are you doing?

More Favorite Pictures from 2014:

Christmas and New Year blessings,
Sue and Paul

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2014 Edison-Swift Christmas Card

2014 Xmas Card 01

Greetings from Paul and Sue, pictured here with Annie and Sean, Walter (3 in October), Sally (1 in August) and Hank-the-Dog. This card doubles as a “We’ve Moved” announcement. In June, we bought a house. Our new address:

617 Chadwick Dr, Watertown, WI 53094

In February, Sue became Bethesda’s Corp. Dir. of Faith Life Resources, which includes coordinating the Summer Institute on Theology and Disability ( Paul has a dedicated home office and continues working as a Web Analyst/Developer for the ELCA Churchwide Office in Chicago.

January: Paul had a successful cardiac ablation-no more afib! Celebrated the life and witness of Sue’s Aunt Sally. June: Flew to New York with Annie and Sally for Rachel (Paul’s niece) and Matt Lauster’s wedding. September: Attended the memorial service for friend Mim Woolbert. Annie and Sean arranged for a surprise “Sue and Paul birthday” breakfast with dear friends. October: Joined the Edison-Albrights for a holiday in Door County (cherries!). November: Annie receives 2014 Brave Preacher Award from The Beatitudes Society; so proud. Bought our first-ever snow blower; used it twice.

Love, Sue and Paul

P.S. For more pictures and stories see the e-edition.

Download (PDF, Unknown)

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