Friday, September 30, 2011

I really needed this week's session of Christian Life Community (CLC) and some delicious soup.
After a bowl of amazingly warm and satisfying chicken noodle soup with a piece of sun-dried tomato bready goodness (I can't actually remember what it was called), we met in our smaller groups. I don't know what other groups discussed, but in ours we talked mostly about personal issues adjusting to the community at LSTC. There were some boundaries that hadn't been broken down yet and it was good to really put whatever was on our minds in the open. I certainly came away feeling better and a little more confident in where I was at the time.

We talked about one thing that I think will stick with me for a very long time. One of the people in the group brought up how on the road to seminary she said she had felt God driving her all the way and that now she doesn't feel the same pull anymore, like God "dropped her off at day care" and that was really bothering her. Another member of the group replied that, "maybe it means that's where you're supposed to be". I was astonished by the idea. I had been feeling similarly and hearing her say that was important. After 4 weeks, the shine of the semester begins to wear off. Routines are established, friend circles are beginning to form, classes give out more work, and sometimes people are led to ask, "Where is God in all of this again?"

My answer this week is that God was in our small group session at CLC, comforting us and telling us it's alright to be where we are. It's natural and okay to doubt the roads we are on (like faith as well, I think) because it makes us pay attention to the other traffic conditions and, ultimately, we become better drivers. Personally, I'd much rather have better drivers on the road, especially in Chicago :)
Until next Friday!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Define "Fun" For Me, Please

Hi, Everyone! My name is Chad McKenna, and I'm a newly-appointed contributor to this blog. You may remember me as the benevolent ticket-bearer who invited Alex to front-row seats at a White Sox Game (see past posts for the story!). For the next year, you'll be reading stories about my experience as a pastoral intern from LSTC. I'm a candidate for ordination in the ELCA through the Indiana-Kentucky synod, and the internship year is the third year in the four-year Master of Divinity program at LSTC for those of us seeking ordination in the ELCA.

It's been about six weeks since I started my internship at The Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd in Palos Heights, Illinois. On my first Sunday, which seems more like six days ago, I was introduced to the congregation and given gifts of welcome (the church cookbook, keys, a CD produced by the choir, and one of the pastor's freshly-picked tomatoes, among other things). I met a few hundred people all eager to tell me their names and to meet my wife, Andrea. And, after I assured each of them that they'd need to tell me their names again the next week, almost everyone exclaimed with a wink and a smirk, "Oh, you are going to have fun this year!"

After a while, I began to wonder what their definition of "fun" was.

Six weeks, later, I think I have a pretty good idea. With six hospital and home visits in the first week, as well as countless others since then; Three different book and bible studies every Tuesday, one of which I'm leading; Two sermons already preached; Forty-Two seventh graders in confirmation every Monday evening; Two raucous lunchtime events with the Over Fifty-Five Club; Joining the choir, along with Andrea; Deacons' meetings, church council meetings, internship committee meetings; and being immersed by baseball about thirty times in the dunk tank on Rally Day, I believe I'm getting a good grasp on how this congregation would define the word, "fun." And with a little over eleven months to go in my internship here, I can only hope that the fun won't ever stop.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Bumps In the Road

Sundays seems to be a day of solitude, of less stress and busyness; this is truly reflected as I ride my bike through a quiet subdivision in Northwestern Chicago Heights leaving the Metra stop at 7:30am on my way to my MIC church. Or perhaps this is because it is 7:30 in the morning and no one has stirred from their beds outside to fetch their morning paper, which are littered not along sidewalks, but within their driveways as the sidewalks are noticeably absent.

Interesting take on community.

Driving the same route in a car, the road is smooth except for the occasional pothole or the joyful season of construction when one gaily stops to smell the fresh new tar and admire the brightly colored signs... screaming in frustration.

Being in Creation equals freedom, freedom to be loosened from the constraints of society, melding one with the Divine, basking in beautiful..rainy weather? So whose great idea was this anyway to gleefully get on a bike (a man’s one bought by mistake), enjoy traveling on the train (at 6:45 in the morning) to ride through blissfully quiet (spooky) neighborhoods (cul de sacs with no sidewalks and one gated house with a police order standing watch) and being good to the environment? Notwithstanding also all the healthy exercise I’m getting along with the pain in my legs, the cramp in my hands and my glasses constantly falling off?

As I perused my bike route this morning, there is a different under my wheels of how the road winds and forms; it radiates within my muscles which doth protest too much. And yet as people of faith we find ourselves voicing our grumpiness and dissatisfaction when our own journey is bumpy, riddled with obstacles or covered with the morning dew of rain while others seem to have the sun shining down in perfect weather as they peddle along.

Then again, there are benefits being in Creation, experiencing the softness of rain which sprinkles down as I am reminded of my baptism. There are benefits in pushing my spirit up and over those bumps and tiny hills carved into the road because at the end of my journey there is rest and respite, there is happiness with open arms awaiting me, there is laughter and light encouraging me to once more never quit and never give up.

God's Peace.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Chapel twice in one day...Must be seminary!

As the day ends, what I remember the most was chapel. I was put in charge of arranging chapel for this Monday with my Systematics professor Lea Schweitz being the preacher and me being the assisting minister. It was my first time planning worship at LSTC, and although it was rather simple with no communion or any extras, I felt myself quite nervous. Not really thinking last week when I was approached by some classmates of mine, I agreed to play guitar for Holden Evening Prayer at a night worship that was being started this semester. This was not at all regret, because I love to play guitar and I love Holden Evening Prayer, but sometimes at LSTC, we all have tendencies to be helpful before checking our schedules. So this weekend I prepped for both, practicing guitar in my room for Monday night's 8 PM service (Roby Chapel, right) and writing and rewriting the prayers of intercessory for the day service at 11 AM (Augustana Chapel, left). Writing now I can say that both services went quite smoothly, and were very enjoyable. I really loved Lea's words about questions that we ask, as she laid out some wonderful stories of her family, and reflected on the Matthew 21 text. My friends Alex Raabe and Bekki Lohrmann, again created an amazing worship space filled with candles and a cross that they built only a couple of weeks ago. I felt honored to lend my creativity and ability to these experiences, although feeling much more like the widow giving her mite around such amazing minds. One part that I have saved for last was my risk of the day...I used the refrain from a more popular Matisyahu (Jewish hip hop folk songwriter) song, "One Day" in my intercessory prayer as the people's response. Not too big a risk, but it involved enlisting my angelic voiced roommate to come up and teach the song. I have placed the words below and I hope that will ring true for you as it does for me and hopefully this community here at LSTC.

"All my live I've been waiting for
I've been praying for
For the people to say
That we don't wanna fight no more
They'll be no more wars
And our children will play
One day..."

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Getting Too Far Ahead

I have this habit of getting ahead of myself. Not when I'm talking, however. I do so with life.

I'll mask it by saying that I'm a planner. I'll cover it by saying that it isn't worry. I'll pretend to be less concerned than I actually am.

Anyone else on that boat with me? The great sin of getting ahead of ourselves. Even today, as I was joyfully singing the praises of two of my favorite couples on campus to my roommate, I said, "You know, it is going to be rough to have to leave everyone again." Yeah, that's right. It's September and I'm thinking about May.

On internship, I learned a good bit of taking the days as they come. I learned to savor the moment. And since being back, I've had many such moments. Like gathering with a group of seniors and laughing so loud and hard that the other tables in the cafeteria were glaring at us. Oops. But there was such joy in the moment. Such joy.

In my Constructive Theology course last week we talked about seeking joy. We decided that seeking joy is an everyday job. For me, it's all tied up with living in the moment. Celebrating today for today, even when deadlines have completely passed by.

Generally, getting too far ahead of today doesn't bring me joy. What about you?

Friday, September 23, 2011

Getting Used to it Now :)

Hello everyone! My name is Justin and I am a junior at LSTC. I am pumped to write for Taste and See and am looking forward to sharing some fun reflections with you every Friday! So I suppose I’ll say a little about myself. I was born in a log cabin that I built with my own hands…and I have a rotten sense of humor. I’ve wanted to be a pastor since I was in high school and now here I am! If I could meet any character in the Bible it would be Paul because his writings influenced so much of the New Testament and I want to hear about his revelation experience. That’s enough for now, time to get to some of my first experiences at LSTC.

I can say this course load is giving me more to do than I thought. I graduated with a Religion and Classics double major, so I am not taking the first year Greek class and I have already encountered some of the material we are currently learning. That said, within the first two weeks I have found that there is still a lot that I have to learn. I really like that LSTC is able to prepare students who have had no previous classes in these subjects as well as students like myself. My classmates and I are still finding challenges together as we prepare for ministry and the rest of our seminary experience. It’s a nice feeling to know I’m not alone, and for any person at LSTC who may be feeling some academic pressure I want you to know you’re not alone either. If you want, maybe we can de-stress together sometime. Well, that’s my first entry. I think I kind of like this blogging thing. Until next Friday!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


Walking without a minute to lose, I see Chad McKenna, Chicago intern. He still lives in Hyde Park in campus housing. I greet him as I normally do with a hug, and ask how he is doing. He asks what I am doing tonight, and I say I am headed to something right now in our cafeteria. Chad tells me he has an extra ticket t0 a White Sox game, if I'd like to go. Ooohh...not a big fan of the White Sox, but I do like to hang out, I like sports, I have not really had the chance to catch up with Chad in a while. Well I decide I can swing it I just have to leave my meeting I was headed to right on time to change, grab a glove, and meet them and new surprise Nate Sutton, another Chicago intern living in campus housing would also be joing us. Nate Sutton besides being a friend, was always prepared with Greek translations last year in class, a saving grace for us first year Juniors. I was excited to get out on the town in such an unexpected way. The three of us drive down to the game, we found out we had amazing seats from someone in Chad's congregation, another perk for a wonderful night with some friends I rarely get to see. Chad's wife, Andrea was also there, and it was good to hangout with her as well, since we had really never met, and I gained a facebook friend! Chad and Nate reassured me of the upcoming year, and that I would survive things like Systematics and Hebrew, and told me about their internships, which also pumped me up for my future, remembering why we do all this. It is a blessing to have voices like that in time of worry and stress, and I believe them when they say I can do it. Well, the Sox win (Yay I guess...Go Brewers), we saw a Grand Slam, and I got a helmet full of Nachos. It was a perfect night, and I had a blast with my Middler friends...I mean intern friends, I'm the Middler now.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Come on In

I am a new student to LSTC, and last week I had my first experience volunteering at an amazing organization called the Living Room Cafe. This center provides resources to people living the effects of homelessness, with the intention of equipping their support in a way that promotes the respect and integrity of their guests. My fellow students and I served breakfast restaurant-style, and despite having spent the last three years working as a director of a parish in Cleveland who had a strong outreach-food ministry, I was astounded by the powerful ministry of that place.

It is a place of genuine hospitality - where there is equal give and take. It is ironic that my Living Room Cafe experience happened last week, when this entire week I have been reading about hospitality in my pastoral care class. I've been studying how in order to truly give hospitality, we must be willing to receive hospitality. We will only be able to truly bask in the glory of those effects if we open our hearts and minds and recognize that we, too, are as vulnerable as the person we are welcoming.

I am really fortunate to be living in a community of hospitable people. My apartment has become the after-hour wi-fi spot for some of my neighbors. I love having people stop by, sit at my table, and laugh and joke as we play on Facebook and check our email. While I feel grateful to be able to help my neighbor while their internet is being installed, I'm far more grateful for the opportunity to spend some time outside the classroom with these amazing people. Their presence is helping me turn my house into a home, just as the one-on-one connection at the Living Room Cafe turns food distribution into an affirming experience.

We are so fortunate as Christians to be invited to spaces where we can live the joy of hospitality. Let us pray to have the courage to return that gift and say warmly, "come on in."

The Flying Seminarian?

There is freedom being immersed in Creation and as the autumn enfolds before us, the blossoming of each dawn gives a new opportunity before us to enjoy the majestic of summer’s mysteries. Autumn also brings the return of the fast paced chaos that consumes our lives. Children return to the routine of school, adults return to the normalcy of the world of work and we as seminarians delve once more into our spiritual journeys.  Sundays finds most of the middler class out and about in our Ministry In Context church sites, learning about parish life from a pastoral leader’s point of view.  Our MIC sites are the fork in our journey; an opportunity to explore parish life outside of the safe bubble of our home congregations  where we were perhaps always revered, cherished or elevated to being complete strangers, introverted-learning from the very beginning the complex systems of a congregation.

Gliding and navigating through the streets of Hyde Park on an early quiet morning allowed my mind and spirit to dwell in a comforting place of solitude. There was no crush of traffic, endless streaming noise of an Ipod or MP3 or satellite radio; no words filling up the space between just the realization that there is beauty if one allows themselves to ponder yet there are places where Creation is in pain and calls out to us, God’s children to not forget. There is a difference from riding through neat subdivisions in Chicago Heights, IL  as I bike ride to my MIC church and riding through vast wastelands of emptiness, barren lots and shuttered stores on the other side of Cottage Grove as I, this past Sunday was out on an ecumenical assignment visiting a well known Episcopal Church not too far from the “safe” bubble of Hyde Park.

And yet, there is no difference how God sees us, no difference how His Love pours out showering us with mercy and grace, no difference how His healing hands continually soothes within our souls.

God’s Peace.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


Fall is coming to Chicago. The semester is in full swing and already the leaves are beginning to change color. At LSTC that only means one thing. Football season is upon us!

Seminarian football is serious business. Every year eight seminaries meet in Gettysburg to fight for the title of Luther Bowl champion and the right to bring home the coveted Book of Concord and Luther bobble head doll. Hardened on the mean streets of Chicago, LSTC is the furthest traveling Luther Bowl team and one of the most formidable.

But before we can do battle on the hallowed fields of Gettysburg, we must practice. On the football field, we learn new things about one another. Like how the quiet fellow who sat behind you in Greek can weave a football through a rush of on-coming defenders. Or that the friendly-looking woman who helped out in chapel last week is in fact a grizzled middle linesman you would not want to meet in a back alley. We learn each other’s strengths and weaknesses; learn to anticipate each other’s moves and read each other’s signals. Relationships form and community develops.

Seminarian football is in the end not so much about football as it is about community building. But in the midst of community, we are serious about our football. Watch out Luther Bowl, LSTC is equipping the saints for victory once again.

Friday, September 9, 2011


Responsibility is that big scary word that means you are a grown up. For ministry, it is that word that carries a holy weight - being a leader of people and walker with people as pastor.

And then internship ends and a final year of school begins. The responsibility is there but it is oh so different. At least, the differences are standing out much more than the similarities.

For one, I get to sit down in chapel and I only have to arrive a minute or two before worship begins. What a treat!!! (Please note that it was such an itch to help that I have already been hospitality for one Eucharist service and am currently helping to plan another in which I will assist with communion!) So my responsibility is merely to worship. To lend my voice to the chorus of voices surrounding me. Hallelujah!

And then there's my housing situation. Instead of an old artist's house, filled to the brim with things I never asked to be responsible for, I get to have my little room in my LSTC apartment with two good friends. We share food, share the tasks of cleaning and dish doing, of hanging up things on the walls, and purchasing items for the apartment. It is bliss to not be wholly responsible for my home.

Oh, and then there are the classes. That odd responsibility that is not to teach but to learn. To be actively engaged, prepared, and invested in the topic at hand. To notice the Holy Spirit present in the various assignments and the many words from our professors. To honor the holy and the hard work all at the same time.

It's good to be home. But odd, so very odd.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Here and There

Yesterday was my first day of class for this semester. I spent the day reading course syllabuses, planning assignments, and feeling behind on reading. It is exciting to be back at LSTC, exciting to think of all the semester has in store. Most of all, it is great to be back among friends. Tuesday night several friends came over for a “last first day of school” party. We laughed and joked, and I remembered the joy of community.

Yesterday was also the first night of Wednesday Church Night at my internship congregation. On internship, the Wednesday Church Night community was one of my primary responsibilities. They were the community I got to know first, the first ones for whom I understood what it meant to be pastor. Wednesday nights were the most intense part of my internship experience. My highest highs and my lowest lows happened on Wednesdays.

So it is a weird feeling to be here and not there. I’m excited for my classes, excited for the learning and the discussions. But I miss the community who became my own. I miss the faces and the stories, the people I came to love, who came to love me. I find I want to be here and there. I want my friends and my congregation. And so I find that this experience of internship still has more to teach me. I am still learning the process of how to say good-bye.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Word and Sacrament: MIC

In the religious seminary system, Uninformed seminarians are considered especially heinous. In The Windy City, The dedicated professors that drown us with thirty plus books for one class, inundate us with frightening tales of endorsement essays from years past and hold us to task are members of an elite squad Known as the Book of Concord Unit, These are their stories...

Welcome back to another episode of Seminary Life.

Unchartered waters are normally considered dangerous, for within those churning sandy stained waves hides jagged slivers of blackened rock, deceitful tangles of moss and seaweeds and swirling sinkholes in one can lose their footing easily. Yet, the beauty and promise of softness and cradling of the waters around the fragility of one’s skin is the allure that pulls our spirits closer as a respite from the pouring heat from the noonday sun.

It is through the beginning once more of waters which can refresh or enrich our souls that brings us once more to the shores of Seminary, resting if only for a moment awaiting our next sojourn among the waters. We pause to reflect on our voyage through the storms of CPE in solitude except for the hand of Our Creator who steadied us when we lost the cargo, attempted to repair frayed ropes or collapsed under the weight of stress of just keeping our strength for one more day.

Yet, we have earned our stripes so to speak. As a larger shadow looms on the horizon we stand no longer novices now recognized as budding leaders and don those badges of honor bestowed upon us, draped in black not in mourning but in respect of the journey God has set before us.

God's Peace.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

I'm home...

As i write to you showing you a picture of my new apartment with my new table, and my roommates old bed, I think about home has been six different places over the last 5 years. And although I can only imagine that this list will only change with internships and hopeful graduation and ordination, I take a moment and think through the travels. I realize that calling these many places home has made me more apt for thinking about the next step, rather than enjoying the hear and now. Last year I spent much of my spring already excited about moving here, and I could spend this year being excited about internships and where that could be. But rather I will be looking forward to today and maybe tomorrow, as I work on living in the now. Looking forward to my first class of the semester...Life and Letters of Paul with Ray Pickett, or choir coming right after chapel, with the one and only Dan Schwandt. Earlier this morning, I was out long-boarding around Hyde Park and running some errands, and it's a beautiful day not too cold not too warm, just comfortable. And as the semester starts I can say I feel much the same, comfortable. Comfortable in my calling to this place, comfortable with my home, and comfortable with my future and all that I don't know about it. I'm home now, and as you can tell with a bed in the living room, I still have some unpacking to do. Maybe next week I will show you all the disaster area that is my room...Yikes!

Sunday, September 4, 2011


The semester has officially started!  Today was the first day at my Ministry in Context (MIC) site, which is Shepherd of the Hill in Lockport, Illinois.  In between the two services, Pastor Dealey was trying to explain what "geocaching" was to a parishioner.  After a few minutes of attempting to explain it, he decided we'd better just go experience it.  So we did.  We went geocaching in between services.  If you don't know what geocaching is, click on the link back there to figure it out.

It seemed perfectly fitting that we should be geocaching between services.  Caching is sort of like ministry.  You do your best to follow coordinates (the liturgy in the ELW, a curriculum for confirmation classes, a plan for marital counseling, etc), but the reality is, you have to search around the base of a lightpost for awhile until you figure out exactly how to get to the cache, or the need at hand.  You sign the log, just as we seem to sign the logs of one another when we enter into relationship with each other.  Your story becomes a part of my story and mine becomes a part of yours.

This day pretty much rocked.  Welcome back to LSTC!

Picture from