Sunday, December 23, 2012

CPE- Christmas Break- Midwest Blizzard-Advent

Thursday I had my first CPE interview in Minnesota and the weather forecast for Madison WI was 4-18 inches of snowfall on Thursday.  Wednesday I diligently watched the weather radar and after talking to Scott and a friend in MN, decided to head north on Wednesday night so as to avoid the potential blizzard conditions.  Lo and behold, MN also got slammed with tremendous winds and a mere 5-9 inches of snow.  The interview went well, and when I called Scott to let him know I was going to head home, he highly recommended I stay in MN another night.  His 4WD got stuck in our road as he was coming home, and the city is not making any plans or promises that the side roads would be plowed on Friday.  So I spent another night in MN- waiting.

Waiting occurs everyday in our lives.  I have spent the better part of Christmas break waiting anxiously for my grades.  When I got them, I did an all out ALLELUIA, PRAISE GOD! Because I actually truly did survive my first semester of seminary!

Waiting for CPE interview decision.  Will I get the place I really want? 

Advent.  It is still advent, even though my family members just left our house and even though we visited dad at Sylvan Crossings for our annual Christmas celebration, I still wait to celebrate Christmas and celebrate the birth of our Lord.  Jesus, fully divine, yet born a human. 

Four Candles by Johnathan Rundman

we celebrate a new year
a few weeks before the calendar
we shovel off the sidewalks
unlock all the doors
we're gonna light four candles

we get to hang blue paraments
keep those flower vases filled
put up the banner with the trumpets
we serve on the altar guild
we're gonna light four candles

the wait is nearly over

Friday, December 21, 2012

Life Continues. Can we now get back to Advent?

We now return you to your regularly scheduled life...Original Painting by R. Pitts

It is interesting how humanity tends to throw all of their energy and faith into a civilization long removed from this side of eternity or a weathered elder who remains in blessed (and infamous) memory, that they can neither touch nor see but scoff at a people who celebrate the Creator who breathed ruach into our very beings who we can not see but reverberates throughout all, walking and struggling with us.

Advent is one of my favorite times of the year; "Unexpected and Mysterious" repeatedly loops in the background of my days as "O Come O Come Emmanuel". Each morning even as the sky flutters closer in brilliant hues of blue, center stage and the earthen goddesses pull fragile shawls of crystal even closer, my vision still reveres in awe. Even as snowstorms race across the horizons, I await this with great joy each and every year.

This Advent season has dawned upon us and yet my spirit was irritated. Another Friday has come upon us, but thanks to all this fatality freak out that has poison a multitude of people  our senses have been jarred with all of this end of the world language.

It's Friday. We're still here. Enough already.

Instead of lamenting that this is the end of the world, perhaps we should greet the horizon that slowly curls into our existence with new understanding. "As God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourself with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience." This should be a new beginning for all of us; for a small town in Newton, Connecticut the world did indeed end an entire week ago. We should strive and struggle as this year bows from the stage and one awaits in the wings, that as people of Faith, that as children of the Creator we love our neighbor and the stranger just as we love ourselves. Let this be a end to pain, suffering, negativity and a beginning to who God has called us to be.

Besides, the world couldn't end today. I'm preaching on Epiphany. Woot!

Lape Bondye, God's Peace. 

Monday, December 17, 2012

There Comes a Time in Every Preacher's Life

I had a kick ass sermon for this past Sunday.  I don't meat to gloat, but I was pretty proud of it, aaaand I had it done on Thursday.  Which, of course, meant that I had to throw all of it out and start over on Friday afternoon (if you're curious, here it is)

There comes a time, and unfortunately it happens rather often, when preachers have to throw out their sermons in light of tragedy.  So, that sermon I wrote will get tucked away in my file of sermons, but won't be preached.  And that's okay.  And instead I preached about the irony of Joy Sunday, and how there really were no words to explain what happened.  And we prayed.  We called on God to bring us the peace that only God promises to give, peace that passes all understanding.

And during the prayers of the people, we prayed for each victim.  And in obedience to the command of Christ to love our enemies, we prayed for Adam Lanza, who slaughtered innocent lives.  And we cried, knowing that the resentment we harbored wouldn't help the world heal, but prayer would.  Things like this should never happen...and yet they do.  So, we pray.  We beg for peace.  Kyrie Eleison.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

You Are Loved

There are no words that can make any sense about what happened yesterday.

I spent most of this past week furiously writing and finishing two papers, ironically for two of my ethics classes and Friday I was finally done. My Treehouse unfortunately suffered for it and with my own children at school, my husband and I went to run errands for the upcoming Christmas season.

We landed on Belmont and Clark, walking and came upon this young man holding this sign. "How long are you going to be out here, dude?", my husband asked him.
"Don't know, man" he smiled.

There are those who believe that the Gospel can only be preached safely inside a building of someone's choosing. This young man woke up and decided to do this, and THAT is what being a witness to the Gospel means. I have no idea if he is Christian or not but what he did was profoundly Christ-like.

Later, my husband would remark that perhaps if that young man who was trapped in so much darkness had seen this sign somewhere, maybe he wouldn't have reacted to life the way he did. No one knows.

The very hard part of our vocations as pastors and pastoral leaders is that we must not only pray for those affected, but also pray for those who have strayed so far away from the Light. So my prayers include all that have lost their lives.

As we returned back to Hyde Park, I heard the roar of planes overhead; leaning out of our car window slightly, I saw three fighter the missing man formation. 

Those children will be missing from their homes, their bedrooms and from their parents' arms. Yet, they are not missing from our hearts and minds and where there is that empty space, beyond the Veil...they are welcomed, eternally...and so are, will we.

The Good News is that all of us are Loved, no matter where we are in our faith journey or how we call on God or even how we struggle to understand His/Her existence.  

The Creator weeps, and the Creator welcomes us Home.

Lape Bondye, God's Peace.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

A'boot' Happiness

At approximately 6:49pm, Monday, December 10, 2012, I completed my first semester with a simple mouse click on the "send" button, and with that last paper submitted, I was uber excited to explore Chicago a bit more.  Today the spirit of exploration guided two of my classmates and me to the Christkindlmarket (a Christmas market) in Daley Plaza.  We spent the morning roaming around different holiday stands, searching for potential presents, and tasting a variety of holiday treats.  'Twas a perfectly lovely experience, especially with a boot of hot drink in my hand.  That's right, a boot!  

Celebrating at the end of our first semester.
I had no idea, but using a boot-shaped drinking vessel is apparently a well-known tradition(?).  Still, for this girl--who lives under a rock--the boot mug was one of the highlights of the market!  Turns out that this tradition began (or so my research says) when a Persian general swore to his troops that if they were successful in battle, he would drink out of his boot to honor them.  Cleverly, the general had a glass-maker create a boot-like drinking glass so that when the general was required to fulfill his vow, he didn't have to taste his own toe-jam.  To this day, people still celebrate victory by drinking out of these boot-shaped glasses.  Awesome.  Although I had no clue of its significance when I was taking sips from my Christkindlmarket boot, I will gladly claim my victory drink retroactively: first semester of seminary is in the books--celebration!  

Having enjoyed the crisp afternoon laughing with friends, listening to Christmas music, and drinking out of a boot, I believe today was a fantastic way to meander my way into winter break.  Here's to Chicago, to fall semester, and to the expectation of many joys ahead. I raise my boot to you all!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A joke about John the Baptist

Panorama of Beer and Carols by Nadia Bolz-Weber

Okay, so I stole this joke, but it's funny.

"On Jordan's bank the Baptists cry, if I were Baptist so would I.
They drink no beer, they have no fun,
I'm glad I am a Lutheran!"

This past Friday House hosted an event we like to call Beer and Carols. There are basically 2 rules for the evening.
1. drink beer (or soda)
2. sing carols

I've been asked by a couple people about our theology behind this event and each time I answer "we don't have one...we just like to sing and drink." Which is entirely true. We do it because we enjoy it and because it's a good way to show the greater community that we are a little bit different than your mother's Lutheran church.

I think that sometimes we get so caught up as seminarians about theologizing everything we do in the church that we can forget what it is like to just have fun.  So, this Advent season do something crazy.  Drink beer and sing Christmas carols...don't over think it, and don't feel bad about singing Christmas songs before Christmas.  I promise you'll feel good about your decision.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

First Snowfall- Last Paper- Advent with Sparklers!

Back Yard at home in Madison
As the semester draws to a close, I am overcome with various emotions. Sadness as I left campus this morning with my husband- leaving behind new friends who I won't see for 2 months. I'm amazed at how our intense study groups built camaraderie and close relationships among such a diverse group of people. Of course I am thrilled that I actually completed my first semester of seminary. I am overjoyed with the sense of accomplishment, and also the fact that as I continue this journey to ordained ministry, I continue to feel God's hand guide me along the way.

 Our first snowfall seemed to hit just as we hit the Wisconsin border this morning, and I am happy to say that I am now home, relaxing in front of a fire catching up with Scott, my husband, and simply watching the flurries fall. How ironic to get the first snowfall the day I arrive home!

Photo by Tina H.
Friday night was a great night with my roommates and other middlers as we celebrated Stephanie's, one of my roommates, birthday and sang Christmas Carols. This was a first for me, singing Christmas carols, but it certainly put me into the advent mood, especially as we held sparklers while singing Silent Night!

Now for a week of Christmas baking, preparing the home for Christmas, and catching up on 'fun' reading!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Coffee Shop Catharsis

If you come to Denver this year, let me know and I'll take you here.
If you come to Denver after this year...go here, it's good. 
I spend an hour and a half every week intentionally free to meet with parishioners during what I call 'Office Hours' where people come by and hang out.  It's part pastoral care, part building and deepening my relationships with parishioners, and partly facilitating community between everyone who shows up.

Then there are some weeks, like this one, where no one shows up for a while.  Granted, there is an hour left of that time, but I've brought a book along to read for a book club I'm leading during Advent so I've got things to do during this time.  However, today is a weird day in the basement of Hooked on Colfax, I've spent the last half hour completely enthralled with a guy who is talking to another guy...he's been recounting the details of his attempted suicide.  Eavesdropping is probably not the best practice, obviously, but listening to his story of depression and living hell and the rebirth that happened from it is so interesting, and has given me a lot to think about.

Today in Text Study we talked about incarnation and the nature of Salvation Luke talks about in next week's gospel: salvation of all the fleshy beings.  We talked about how we have a God who dared to reveal God's self in flesh to us, and how sacred flesh is, then.  Now, sitting here listening to this story of rebirth and how this guy recognized the importance of his own self and own fleshy nature as a human is giving me chills.  And I think about my own flesh, the parts I'd like to kill off, and how they too are loved by a fleshy and incarnate God, and that's deeply comforting to me. the basement of a coffee shop (where I'm certain more pastoral care takes place by people who have no church or no use for church than in some church buildings).  

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A Rare Energizer

While I hoped to start this mad-dash to the end of the semester re-energized from my wonderful Thanksgiving break at home, I was already dragging by mid-day yesterday.  Woof.  I rolled into my 6:30-9:30pm Church History class tired and anxious about the long night of work ahead. ...And then, we visited LSTC's Gruber Rare Books Collection, housed in JKM library. 

I was excited to have the opportunity to hear about these rare books from the library's current curator--and my current Pentateuch professor--Dr. Ralph Klein, but little did I know what we were about to see... 

Luther's "September" New Testament
For an hour and a half, my class slobbered (metaphorically speaking)  over original prints of numerous books including a Gutenberg Bible (15th c.), Martin Luther's translations of the New Testament into German (1522), and a King James Bible (1611) to name a few.*  It's not every day when you get to stare at such profound and tangible pieces of history.  I was tickled! To say the least, this was an amazing field-trip for a girl with an imagination--I could only think about the hands that prepared these books and then passed them down from one century to the next...

Oldest known complete
Greek cursive New Testament (9th c.)
I cannot express how humbling it was to be in that room. I was standing among books that changed the course of church history; I was standing among two esteemed Biblical scholars of the modern age; I was standing among my peers while we engaged this history even while looking forward toward our own discernment journeys and how we must continue too share the gospel as it had been shared for centuries before us.  

And while I cannot explain exactly why this trip to the library was so re-energizing, when I left that room I was ready to hit the books again with full force.  Three cheers for books!



*For all you Greek New Testament scholars out there, Dr. Klein even brought out the big kahuna: the oldest known complete New Testament written in Greek cursive (9th c.), known to New Testament scholars as manuscript #1424!!!

Deck the Halls

So, I know that Advent is coming up soon, but I am currently really excited to have Christmas Decorations up in our house finally. Don't get me wrong, advent is a great liturgical season, but they don't really make 'Advent ornaments' to deck the halls with.

Which means I got to put up the Christmas tree and such this past weekend. I spent a good couple of hours rummaging through our basement to find the Christmas tree and ornaments and then spent the better part of Friday and Saturday making sure everything was just right. We talk about living simply in Urban Servant Corps (and there is a good article in this month's Lutheran about shedding stuff) but I figured Christmas decorations could be a little less simple. Granted, everything I used was in the basement, but we can use a little extra electricity this month, right?

Though using that electricity, and playing into the consumer nature of Christmas (however small a part I play in the Christmas Industry this year) still is at odds with my favorite liturgical season of Advent. Perhaps this Advent will finally be a way to bring together those sides of myself that both love the holiday and its glittery extravagance and the side of me that says 'wait! Don't bother with stuff, prepare the way of The Lord!' We will have to wait and see.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Same Bat time, Same bat channel.

Last week of classes, and I can hardly believe it!  Then again, as I sat on the bus and the L during my commute from Madison to Chicago tonight I had my Greek vocabulary out studying like crazy trying to master the words which seem to always escape me.  Of course, as I go through my list, I come across words with a wonderfully funny, sometimes wonderfully inappropriate mnemonic- and for those chuckles, I can thank my fantastic Greek Study Group!  As we go through the words, sometimes a mnemonic is immediately apparent.  Sometimes the mnemonic has a crazy long story.  Sometimes the mnemonic has a wonderfully inappropriate story.  All are good because they help us remember the Greek words!

As I chug through these last two weeks on campus, I know that I will look back with amazement as I remember how I first wandered onto campus and into various classrooms wondering how I would make it.  And now that the first semester is near its end, I know, and  I can share with all future seminarians, that God gets us through this- we are called to serve God, and that is why we are here.  But, we also need to do our part and ask for help when we need it, and take advantage of people forming study groups.  I find that these study group times are when I talk through problems, talk through questions, and always see issues through a different lens.
Blam- another Paper is Done!
All these are lessons which I learned this semester, and I'm certain I will learn another one or two in the next two weeks!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Black Friday, Say Whaaaat?

Really Walmart? Really?

Recently an article in the Chicago Tribune's Business section stated that "families are looking to do things after the turkey is done and are eager to shop so its a great time to have the stores open."

Thanksgiving scoops up many different brushes and paints a variety of portraits and landscapes for many of us who travel toward this time of year with anticipation, of what lies over the beautiful horizons that captures the changing seasons. For those who boast a heritage that traces back to the troubled time of religious persecution and yearning for that freedom, this is a time of celebration and delving into traditions. Yet, for those ancient peoples who rightfully claim this land as their ancestral home this is a day of mourning and of sadness. For that matter, any people whose ancestors suffered and perished whether having their lands, their ways, their language and their spirituality and religion ripped from them, deemed incorrect or taboo as well as those who were dragged from the comfort of their own Motherland, this is not a day of rejoicing; this is a day of remembrance as well as of celebration that the Creator God has continued to journey with us, teaching and reminding us that He still cradles us close, teaching us who we are and what He has given to our spirits.

Several years prior, Thanksgiving eve was the mad rush enveloping long lines at grocery stores gathering what one needed for a healthy, filling Thanksgiving meal because on Thanksgiving proper, every store was closed so that the employees too, could rest and relax with those they loved.  Nowadays, it seems that we have tossed tradition, respect and sacredness to the winds instead, having those employees sacrifice sanity for the sin of greed. 

Every waking moment as dawn beats our hearts anew, as children of the Most High, we should shout joyful noises or lift our hands in lamentation and prayerfulness of how God continues to breathe life into our souls. This time of the year as we welcome in the season of Advent; for those around us who have lost their way or sheltering themselves as best they can from the battering life sometimes descends and surrounds us, we should reach out, taking hands and holding our fellow brothers and sisters in faith, In Christ, in love so close. This time of year we should be reminded that we should strive to do for others, as the Holy Spirit continues to inspire us and Christ continually teaches us.

Lape Bondye, God's Peace.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Turkey/Giving Thanks/Thanksgiving Day!

Well, it’s Thanksgiving Day and I’m wondering what to write about.  I suppose I could write about the intensely awesome ritual that is baking the caramel pecan rolls which I got to partake in this morning as we watched the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Or maybe today I’ll write about what I am most grateful for as a seminary student coming home to a stress-filled household.  This semester is wrapping up at a quick pace.  Soon it will be finals week and all of our papers, projects, tests, quizzes, and translations will need to be finished.  The seminarian mindset at this point seems to be, “Oh no! The end is near! Run away!”  Then we go to whichever home we go to where the stress of Thanksgiving as a holiday is in full swing.  Food needs preparation, schedules need to work out, relatives and friends must be accounted for in setting up for the meal, and there is usually a good amount of deep anxiety surfacing as all of these elements come together.  

As my own family stresses about all of these things I hear my mom say to Dad:

“Chin up, baby, we’ve got each other.  We’ve got our family.”

And in an instant, Mom has just shown me what the most important thing in her life is and what she is grateful for. 

I know it’s a cheesy and overly repeated question, but it really makes sense to ask it on this day.  What are you thankful for?  There’s a reason why we think about it, because it’s in those places where we find God most active in our lives as we know it.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Lions and Tigers and Turkeys, Oh MY!

turkeys taking a bath
So, this week, House For All Sinners and Saints is giving away free food to people on Thanksgiving. We call it Operation: Turkey Sandwich and basically, we make homemade turkey sandwiches, stuffing muffins, pumpkin cookies, mayo and mustard packets and put them all in a brown lunch bag with a sticker on it that says "It sucks you have to work on Thanksgiving. Operation: Turkey Sandwich brought to you by House For All Sinners and Saints." We then go around Denver distributing them to anyone who is working on Thanksgiving (cops, bartenders, 7-11 clerks, strippers, nurses, bus drivers, etc). I've been told it's absolutely incredible to see people's face light up when they get their sandwich and I'm excited to be a part of it.

Yet, there is another, less glamorous side of Operation: Turkey Sandwich. The organization. Luckily my Meyers-Briggs is a "J" which means I'm really organized and like to be an administrator (Mom, don't judge this based on my laundry). So, I've been compiling spreadsheets with all the information on it about who is bringing what and how many of them, as well as who is helping make and distribute. I've gotten to send emails, make stickers and signs, plan for Thursday's assembly's been great. I've also had the joy of being a somewhat unofficial turkey drop off center. I'll be roasting birds two at a time the rest of the week and making a bunch of stuffing muffins as well. I love cooking, and I love cooking in large numbers. It is, in fact, the first time I've roasted turkey, but I figure: Go big or go home.
yay turkey!

Thanksgiving Week!

Earlier this month I followed a FB friend's initiative to make a daily post stating what I am thankful for. Considering this is Thanksgiving week and the fact that we have a break from classes, my initial somewhat superficial expression goes to that; the break from classes. Yet, when I dig deeper, reflect on my first semester in seminary, I can't help but be ever thankful to God for all that I have. And while I still sometimes question my ability to keep up with students 15- 20 years my junior, and question my stamina as I travel from Madison to Chicago, I dive into scripture to find my feet again. For reading scripture is my salve- it heals me, it strengthens me, in it I find peace.

  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. ~John 1:1-5

Friday, November 16, 2012

At the Feet of the Elders

What a way to celebrate a birthday.

As my pathways swerve deeper into the beauty of this ministry and of my call, I am privileged to be in the presence of theologians who shine as rare as luminous gems resting behind crystal glass.

It is apparent that this church of brothers and sisters perhaps does not always reflect who I am in the ethereal mirror which shimmers before me; the question is posed, for an ancient tribe of people so connected to the Creator why have we clung to Christianity throughout the ages?

When you are called, you are called.

Dr. James Cone, a premier African American theologian stated during the tumultuous and turbulent 60’s that “God is Black.” As we continue to explore voices that cry out for identification and liberation in the here and now, Dr. Cone reiterates, “I still believe that ‘God is Black ‘in the sense that God’s identity is found in the faces of those who are exploited and humiliated because of their color. But I also believe that God is mother, rice, red and a host of other things that give life to those whom society condemns to death.”

The Creator breathes justice within our spirits and it vibrates into how we can encourage and teach others.

So, Wednesday evening what could be more important than being in the midst of the Conference of International Black Lutherans as they celebrated their 25th anniversary? Elders, some like Dr. Rudy Featherstone who was Dr. Perry’s pastor; Elders such as Bishop Holloway from the Southeastern Ohio Synod who brought his wit and humor as he reconnected with others; Elders such as Peter Nash who reminded us in worship that evening “the jar of meal will never be emptied and the jug of oil will not fail”. 

You can never have too much church...

Being among these elders of African descent awakened me to the fact that the next generation of CIBL  needed to arise from the dying waves that visit the shores in the deepness of the evening and as they listened to my voice I realized, proudly that I was one among them.

Lape Bondye, God’s Peace.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

When I pray for patience, God feeds me soup.

I love school--always have, always will.  There is just something great about contemplating difficult questions and ingesting sweet knowledge!  The problem?  I want to get out of the practice ring and into the real world.  You see, it was the real world guided me to this place.  I chewed up lectures and assigned readings and spit out papers and presentations for my Religious Studies classes in undergrad, but I was adamant that I would not go to seminary just because I loved school.  And then I became a YAGM.

As a participant in the ELCA's Young Adults in Global Mission program, I was thrust into the real world in an all too unfamiliar way.  As a missionary volunteer accompanying a community in the West Bank, I learned that ministry looked a whole lot like relationship, caring, trust, sharing, grace, and agape love.  I felt a call to work alongside, guide, and care for people in faith, and ordained ministry began to feel a whole lot more like my reality.  This year exposed me to life outside of the classroom, and yet these experiences pointed me right back to the classroom.  I decided to attend seminary not just because I loved to learn, but because I felt called to share the Gospel.

Still, seminary is a 4 year process of which I am a little over 2 months of the way through.  Bottom line: though I love school, it seems a little counterintuitive to sit in a classroom again.  I am impatient.  These classes and assignments are extremely thought-provoking, practical, and applicable, and are helping me build a solid foundation for ministry that I would not otherwise have, but I still find myself praying for patience.  ...A few weeks back, God heard my prayers and fed me soup.  

This particular soup I'm talking about was a delicious chicken noodle soup a member of my dinner group made the other night.  She said the soup must simmer for four hours in order to reach its fullest flavor.  ...Okay, I get it.  Building a strong foundation for ministry is like cooking up some delicious soup--it takes intentionality and care for all these ingredients to mix and mingle and come together over time to reach their fullest flavor-packed potential. 

For this reminder, I am grateful-- there is still so, so much I must experience and learn.  I continue pray for patience and God continues to say, "Simmer down, Janelle.  We're still adding spices."  

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Hot Tubs Make Me Feel at Home...Among Other Things

On Sunday I preached like I do every other Sunday, but this time it felt super familiar.  I am getting used to my church yes, but this time it was almost like I was back in Chicago...oh wait is that the honorable Terry and Karen Baeder in the crowd?!?!?!  Terry, on staff at LSTC, was visiting my internship site before heading up to lead our cluster retreat for interns and intern supervisors.  So maybe this should have been scary or nerve racking, but the trick was that Terry and his wonderful wife, Karen, attend church at Lutheran Church of the Resurrection where I did my ministry in context last year, an almost part time internship lasting about 7 hours a week.  So when asked if I was nervous, I was able to respond, this is not the first time they have heard me preach.  In fact they have heard me preach at least 5 or 6 for me this was comforting, not one, but two friends in the crowd, who have given me critique and support all last year.  I felt at home, and not just because the weather is getting colder, but because it brought me back to all the experiences last year that prepared me to be an intern.

Now the retreat itself was amazing, getting to meet other interns and supervisors, and hearing about what everyone was doing.  I loved it, but the highlight for me was the hot tub!!!  Now in WI, the best part about hot tubs was when it was cold out, we would jump in them and be able to be outside even though it was not appropriate swimming weather.  And it just so happened to be 52 degrees out... so Monday morning I crawled out of bed and got in the hot tub before breakfast and later in the evening with some other interns we went back in there and chatted it up.  This was just a perfect addition to a wonderful couple of days, and I appreciate the willingness of the two Ohioans from Trinity Lutheran Seminary, Bob and Ethan, that joined me in remembering their baptism!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Veteran's Day, Stewardship Time, Easter Vigil

Which of the three doesn't belong in this time of year?

Veteran's Day.  Mark 12, Easter Vigil

Foot Washing-Photo M. Tweed
Today's text is often times used in connection to stewardship, and the poor widow is lifted up as an example of how to give to the church. Well, today is Veteran's day. What better correlation could be made? How many veterans have given absolutely everything? And to all veterans, THANK YOU!

Now then, on to an explanation as to WHY Easter Vigil DOES belong!

Easter Vigil Fire- Photo J. Yucha
When worship class occurs in the fall semester, the paschal retreat occurs in the fall instead of the spring. And what a wonderfully long day it was; a full day with all classmates, our professor, our TA, and LSTC's AWESOME chapel/ worship assistants. Some of the people are first year MDiv students, some are not. Some students live on campus full time, with their entire life based in Hyde Park. Some students are part time commuters, such as myself, who live on campus part of the week, and travel home weekends. Some students travel into Chicago every day for class, some students utilize the commuter housing, and are on campus 2 or 3 days a week. No matter what 'classification of student' we are, this day we spent 8+hours together. All on the same level, worshipping, leading worship, catching up on sleep, or catching up on studies. I felt like it just may have been a mini-introduction to internship year.

Yesterday as I listened to Dr. Stewart's sermon, and heard him mention the fact that we are preparing to go out into the world as ordained ministers of word and sacrament, I looked around the sanctuary at my classmates and felt pride. I am proud of the fact that such a diverse group of people study together, worship together, learn together, and share leadership together. Whether we are straight, gay, married, single, young, not so young, MDiv, nonMDiv, commuter, part-time commuter, or live on campus, we are a group of diverse people who live diverse lives. We are a group of diverse people who do not fit into one category, even in the way in which we obtain our degree, for this world becomes smaller with technology, and more transient with spouses being relocated due to their jobs. We are a group of diverse people, preparing to minister to a diverse world. Thanks Be To God!

ps- see Chad's post for MORE info on the paschal retreat!

The Pascha in November

Yesterday was Maundy Thursday.  

No, wait, that's not right.  It was Good Friday.  

No, that's not right either.  I'm pretty sure it was Holy Saturday.

No, actually, I think it was all three of those.  Yeah, that sounds right.  In the middle of November, we had all three days of the Triduum.  It wasn't officially that, of course, but for a number of us at LSTC, yesterday was the three holiest days of the year.  It was all part of Dr. Ben Stewart's Intro to Worship class.  Every semester, Dr. Stewart holds this Paschal Retreat, where the members of the class prepare, participate in, and lead the three services of the Triduum - Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil.  For many students, this is the first time they experience all three days, and even though it's outside the church calendar, it still has a powerful effect on us.

Right after this, Dr. Stewart doused us with what he calls the Holy Super-Soaker.

I'm the sacristan at LSTC this year, which means I'm in charge of keeping the space and liturgical items maintained - basically, I'm the chancel guild.  As part of that job, I get to participate in this Paschal Retreat.    During the course of 6 hours yesterday, we washed each others' feet, heard stories of Jesus' death and resurrection, listened to the greatest stories of the Old Testament, had communion twice, venerated the life-giving cross, heard the Word preached 3 times, affirmed our baptisms, and sang beautiful music together.

Oh, and we also made a blazing bonfire.

My favorite part of the Easter Vigil.

It's a little strange to experience these holy services in one day, outside of the regular church calendar.  However, when we were together in that space yesterday, God was with us, reminding us of the greatest promises of love and uniting us in Christ's resurrection.  

Friday, November 9, 2012


The word community has had many different meanings for how we as humanity view the places we reside, work or celebrate. Last Sunday, the LSTC community as a whole came to Rockefeller Chapel to celebrate another brother in Christ welcomed into our community. 

Yet as we have heard through conversations whether it be in small groups or sharing through social media, that the sacred community that enfolds and embraces Seminary Life is rapidly diminishing. Perhaps those who are discerning their call to ordination, lay or academic teaching have not had the opportunity to experience how enriching Seminary community can be for us, especially as students. 

I thought I would share some snapshots over the years that I have resided here now as my mood turns reflective in the midst of preparing for Internship. 

Seminary is something that you must experience, and if possible immersed in the playful  and thoughtful daily life among other children of God.

Lape Bondye, God's Peace. 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Leaving a Little Room

The Future just got a lot closer this week.

While hanging out with some other friends this week, someone said, “you know? After this semester and j-term, we’ll be halfway done with our class load at LSTC.”


My first reaction is to ask all sorts of evaluative questions of my experience in looking toward my future.  What have I been learning for the past half of my class time here?  Am I feeling adequately prepared to be a pastor?  Am I really ready to preach and teach according with the Confessions and Scriptures?  All of these are great questions to ask for any seminarian in whatever place they find themselves, but I have to continually remind myself that, while I love to keep close tabs on everything (especially when it comes to class loads and registration!), there’s got to be some room for the Spirit to move. 

This is another one of my growing edges that I have discovered.  I can make all sorts of plans and goals, and this is a very good skill to have, but to be in a loving relationship with God and with other people demands room for something more than what I plan on happening.  It demands room for spontaneity and openness to new experiences alongside of plans and goals.  It demands a willingness to let change and growth occur as God intentionally pours out God’s Spirit onto the whole of creation (Joel 2:28).  It demands these things because the Spirit is really what we are following and interacting with as we continually discern our vocations inside and outside of LSTC.

So am I ready to be a pastor?  Well, I still don’t have my first clerical yet, but I'm sure that will change in the future as the Spirit moves me ;)

Have a great Thursday!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Pickett's the Ticket!

It's no secret that political discourse is pretty loud at LSTC.  There are probably many reasons why this is, but it's safe to say that you don't have to walk far in our halls to find a few students - or maybe a classroom - discussing political issues, especially during elections like the one going on today.

Sometimes, we can take it all a little too seriously.  Sometimes, a majority opinion needs to be reminded that theirs isn't the only viewpoint represented in our community.  And, as election results are coming in at this very moment, I'm sure there are mixed emotions among all of us at LSTC.

Because of this, it's nice when a little lightheartedness comes to break the tension up a bit.  This morning, when we got to campus, we came upon this sight:

He was running unopposed this time around, I'm told.

On this election day, it was pretty fun to see all the reactions to this banner, hung on the second floor inside the courtyard.  I think it gave everyone a chance to laugh a bit, especially those of us who may have been a little too anxious about the day.  Dr. Pickett, one of our New Testament professors, is on sabbatical this semester, so I don't know if he knows he was at the center of the only political poster on campus this fall, but I'm pretty sure he'd enjoy the silliness of it all.

If anything, I think this one rogue act of a few students (I'm assuming students did this!) helped us all realize that we can't take these elections so seriously, especially when we believe in a God who is working to bring love to all of us in so many ways - including through laughter.

Election Day!

First time you can vote anywhere in Travis County!
So far from my registered state of WI where I vote, I was worried that I may miss out on the election day experience.  And although I know that my home congregation is a polling place in the small town I grew up in, it was a shock to me that of all the places in this college town Austin, my little church is the polling place for our part of town, which now makes us a polling place for anyone in the Travis County area (Austin and some surrounding area).  For the first time you do not have a designated place, but you can go anywhere in the county to vote.
So last night as we were calling it quits we started to see all kinds of signs for candidates and propositions, trying to give voters one last push before the big day.

Needs to be a certain distance away from the entrance...
So this morning the day arrived, Happy Election Day!  As I walked in to the kitchen I could see lines in our fellowship hall and the booths full of people casting votes.  It's an amazing sight to see all the people taking time out of their day to cast their vote, and for this area a lot of young people!

Who you gonna vote for?
Now some may see this as a contrast to separation of church and state, but I love that we are able to offer this service and be a help to our community.  I love that people who never come into our church are here in the most non-threatening and important way...
When I arrived in Austin, some people who I met would say, "Oh, that church by the bar Trudy's?... Oh yeah, I vote there!"
Which just makes it easier to say, "You should come back and visit..."

Monday, November 5, 2012

When the Pastor's Away, the Vicar Will have Gliturgy

So, my supervisor is in the Holy Land with Bishop Burnside from South-Central Synod of Wisconsin for 15 days.  That means it's time for the Vicar to take the reigns and really shine.

Except, the last week has been almost like every other week I've been here.

I'm not mad about that, but it helped me realize that there is something great about not having an office at internship: there's not the daily office-y tasks that need to get done, so I can spend more time with my parishioners, writing sermons, buying white roses for All Saints Day, and the like.  It really frees up time.

And so, this week has been practically the same as before, only I missed out on Supervision for the week...and will this coming week to (Field Ed: IF you're reading this, I have a list of things I've planned to talk about and am gonna schedule extra supervision sessions once Pr. B-W gets back!).  But, I have started to have my own "office hours" since Nadia is gone.  Typically, Nadia hosts "office hours" in a coffee shop in town (Pablo's) once a week for an hour and a half.  The date and time changes quite a bit, but it's a time for people to get together and talk.  It's part social, part pastoral care, and part community building/support.  I really like the idea, and wanted to do it myself, so when Nadia was gone, it was the perfect opportunity to start having office hours of my own.  I'll continue it all year, even when Nadia is hosting her own. (Don't worry, we'll never have them at the same time as a popularity contest)

So, I've added some responsibilities that I wanted to have, and have had a relatively normal week otherwise.  Except...well...Gliturgy.

(I'd like to clarify: Gliturgy is a Glitter-Liturgy which I threatened Nadia with while she was gone.  This is the inspiration for the title of this post, and did not and will not actually happen at House For All.)

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Half Way - - With Head in the Clouds

Downhill--- maybe?

As I look at the calendar, I see that the semester is more than half over.  Which makes me say YEAH, I've survived!  Yet it also makes me say, “Oi, I have so much to finish!” 

Over the weekend, I was pondering what to blog about today when Scott, my husband asked, “Whatchathinkin?”  Keep in mind he doesn't do that very often, so I was a bit caught off guard, but did mention I wasn't sure what to write about for the blog.  He said, “You need to take time to be with friends and family.  Like this weekend you traveled to Minneapolis to be with a friend when she got married.  And of course you got to spend time with your awesome husband.”  And he is right.  Even though we are 'over the hump' of the semester, may be a bit overwhelmed with those final papers, we still need to find time to balance our studies with family, friends, work, and social life. We may feel like our head is in the clouds, and we can't quite catch our breath, but that's when it is time to stop.  Enjoy the beautiful clouds. Thank God for the journey we've traveled thus far, and know that God will be with us as we finish the next few weeks.

1/2002  Ma & I half way down Haleakala Mountain


And the MOST important thing to do
THIS WEEK is get out and VOTE!  
Take the time you need to cast your ballot and make your voice heard.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012


If only this was our Oktoberfest, but this is in Deutschland
There is something about a long Sunday that is more daunting now than ever; especially when you preach. Getting into church early and prepping for two services usually starts for me arriving at church at least by 6:30AM and ends at 1 with whatever after church meeting.  One of the last things you want to do is go back to church, so I retreat under covers and to my Packer bar to unwind, but not this weekend. 
This weekend was Oktoberfest.  
At around 5, we fill our parking lot with some tables and chairs, start grilling sausage and frying schnitzel!  Later people start to bring German dishes to share and some church members started playing music to listen to...German music? Nope.  We started with some steel drums, then some beautiful harmonized old time church songs, and we ended with some guitar from Oliver Rajamani, amazing musician from the Austin area.  My favorite part was the dueling home-brews, my supervisor's predecessor made an Oktoberfest and him and I had made the White House Honey Ale.  We didn't ask for votes, but both brews were enjoyed and paired nicely with our eclectic German meal.
The day was long, and as I woke up on Monday, I was so exhausted still, but it was a first for me seeing this congregation out of the Sunday morning box.  I was able to laugh with them and celebrate in a new way.  I heard stories that only come out when the sun is setting and the home-brew is gone, and more than that there were some lederhosens!  This party did not disappoint.  These are the memories that make me already scared to leave in August...
Falling in love with my internship site,
but I don't think they are looking for anything serious or long-term.

Living a Normal(?) Life

Hey everyone!  Apologies for the late post.

This week, my friend and colleague Meredith is in town.  We have a retreat for all the interns in Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana, and because her internship site in South Dakota is closer to Denver than it is to the other side of SD, she came here.

Since getting in on Sunday, it's been almost like living back at seminary...we've talked, we've laughed, we've gone grocery shopping...our favorite things.  But, we've also gone out to eat.  I had Brunch, something I have not had since I've gotten to Denver, simply because it is out of my budget.  (Thankfully Mer was kind enough to foot the bill!)  We're currently sitting at a coffee shop doing work, and it's just so much more enjoyable to have your best friend across the table from you.

Tomorrow, we get to go to a retreat, where we'll be meeting up with another classmate, Jenna.  I'm so excited to get to spend time with them and other interns as we discuss ministry and have the opportunity to process our experience with other interns. (And maybe share some battle stories.)

I'm grateful that we have the ability to stay connected through phones and skype, but there's something holy in the actual presence of another person or group of people that just helps me stay grounded in this awesome and wonderful calling.

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Impending Surgery that Wasn’t and the Holy Spirit, Her Pink Boots

Systematic Theology is becoming one of my favorite courses because it is where I am able to intertwine my thoughts and spirituality into a beautiful theological yarn. Pouring out of Creation, it is ready to be slipped into my waiting hands and knitted into a fabric of protection and of comfort where one would want to snuggle underneath, watching an afternoon shower of rains on an unseasonably warm day.  Each moment I am present, the love for my vocation and for this call grows especially understanding how important the Holy Spirit truly is to all of us as people of Faith. Can you imagine the Holy Spirit hanging outside your door, splashing around in the courtyard in the mud or hovering, nestled in a tree outside your windows wiggling Her toes in Her pink boots waiting for your gaze to meet the new day; waiting for you to be open to what The Creator has for you.

For the past couple of weeks, however I’ve crawled back underneath that comforter because I wanted to hide and not face the brilliance of how stunning each morning appears to me.

In Seminary, I have found that health potholes whether we are running into them or family members or dear friends slowly crumble into view in our lives and we either stand there and are shocked or are screaming to the heavens “Really??Now??”

And so, I found myself facing a reality of having minor surgery for something that had been bubbling at the surface but not so intense until now. Even though I have had major surgery with the birth of both of my children my vision was clouded with the veil of what could lie ahead for me. I found myself nervous, weepy; life as I knew it was now uncertain.

Music that was birthed strictly for the nurturing the soul has always been a deeper part of my spiritual journey. In the midst of discerning, Shekinah Glory Ministries’ song “Yes” had me always weeping. Roaming around camp and singing “Oh Up Above my Head” allowed me to be open to what God was filling my life with. How we sing Psalm 95 in chapel causes my entire being to be alive enjoying worship. So last week during chapel and driving to church, gospel songs and hymns prickled at me, and the Holy Spirit whispered…

“Let Go and Trust God.”

My prayer was strangely not, for healing but to be with me as I went through this experience..that never happened.

Thanks Be To God.

A Dip Worth Taking

For everything there is a season,
but every once and a while we can get away with things...  

Chicago's infamous windy chill has yet to snap me into the reality of the impending winter.  In fact, the temperature reached a high of 79 within the past few days.  Yeah, I know!  I couldn't believe it either!

During this brief jaunt back to summertime, I walked around campus clad in sandals and short-sleeves.  While I did tote around a light sweater*, I was eager to take advantage of this odd warm snap any way I could, and my friends pitched an idea worthy of some consideration:  an afternoon at Lake Michigan.

Earlier in the school year, a few of us enjoyed walks down to the lake** where we would throw a frisbee around and jump into the water for a swim.  Late August through early September this was not only a reasonable activity, but actually a quite popular pastime for a number of Hyde Park residents.  Whether or not those other swimmers were caught in traffic yesterday as the President's motorcade made its way around the neighborhood, one thing was certain: they sure weren't in the lake when four of my LSTC friends and I ran screaming into what we would later refer to as an ice-bath.  That's right, my friends--the five of us conquered a late-October Lake Michigan, and it felt great.  

As we walked back to LSTC renewed, refreshed, and wiiiiide-awake, a light rain kicked up and so began Chicago's return to a weather pattern indicative of autumn: within a few hours the temperature had dropped 30 degrees and it was pouring.  Still, for everything there is a season, and in this season we got away with a short swim celebrating new friendships, warm-weather, and living within a mile of a vast, beautiful, and bone-chilling Great Lake.  

"And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters." Genesis 1:2b

*Felt too strange not to at least have the option of layering, it being the end of October and all!
**I'm still not convinced that the title "lake" does this enormous body of water justice.