Friday, March 30, 2012

Putting Theology on the Back-burner...Today at Least

Today I went over to visit a family with three children. This family is a friend of my girlfriend’s and I had never formally met these kids or spent much time with them before; I had only heard stories. I was very nervous that they would make the afternoon challenging but by the end of our time together I was having a lot of fun! The catalyst for my fun day was a blast from the past…Pokémon cards.

Confession time: I used to collect Pokémon cards. I had quite the collection too. I remember taking my cards to school in 4th grade and playing with my friends and drawing a picture from a particular card. 2 years later I stored them somewhere and by the time I was in high school, I had given away most of my cards to family members or sold some for very cheap at a yard sale or two. A part of me still wishes I held onto them in some dusty corner of my basement or an attic.

So what does this have to do with seminary? I don’t really know. I suppose I could try to make a theological connection between the popular phrase, “I choose you” and God’s relationship to humanity, but sometimes those kinds of discussions get tiring. Many students (myself included) need time off from theological discussion every once in a while, otherwise we’ll burn out. I remember two friends of mine went to a local bar and made a deal not to talk about theology the whole time. Sometimes people in ministry have to make time to not search for the hidden God in our experiences and thoughts and simply enjoy the experiences themselves.

So I had a nice time talking about Pokémon and what I remembered about it. I’ll be looking forward to other opportunities this week in my visits with family and time away from the books and writing assignments…for now.

Until Next Friday!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Southside: a Healing Place

Today, processing down E55th Street in Chicago, my voiced joined the voices of my brothers and sisters as we cried out for justice for the death of more than 300 children who have died on the Southside of Chicago between 2008 and today, and in memory of Trayvon Martin.

It is hard to write such figures, because the Southside is now my home. This community is my sanctuary from the pressures of exegesis papers and endorsement essays. This neighborhood has fed me with foods that I never ate before, music I never heard before, and prays with people from all around the world that without this place I never would have met.

A few months back I wrote a post on my personal blog where I talked about violence I saw upon moving to this community. A colleague (and now friend) who grew up here shared with me that too often good-intentioned people do a disservice to this community and only speak of the Southside's times of trial. There is tendency to perpetuate a negative stigma. Yes, there is darkness in this place, but part of my responsibility while living here is to show the light that shines that lives here.

The Southside of Chicago is filled with brave people who are doing their best everyday. It is the bravery of this community that we could gather together at LSTC, reading name after name for blocks at a time of lives who were lost too young. It is the bravery of this community that the people who marched were seminary students, spouses, and young children. It is the bravery of this community that today the people who assembled were a blend of PhD students with maintenance workers, lay with rostered, across multiple denominations and several ethnicity groups.

It is also this community which prompted the healing service held at LSTC in chapel this past Monday, where we acknowledged survivors of domestic and sexual assault. This justice is not limited to the seminary. LSTC is in the same community where week after week pastors preach from pulpits to heal the grief of lives lost, where people gather together to fight against hunger and poverty, and families nurture their children to be the future of our tomorrow.

It is not easy to name the hardships in our community, and it can be even harder to name a communities successes when it is most often associated with hardships. I will never censor myself from speaking out against the injustices of my community, whether it is the southside of Chicago, or a rich suburb in Cleveland. But today, as I remember the power of marching for peace in my community, I remember the advice of my colleague and friend. When I speak of injustice, I will also speak of the good work that is done in these places.

The gospel I hope to preach with my words and my actions is a gospel of reconciliation, building the bridge between rocky paths and smooth roads. Today the gospel that I witnessed is the gospel of the Southside of Chicago, a place that is not afraid to heal in a time when it is easy to remain in hurt.

Isaiah 58: Crying Out for Justice!

The lioness and her cub

I wasn't sure where or how I was going to start this blog because there have been many, many things going through my brain these past couple of weeks.

The picture above is of myself and my son Arif (also spelled ArefArabicعارف‎). His name means "smart, wise" and in the Sufi philosophy his name also means mystic, "seeing the divine light everywhere". The reason that I bring this up is because when his head is shaved just like my husband, he is mistaken for being of Arabic descent. 

Trayvon Martin was brutally attacked and murdered for what he appeared to be: a gangbanger or hoodlum; my son very easily could walk down the street especially as he gets older and be mistaken not only for a gangbanger but also for being Muslim. 

A woman in San Diego was murdered for being Muslim, for wearing proudly her hijab, in her own home. When did clothes make us a target? When did common sense get tossed out of the window? When did those whose cultures are rich in ancestry, whose languages are musical and whose spirituality bonds them close to the Most High to the Divine suddenly become target practice to those who know and chose not to know nothing about themselves, their own culture or importantly opening their minds and hearts to learn about others?

The community walking for justice

After we gathered together at the table, we gathered outside as a community letting the wider community know as a visible sign we were not going to take it anymore. We are the symbol of the church, in hoodies, clericals and stoles walking and remembering those children who have been taken from us, from those who have been murdered for who they are.

Coming from the prayerful protests and immersed in ministry in Washington D.C. for Ecumenical Advocacy Days where we stood on the steps of the Supreme Court demanding and singing for the least of these, I can say that I am thankful and proud to be called a child of God, to be sent and called and for the ELCA who one of the many faith communities in Washington on the front lines fighting for social justice. 

There are many who are rattled because we as seminarians take a stand against the "status quo" of the world and speak out, remembering Jesus' commandment to love one another. They frown because we are stepping outside the boundaries of their comfort zone.

You've called us to Seminary to become Pastors. We were sent by God. We have a mission to kick open the doors of the church. This isn't about academics and colorful, theological phrases.

This is about the Gospel. So get out of our way. A change is going to come.

Lape Bondye, God's Peace.

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Nature of the Beast: Looking towards Holy Week

There’s another food network show that I really enjoy watching called Restaurant Impossible. It features a man named Robert Irvine who goes to failing restaurants with a carpenter and designer with the intention of turning the restaurant around in two days! Chef Irvine remodels everything from the dining room and kitchen to the menu and cooking techniques. There are always several points in the episode when things look like they’re just about to not get done but then suddenly (and coincidentally in every episode that I have watched so far) they complete their task. The owners are stunned and most of the time the restaurant survives.
I am on hell week when it comes to work and scheduling things. In the next 3 weeks, I would estimate that a total of 40% of my final grades for the year are due as projects, presentations, and papers. I have been doing my best to prepare for this time, but I am unsure if I have done enough yet. I may have to sacrifice something to get, what I can, finished before the deadline. I kind of feel like I’m on an episode of LSTC Student Impossible and I don’t think I’m the only one.
It’s funny how Holy Week is so busy for pastors and students of theology. For a lot of people, it’s time off to celebrate eggs full of candy and cute furry little animals that hop. Even in my first year, however, I am discovering how deadlines around Holy Week seem to add up. Although I feel this way about my situation, I know that there are many people out there who have more to worry about that I do. For example, I don’t need to worry about planning and executing one service during Holy Week (for now!).
So I guess I’m going to head back to the grind for a while. I implore all of us who are going to be super-duper busy from now until after Holy Week, let’s cut ourselves a little time to remember that there is a resurrection to celebrate and that not all things are impossible. J
Until Next Friday!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Is that you, Spring?

Today is technically the fist day of Spring, the Vernal Equinox, the day that we can finally declare that Winter is gone, and warm days full of sunshine and flowers are on their way.

Of course, we've had a week of record-breaking highs (constantly in the 77-81F area), the daffodils have sprouted, and all the trees are starting to bloom. (Also, the cold and flu bugs are thriving, as is evidenced in our household, as well as our congregation.) So, while today is technically the first day of Spring, it feels as if it's closer to the first day of summer. The families in our courtyard pulled out the swimsuits and kiddie-pools on Saturday, and they converted the slide into a water slide - as if it was any normal summer day.

But do we pull out and install the air conditioners? Do we put away our winter gear for good? With the way Chicago weather goes, we're all expecting at least one more cold snap before spring really kicks in. To be honest, I'd enjoy that, since I'm not the biggest fan of summer.

I am, however, a fan of open windows, sitting on my balcony and tending to the garden-boxes, enjoying icy drinks with friends, and leaving my coat in the closet. So, if spring is here to stay, I think that'll be just fine.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Looking Ahead

Tomorrow is the LSTC Leadership Conference. LSTC holds this conference every year, and we’ve had some great speakers and great topics. This year Dr. Linda Thomas, Pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber, and Bishop Wayne Miller will be leading discussions around the theme of Identity and Context. Should be an interesting day!

But that’s tomorrow. Tonight, half the class of 2011 is asleep in my living room. OK, not half the class of 2011, more like two people, with a third on the way. But my living room is not all that big, so they may well feel that crowded.

Most of the people who come in for the Leadership Conference are alumni. This was fun my first few years, it was always exciting to see what LSTC grads were doing in the church. But this year it’s especially neat, because now a lot of the alumni are friends of mine. People who I took classes with, worshiped with in chapel, played pick-up basketball with on Thursday nights. I love being at LSTC, but being at LSTC is not the end goal, being a pastor is. Seeing what all these alumni are up to, the amazing work they are doing, helps me remember where this journey is headed. It also makes me wonder, who’s floor will I sleep on next year?

Friday, March 16, 2012

LSTC Improv!

As I have already stated once before, I love the show Chopped. I really enjoy watching what these professional chefs try to create with the most unlikely set of ingredients. They have to work hard to think quickly and improvise to create something visually appealing and tasty. I often wish I was as talented as those chefs. The winners of every episode usually have a great balance between culinary technique and the ability to transform their ingredients in their dishes.
In the course of my classes I am still learning techniques to being a good Gospel-centered pastor, but my creativity also needs to be developed in some way. I am normally very good at puns, but I think it’s time to expand. For the past four weeks, I have been ending my work weeks in Freebie’s with LSTC’s new improvisation group. Granted, we are no professionals and not everything we do is funny, but it certainly is fun. It’s a new way to stretch my brain and try to do what the people on Whose Line is it Anyway? do (I love that show!). As these four weeks have progressed, I have been noticing steady improvements in my quick thinking skills from contributing to answers in the classroom to even musical application.
At this point, there are a good number of people interested in hanging out with us at our Thursday night practices. If you don’t want to play any of the games, no problem! We can always use input from whoever’s watching and you still might get a few good chuckles out of it as well!
Well, now that I’ve written a shameless plug I want to conclude by saying that I am continually impressed by the opportunities at LSTC to perfect technique and develop creativity. I’m sure both will go a long way.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Open Door Policy

I love my apartment.

In general I am a person who loves people (seriously, I can't get enough) so it may be surprising to know that I have a single unit apartment on campus. This is primarily because I have an auto-immune disorder and things can get a little dicey if I'm not sanitizing stuff regularly, but it also is nice because I lived alone for 7 years before moving to Chicago. I'm glad I have a reason that lets me keep my space, but there are some days when an extrovert like myself gets a little lonely.

Today it was almost 80 degrees in Chicago, which meant I opened all of my windows and doors. There is a comfort level this far into the school years, and my friends and neighbors know if my screen door is open, you can pop in without knocking. I literally have an open door policy, and my when the weather is nice people stop by borrow copier paper, chat about the day, or watch a movie. This state of comfortable that we have within the community where we know and respect each other well enough to have an understanding like this helps me embrace my extrovertness while still preserving my sanctuary. My home, and how it connects me to other people, allows me to live a fuller sense of my personality.

I love that I live in an environment where this is a possibility. I love that I worked did research on Martin Luther King, Jr.'s theology on God while watching Seinfeld with a neighbor. I love that while cooking dinner I saw my friends coming down from an upstairs apartment and we spent a half-an-hour chatting on the back porch. I love when I was ready to hermit up for the night that there is no question that my privacy will be respected.

This sort of community living is as rare as the 80 degree weather in March, and it is treasured all the same.

Joyous Lententide

A couple of years ago, I was driving home from my great uncle's funeral. My mother and I had visited him in the hospital and he had always been a character; laying in the bed while complaining that there were no pretty nurses to look at. My mother, as we were getting ready to leave, asked him when the doctors might be releasing him "When do you think you will be going home?" He paused and shook his head firmly. "Tuesday, Tuesday I'm going home." We left with the resolve that Mother would come back on Tuesday to take him back home where he lived with his sister, my aunt.

The Creator however, had other plans.

I battled with my emotions on that car ride home from his funeral. You see, this was my mother's uncle..she was closer to him than I had been up until the time I had become an adult so I really only knew him briefly but I had mourned the lost of one of my elders, who although so different and perhaps a little crass, was fiercely dedicated to our extended family.  Alone and silent as I headed towards the expressway, I looked up to the beautiful skies before me and somehow, in those majestic, massive cloud formations Creation sang out into the depths of my being and somehow I knew..and I wept almost all the way home.

The Lenten season is supposed to be one of sorrow, and of meditation and perhaps if Creation did not come skipping over the horizons in all of Her radiance then I would at the moment be quiet, withdrawn and morose.

Instead, the seasons come through the rolling waves of the dawn bringing with them the healing light, awakening the Earth with song and with harp. We find ourselves wishing that our wonderful professors would take our classes outside; we escape to the sereneness of our back porches, happily reading everything in every last syllabus soaking in Life as the sun and the sweetness of the winds would allow. 

Yet, news of dear friends and how life has seemed to pause for them: a good friend whose daughter was injured in a car accident; extended family whose mother is succumbing to a disease; a prayer request lifted for a young woman who is battling another brings the Lenten season once more into the palms of our hands. 

As I cast my gaze outward to the afternoon and to the calling of chimes rocking in the arms of afternoon breezes I am reminded that we are always in tune with the rhythm of Creation even in those times where the soft, slow reaching of the violin which tugs at our sadness and we strain under the weight of questions-why? why her? why now?

The valley rolls our before us as the roads intertwine from where we all journey from.  It remains close enough so that we are able to stand in the falling showers of baptism and remember God's promise to us. This day is beautiful, and knowing that whether we bask in the brilliant sunlight of a Wednesday afternoon or opening our gaze to the glorious Life beyond the veil, comforted that the Creator travels with each of us makes me thankful and continued prayerful for the life ahead.

Lape Bondye, God's Peace.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Family Night

While being on internship is a lot of work - and while some of it is serious work - there is plenty of time for fun and games. Most of it is, of course, with the younger members of the congregation, but it's nice when the fun can be appreciated by multiple generations. For instance, we took the confirmation students out for an afternoon of lasertag, and though it was fun to play against the students, it was even more fun to compete with their parents, especially those who may have very recently discovered the joys of running around a blacklit room while aiming blinking lights at everyone in sight.

This past week, we had a family fun night at the church involving about seven families. Each family was in charge of designing a mini-golf course and setting it up in the building. One was meticulously constructed by a plumber out of PVC pipes, a ramp, and a brand new toilet (as the hole, of course); a few utilized closets worth of Christmas, Easter, and Hawaiian luau decorations; many involved toys from home and the church nursery; and mine consisted of cardboard, tape, and old business cards. My supervising pastor dubbed it the most sadistic hole of the course. I was, of course, very pleased with that description.

A Plinko game even Price Is Right fans couldn't love

It was a fun night, capped off with a little something the people at Good Shepherd like to call a lock-in for the 8th graders. That's right, loyal readers. I had two weekends and two lock-ins. Both were a ton of fun, and both reminded me that I am definitely not anywhere near 22 anymore. And, just in case I need another reminder, we're getting amped up for a fun evening of Whirleyball next Sunday. I've never played this crazy Chicago game before, and I cannot wait to check it out with the confirmation students, as well as their parents. I should ready the Tylenol and Ice packs for Sunday night, though.

Sunday, March 11, 2012


I love sending mail. I think even more than receiving it; I love sending it. I love the idea that this thing that I’ve held in my hand is going to travel across the country and be in the hands of someone else I care about. I appreciate email, phone calls, text messages, etc., for their speed and convenience, but there’s just something about tactileness of mail.

I work in the Advancement Office at the seminary, and last weekend I sent out a mailing. There’s a fundraising event for a scholarship coming up, so I sent a letter to some of the donors inviting them to contribute. As I was folding the letters and placing them in the envelopes, I kept thinking about how this letter in my hands would soon travel to some person whose gifts had made it possible for me to be here. My tuition does not nearly cover what it costs to be here, these people paid for my seminary education. And after three years working in the Advancement Office, I recognized a lot of the names. I thought about the congregations they were serving, or how their kids were doing, or how they were enjoying their retirement. I thought about how they had gotten involved with LSTC, if I knew, and what their interests in the seminary were. I hope that when they are opening these appeal letters, whether they give to this particular campaign or not, they will know that we are grateful for them; grateful that we are here because of their generosity, learning about how to be good pastors, lay leaders, and theologians. I hope that somehow, my appreciation carries through the mail.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Feeding the Soul

To the Holy Spirit

O Thou, far off and here, whole and broken,
Who in necessity and in bounty wait,
Whose truth is light and dark, mute though spoken,
By Thy wide grace show me Thy narrow gate.

-Wendell Berry

It's all a process; a journey. Finding myself. Discovering who God has called me to be after (and at the same time) discovering who God made me to be. Perhaps they are the same. In high school, I began to write poetry. In college, I took courses on poetry and learned that it doesn't have to rhyme to be effective. I read more and  more. And then I decided I would leave it behind. Where would I use poetry in seminary??

And then I got to preaching class in my second year. I began to write sermons. Then the poetry flowed back into my life with knowing eyes and a small nod. It is the spiritual stuffage that keeps me going, that keeps me grounded, that feeds my world weary soul. It seems silly now to ever suspect poetry would not always be a part of my life as it is part of who I am.

God sees to the little things.

What feeds YOUR soul?

The First Part of the Second Step in the Candidacy Process...

As I begin to settle into the semester, I have sufficiently worked to a point where I feel comfortable in most of my classes. I have readings, occasional reflections, a long term project to complete in Church History 2 and Lutheran Confessional Heritage, I have a field visit to prepare to lead for Church and Society, and I have a pastoral conversation and purpose assignment on the docket for Intro to Pastoral Care. All in all, I’m feeling pretty comfortable in my classes. My most challenging activity this semester, but the most helpful, is the Endorsement Essay Growth in Faith activity.
In preparation for next year’s step in the candidacy process, I thought it would be a good idea to work in a small group of people who would be focused on peer editing our papers as we worked through this semester. So far I have taken away a lot from it. I think it’s definitely one of the best small group opportunities for first year students at LSTC who are working through the candidacy process. It has, however, not been easy for me at all. As someone who has usually written more formally throughout my education, I am finding that writing essays about myself and my call to ordained ministry is a struggle. When my peer group began to edit my paper, I heard all of them compliment the writing on its structure and (most of) the way theological concepts were explained. Then they quickly pointed out that I had hardly any narrative and really needed to place more narrative in place of some of the “theological textbook” as I called it.
I am finding that I need to re-form my writing style for this process and that’s kind of hard for me. Writing this Endorsement Essay is challenging me to explore a different part of me that I often do not explore. Then again, I guess that is the point of a Growth in Faith credit, right?
Until Next Friday!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Overwhelmed...Time for Prayer?

As you can gather, having a week off from Seminary classes can leave the lot of us completely disorientated. A week of not rising with the dawn to have wisdom from Klein or Hendel or Westelle poured into our sleepy souls. I say poured because usually we gallop as elegant gazelle’s to the fount of knowledge eagerly.

Some of my classmates would strongly disagree….

Last year, even as I was plunging into deeper waters of Seminary life I had been able to meditate, allowing for several muses of poetry to spill out of my consciousness and into the social media network. When we talk about the disciplines of Lent, there is encouragement from our pastoral leadership to be involved in journeying towards Easter and enriching our lives through devotions, through prayer, through weekly services and through conversations about how we are living out the mission of what God has given to us. Lent is one of my favorite times of the year because as frightened as I am of water covering my whole being, I trust in the promise that the Creator, allowing the healing waters to cradle my spirit and carry me towards the shores of the Valley.

This year, as I am immersed even further and as this call comes to fruition I feel rather disconnected to Lent as I am out to my wonderful MIC congregation twice a week, volunteering in chapel and buried under meetings and other obligations.  So it is with the beginnings of the dawn, watching it unfurl before my is where my heart is connected once more to the beauty of Creation. It is being still and listening to Mother Earth slowly emerge and speak life into the morning is where my spirit simply listens and gives thanks. It is through one lifted song raised from the depths of my soul that I am able to praise for the breath that I am blessed with.

Prayer, we have to remember is not just a formal address to the Most High. Prayer is our tears, our laughter, our song, our silence…and that no matter what, God listens..and continues to Love.

Lape Bondye, God’s Peace.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Extraordinary Blessings

This past Tuesday I celebrated my 27th birthday. I must admit, I really didn't want to celebrate my birthday. Even though intellectually I know that 27 is young and the bulk of my life is ahead of me, there was a part of me that kept thinking of the things I had hoped to accomplish but haven't. When I was in my early 20's, I would have thought I would be married and possibly a mother by now. I thought I'd be done with school. I thought that my car would be paid off. I thought that I would own a home or at least have an idea of where I would be living in five years. And I never thought that I would be in seminary.

A friend on campus suggested that as I say goodbye to another year, I should look back and list 26 things I couldn't have done if I had lived out those early-twenties plans.

As I began to make the list, I realized that I have, in fact, had an amazing year, easily filling more then 26 slots. My friends suggestion helped me celebrate that I now live in Chicago, am being paid to do work that I love, and have a new network of friends. This past year, I have fallen in love and had my heart broken. I have visited New Orleans, Atlanta, Gettysburg, Columbus, Louisville, and El Salvador. I have preached 19 sermons, wrote 67 blog posts, and have had 3 articles go viral. I have heard "I love you" more times then I can even fathom, and laughed a billion times more then that. It truly has been a really great year.

None of these things would have happened had I denied my call to ministry. God has been the force that has allowed my life to blossom in ways I never imagined. I also never would have realized what a great year 26 was if I hadn't been brought to LSTC. It was by being in this community that 27 started off great - having a homemade breakfast prepared by a neighboring student, sharing cake with friends, and being reminded to re-frame how I see my blessings.

I live a life of extraordinary blessings. I can't wait to see what 27 brings!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Luther Insulter

Last semester I blogged about my Theology of Luther course with Dr. Hendel. As a final project for the class, I wrote a paper about Luther’s understanding of bound conscience. It was a good paper, and I was proud of it. My classmate Tyler did this:

Yes, Tyler created a website where Martin Luther himself will insult you. Click on the link to see more insults from the founding theologian of the Lutheran tradition. Kind of amazing.

OK, in the interest of full disclosure, this was not Tyler’s final project. But it was made by Tyler and it was dreamed up in Theology of Luther at 8 am on a Monday morning last semester. And I am incredibly proud of Tyler for the response he’s getting.

Luther was a firey fellow. There’s no denying, he said a lot of not all that nice things. But he was passionate. And if we combine Tyler’s Luther Insult Generator, with the theme of my own research, we discover that Luther was incredibly pastoral. He called people “stinking mushrooms” (From Explanations of the Ninety-Five Theses, pg. 184 of Luther's Works, Vol. 31, for real!) because he feared they were placing their own stipulations on salvation. His passion, demonstrated in offensive comments, shows the devotion of a man who wanted the whole world to know the gift God’s grace.

I think I will probably not find use in my own ministry to call anyone “a wolf and apostle of Satan” (Against Latomus, pg. 146 of Luther's Works, Vol. 32). It's just not really my style. But I hope I can bring the same love for my congregation that Luther showed to his. And I hope that in the face of adversity, I too might have the confidence to stand bold in the truth of the Gospel.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

I Think I'm Lutheran...Therefore I Am?

Congratulations, seminary, you caught me. I am, in fact, wrestling with being a Christian. I admit that I have issues with placing so much emphasis on the Trinity, I have my suspicions about the “hypostatic union” jargon over the nature of Jesus, I have wondered about keeping the creeds, and I still have a hard time with the idea of God as a noun in any form.
Wow...I didn’t really expect all of those things to come to mind as I write this, but it’s about as honest as I can get.
I have wrestled with these ideas for a long time. It really began in my sophomore year of college in an Early Church history class. I got a lot out of the course, but in the end, the door was opened for modern scholarship to march right into my life and screw with many of the things that I heard in Sunday School. Since then I have wondered how Lutheran I really am, and even how Christian I really am.
So far, I have to say that LSTC has been helpful in my exploration of these topics. I can thank our historians for walking me through different ways of thinking about the Trinity rather than the usual (almost modalistic) form. I have had a space where I can wrestle with these thoughts, and now I am taking classes that truly encourage me to get at the heart of what it means to be a Lutheran. I have not found any easy answers to my musings and, in fact, there is still much that I would contend with bt there is great value in this welcoming space not only on a student population level, but also on an ideological level. We’ll see where Lutheran Confessional Heritage goes from here right?
Until Next Friday!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

A Reflection of Support to the City of Chardon

Last weekend found me in my hometown of Cleveland, Ohio, where I was able to spend a few days with my family. Monday morning, after the car was packed and my travel mug was filled with coffee, I heard on my car radio the devastating news that there had been a school shooting at a high school in Chardon.

Chardon is 3o minutes away from my hometown. When I was a teenager, I remember visiting Chardon's high school and watching as my sister's boyfriend acted in a performance of "Forever Plaid," a musical about a barbershop quartet. I remember eating a delicious burger at the Chardon diner. I have fond memories of Chardon.

Monday's six hour drive back from Cleveland to Chicago was daunting. I have friends that live in Chardon, have friends who are substitute teachers for Chardon, and not knowing who was hurt or safe was terrifying. I became increasingly frustrated that the further I drove from Cleveland the news reports became less and less about the students and more and more about whether or not we witnessed Jennifer Lopez's nipple at the Oscars.

I've made that drive back to Chicago quite a few times now, but it was never like that drive. Monday's drive was filled with thanksgiving that if this tragedy had to happen at a school near my home, it wasn't at a school where my mother, sister, or brother-in-law taught. When I finally heard from my last Chardon friend and realized that the people I care for are safe, I was flooded with a relief so strong that I am still staggering from the impact of it several days later. My heart remains conflicted that I am grateful my loved ones are safe when my community is grieving.

I'll never forget the day when my mother told me that they no longer only have fire and tornado drills at school - they now hold drills for what would happen if someone brought a gun to school. Chardon had such drills, and while I mourn with the rest of my home community for the lives lost I am exceedingly grateful that such drills kept this disaster from becoming anymore horrific then it already is. I am grateful for the ministry of those teachers.

90% of the time, seminary is exactly where I want to be. 90% of the time, living in Chicago feels like the greatest of blessings. Right now, though, while I hear from my bishop, synod, friends, and family about the steps that are being taken to honor the lives that were lost and offer support for the survivors I really wish I was home. I am reminded, though, that in moments like these we need to have well equipped leaders. My dear friend worked for the Celebration Lutheran Church in Chardon, and right now her former boss, a pastor, has a lot of work ahead of her. My bishop and my synod has a lot of work ahead of them. My community has a lot of work ahead of them, and what the world needs are healthy leaders who can stand strong in times of adversity.

We owe it to the people of our community who are working hard to move forward from a travesty to be the best leader we can be, to be living demonstrations of the most honest message of the Gospel of Christ. The people of Chardon, the students of that high school, the family and friends of the young students who died and were injured do not need another bleeding heart to feel sorry for them. They need to know that in God's eyes, and ours, their story and their healing takes priority over any wardrobe malfunction or movie awarded. They need to know that that we recognize their grief matters.

My prayers continue to the community of Chardon and all of their loved ones. May they feel God's grace and peace during this most trying of times.