Wednesday, May 30, 2012

May = Mass Exodus

There should be a sign saying "Internship/First Call or BUST!"

Blessed Pentecost! Greetings from your friendly, neighborhood Gypsy Seminarian....

Forevermore, the month of May shall be known as Mass Exodus.

Or perhaps the month of milestones.

Conversations everywhere speak of the chaos within the church, within mainline denominations. The church is supposedly dying; where moments of faith are highlighted in media, the news, the internet-there are always posers, trollers, hate-filled and hateful language mocking and chastising those who greet the morning with faint chords deep in their spirit, the music of a Creator who is delighted with our presence.

Why would intelligent people believe in some mystical, magical, mysterious "man in the sky?". 

This month I have been part of the cloud of witnesses who have prayed for, worked hard and spoke life into what it means to be welcoming to all of God's children; that collectively as an example we open our hearts and hands to those who are curious about, or their soul speaks to, or God has led them here. My Seminary has always lead the charge and continues to lead the charge in stepping out on faith no matter who frowns or doubts. This Seminary community is called to what Jesus speaks to-that we love one another regardless of who we are or where we came from. That God has the last say on who He scoops up from the sweetness of the Earth and says "I have plans for you..." 

This month I have been a part of the cloud of witnesses who celebrated welcoming a new era that rolls upon our shores as the Board elected a new President who collectively we as a community are excited about what new ministry Dr. Nieman will bring, besides his talent, time and treasures.  Flames erupt but not in destruction and despair, no matter how many people have come to mock and throw kindle on this Seminary; they have only added fuel that births the Phoenix, who rises reborn and renewed sparking a fierceness and passion within us to continue what God wants us to accomplish, what He has called all of us to.

In our celebrating, it is also the time that many of us begin to say a fond farewell to those departing from our community. Whatever joy they brought collectively, it is that part of them we will miss as the days go forth and yet this student Seminary community will never be a part from each other. Our prayers intertwine as evergreen vines spiraling, stretching each morning to the welcoming, awakening light of Creation that smiles down upon us, calling us forth from the darkness, beckoning us to come out..and play.

For many of my Middler classmates it is the time for rest and relaxation, of re-connecting with family and friends before heading off on this continuous journey called internship. The second year of Seminary is extremely hectic: classes and Ministry in Context, endorsement and interviews. For me it was mostly that and navigating being a part of the wider church; it was discerning Mission Redevelopment-how that mysterious tool, swathed in blue-silvery wrapping paper looks in my pastoral toolbox.

Yet, this past Sunday I also gave my goodbyes as I joyfully get a chance to serve for the next two months at the place where I believe God scooped me up into His loving arms and spoke to my spirit saying, "For surely I know the plans I have for you...Then when you call upon me and pray to me, I will hear you. When you search for me, you will find me. I will let you find me."

The view from where I sit, at my camp in the early morn

Lape Bondye, God's Peace. 

Monday, May 28, 2012

Wisdom and Summer

"What wisdom have you gained in your 25 years?"
is a question I was asked over lunch last week druing my Maymester class, Reading the Bible From a Multicultural Perspective. The question fell on my birthday, of course, and so I scrambled to think of a response. Now, I've learned any number of things, but for some reason the first thing that blurted out of my mouth was "laugh at yourself" followed closely by "don't spend money on cheap food, it's never as good". I fully believe those two things, but the question has stuck with me over the past few days, and I'm trying to come up with a better answer. Now, I don't really know that 25 years is enough time to gain true wisdom, but I've certainly had a lot of mentors along my life journey that have taught me various things: My mom taught me about unconditional love and homemade cooking. My dad taught me that being myself is the key to life. My friend Sandy taught me the importance of a good romantic comedy when I'm feeling down. So, yes, I've learned things. But I still have a lot more to learn in the years ahead, so I guess I'll keep on laughing at myself when I need to, and I'll keep enjoying good food, with good people. And that's exactly what this summer is for. I just finished up middler year, and it's the first year in a long time that I haven't had a full time summer job or anything else (like CPE...good luck juniors!). So, in between working with the Youth in Mission program at LSTC and volunteering at the Youth Gathering, I'm here in Chicago to experience my first Chicago summer, which I've been told are pretty awesome. I'm excited for festivals and free concerts, bike rides along the lake and laying by the beach, and all around experiencing God's creation as fully as possible. I'm hoping this summer of relative Sabbath will help me be refreshed and renewed before I head off to my internship at House For All Sinners and Saints in Denver, Colorado, which will be a whole new adventure. Undoubtedly I'll learn some wisdom from people who are important to me (and I've also learned wisdom from strangers too) this summer and I'll add it to my list that I can pass on to others some day. To get me started, what is the best bit of wisdom you've learned from someone important to you?

Friday, May 25, 2012

Routine and Rerouting

I remember just before I left for college reading a very short book (I can't totally remember the title but it contained "Alcohol and Academia") which was very helpful to my college experience.  The first thing I took away from the material was the importance of a routine.  I took this to heart very quickly and found myself in an efficient and semi-disciplined system which I had created for myself.  Every year, a few elements of my routine have changed, but core components have stayed the same, especially work time and play time.

The times when routines haven't worked well for me, however, are the transition times.  I am currently in a transition time.  My first year is over and I'm on my way to beginning CPE next week.  I have a lot going through my mind.  I have fears, expectations, dreams, goals, and all sorts of other things to get in the way of my former routine.

This isn't necessarily a bad thing though.  Yeah, my schedules are thrown off a bit and my head is spinning with the new prospects on the horizon, but my goal of becoming a good pastor is still there, I just have to deal with a little rerouting for the time.  This is time when I get to take a detour or a scenic route until I create a new routine.

What's cool about a little rerouting is that coming back to something feels kind of like a fresh place to begin again.  I am looking forward to CPE.  I am excited about some of the transitions in my life academically, relationally, and in whatever other way these changes manifest themselves.  At this point, this time for transition is a good time to keep on learning how to pray and live in moments of change and wonder as I wander.

Until Next Friday!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

New Beginnings

A lot has happened this past week in the LSTC community.  As with the ending of any academic year, there have been many good-byes shared as students, staff, and faculty leave this place for a time or for good.  Among the many amazing people who graduated on Sunday were two of my closest friends at LSTC.  Justin and Mae have been along side me (and the rest of my class) since the beginning, but since their degree programs were different, they were able to graduate earlier than the rest of us.  We've spent long days studying, long nights playing games, and many long conversations ranging between theology and comic books.  Though Justin and Mae aren't moving away immediately, I know they'll be going to his first call soon, and the unique time we've spent together in this community will come to an end.

May May, Justin, and Mae; three wonderful Baptists who made this Lutheran seminary fantastic.

But, with that end comes new beginnings.  This fall, new students will arrive for their fist year of seminary; old students will return from internship; and Justin and Mae will begin a new chapter in following their call to serve God in this world.  I will miss them, but I also know that I will see them again, and the mere fact that I was able to befriend two Baptists in a Lutheran seminary gives me great hope for a future of unity between Christians, as my generation continues the great task of reconciliation among all people.

Speaking of reconciliation, I should mention that LSTC's board voted to make our community a Reconciling in Christ seminary - a place that actively works to include and welcome people of all sexual orientations and gender identities.  In fact, I've always assumed LSTC was already an RIC seminary, based on the general vibe of welcome and inclusivity here, but today's vote makes that "vibe" more official and intentional.

And, to add to all the newness and changes, we now have a new president at LSTC!  James Nieman will be joining our community in the fall, and from the buzz around the community, everyone seems very excited about the newness he's bringing to us.  To read more about it, check out the official press release.

So many changes are happening here.  As my internship winds down, the thought of returning to classes next year is getting to be more and more exciting!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Hey Everybody Checkout the New Guy

    Monday morning, students, faculty, and staff gathered in our refectory, place of dining, with a spread of cookies, yesterday's leftover graduation treats, and some fresh brewed coffee.  "Who's gonna be the new president?"  A question many and I have asked for more than a year.  We sat waiting.  My slow clap to get things going was viewed as a sign of impatience and not the excitement I was going for, and while some joined in it ultimately fell short.  Luckily, we didn't wait much longer because one of the board members walked in and after finding the mic explained she was not going to hold out on the news any longer.  And then she said it, James Nieman was the next president of Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago.  We rose and clapped some of us whooping and hollering as he entered, I believe we would have stood if they told us any name, but I think just hearing the name and knowing the search was over and that a new presidency would soon begin just made me so joyous, I felt tears coming to my eyes.  Little did I know that this would not be the last time.
    Nieman came to the microphone seeming calm and happy but as he said his own title, President of the Lutheran School of Theology, he choked up.  A true human moment that flooded my own heart with promise and hope.  He seemed so real standing in front of me bearing his heart.  He spoke of the next step with so much excitement, the next step for LSTC starting to change his wording from you to us, not claiming to know all the needs of LSTC, but presenting himself as a seasoned veteran of leadership.  I was so excited that at the end of the whole affair that later when I shook his hand I was nervous that I still might start to cry.  So impressed and feeling that my seminary was passed into good hands I was full of joy.  I really have only two sadnesses in this whole affair.  First, that I will be in Austin, TX when Nieman arrives and I will miss experiencing him in his first year and all the excitement that comes with that.  The second came when President Nieman spoke to all that President Hougen is doing and had done for the seminary (Hougen has been the president almost the entire time I have been at LSTC).  We had an amazing leader in Hougen and as once again tears filled my eyes, as a gracious President Hougen made a motion for all to sit down at the anouncement of his name, I realized that we were also losing a great leader in our community.
    What a moment in LSTC history, my own history, and I believe we will soon see if it was for the ELCA, my vote is yes.  President Nieman talked about his discernment process and how his wife read him a prayer from Evening Prayer, I hope I have the right prayer, but even reading this prayer gives me peace about the decisions we make in life, whether it be the new president, which call to accept, where to do CPE, what seminary to go to, or where to go for dinner?  We always have someone with us and President Nieman reminded us all of that Monday morning.
O Lord,
Support us all the day long of this troubled life, until the shadows lengthen and the evening comes and the busy world is hushed, the fever of life is over and our work is done.
  Then in your mercy, grant us a safe lodging, and a holy rest, and peace at the last, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Friday, May 11, 2012

This is what I did when classes were finished...

Saturday May 5th was an important day.  “What happened?” you may be asking.  Well I’ll tell you.  There was an event on 55th street whose concept blew my mind:  FREE COMIC BOOK DAY!

Yes, my girlfriend and I went to free comic book day.  I had been planning to do this since we visited First Aid Comics for the first time.  As I understood it, any person who walked in received 5 free comic books and then you could buy whatever else.  I recruited my girlfriend so we could pool the different comics we chose.  When we got there, the place was crowded with a variety of people buying all sorts of things in addition to the line for free comics.  We walked away with Superman: Family Adventures, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, 2 X-Men comics, the Avengers, 2 Superman Comics, Peanuts, Serenity, and a comic called The Maxx

On our way home we flipped through a few of our prizes to check out some pictures and text.  We had quite a variety!  Some were very simply written and drawn.  Others had faded artwork and were littered with text bubbles in every panel.  Some had exaggerated features of the human body (especially feet).  Others had attempted a more realistic portrayal.

Now, our intent in getting these comics was actually not to keep them around for scholarly reading.  We wanted to do something "artsy" with them.  Upon realizing how different each comic was from another, the idea of creating a collage or something of the like seemed to get more difficult to accomplish.  Isn’t this the perfect analogy for humanity and that loveable “C” word (community)?  How are all of these different pieces of artwork going to come together?  I’ll have to post an end result of our project and pose some more reflection on the subject.

Until Next Friday!

P.S. I am open to suggestions on how to approach this idea, considering the vast differences.  Is there a theme I should look for?  Perhaps an interactive sequence of events?

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Prophetically here I stand

Luther’s famous “Here I stand, I can do no other” has been refuted to be unreliable by various scholars; the actual quote is as follows: “I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. May God help me, Amen.”

As a seminary community we are still celebrating and worshiping God in this Easter season. It is always a joy to experience student led worship services, allowing the opportunities for my classmates to preach prophetically. It is freedom to remove one’s shoes and stand rooted in the earth; speaking, shouting, calling those before us to get up and go, making disciples, spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ-calling us to action.

Being here at LSTC has given me avenues to escape from inside the stifling and sterile room of what is accepted as the "norm"; opening windows and doors thereby letting the invading ethereal colors to seep into my spirit. I find that I am able to take those first steps by getting involved with local community organizations, social justice actions and marching with fellow seminarians, making a stand against the injustice that is heaped on the backs of those not deemed important. Hearing the encouraging words from faculty and staff who came to SURRJ meetings to volunteer, lend their wisdom or boldly confess their faith by walking alongside us in a sea of people who are angry and can only lift their voices in lament yet still praising God.

As the semester has slowly curled at the waist, taking its final bow I am still reminded that there is always room for learning and that God gives us those teaching moments affirming who He has called us to be. I was reminded today that if I am to boldly confess my own faith, humbly prostrated before the cross of the Risen Savior and that I have accepted this call- I must also bear the brunt of criticisms of those who perhaps feel evangelizing means staying within our boundaries, our borders and our comfortable church walls.

“Then Amos answered Amaziah: I am no prophet, nor a prophet’s son….and the Lord took me from following the flock, and the Lord said to me ‘Go prophesy to my people Israel.”

We must, as brothers and sisters in Christ, not walk through the streets silent when we see others hurting or in pain.  It is not just enough for us to call ourselves Christians but that we must become Christ-like, reaching out to our neighbors, the strangers, our friends in love, working and praying, being of the body of Christ. Taking that first step outside of our comfort zones is indeed frightening and not many will agree with my stance. But regardless whether we agree to disagree in the end, we must open our arms and hearts and say to one another “Peace be with you." 

Lape Bondye, God’s Peace.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Katie Luther: The Musical

Last night was the world premier of Katie Luther: The Musical.  Featuring an all-star LSTC cast, the play told the story of the unsung hero of the Reformation, Katherine Von Bora, Luther’s lovely wife.  It was amazing.  I laughed, I cried (because I was laughing so hard), I sighed as Martin and Katie fell in love, and I laughed some more.  The music featured such classic numbers as “Marty’s Girl” and “Red Flimsy Stein.”  Though I have to say my favorite number was “How Do You Solve Someone Like Her,” an amazing mash-up of “How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria” from The Sound of Music and “Someone Like You” by Adele, sung by a cadre of singing nuns.

The musical was truly an incredible production.  An original script, original songs, live music, singing, and dancing, I was blown away again and again by the talent and creativity of my classmates.  A lot of time and effort went into bringing the story of Katie Luther to life, and it showed.  Great job!

 This is one of my favorite promo photos for the show.  Check out the LSTC Facebook page for pictures of the actual production.

Friday, May 4, 2012

The last mile

It's that part of the race when you look at the finish line ahead and it feels like a mirage. Imagining it so many times before, now that it is before us, it seems like a joke!

In my final preaching class yesterday, there were jokes about "failing" our last sermon and Satterlee having to call our bishops and inform them we had failed our advanced preaching course...

And in other ways, it seems impossible still to get there. Not just a paper (or two), but the goodbye luncheons, the passing of the torch to the next class, the loose ends that need tying. In some ways, the tasks of graduating are never really turning in that last paper. They're everything else!

And for me, this final weekend, I am taking a road trip to go to my future synod's assembly. We cannot even finish seminary before we have BOTH feet out the door and into our future lives as leaders in this church.

So here's to all that goodbye graduation goodness. May God be with us all!!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Learning the Pastor-Stuff

Today I had my first meeting with the congregation I will be working with next year.

That is a little odd to say (or write, rather) because I currently serve the wonderful parish of St. Luke's Lutheran Church of Logan Square.  As long as God's grace allows it, it is my intention to continue serving that beautiful congregation.  However, the new work I am about to begin with St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church will be different then any other capacity I have ever had.  At St. John's, I will be practicing pastor-stuff. 

This process is called Ministry in Context (MIC), and is something that typically happens during your midler (second) year of seminary.  MIC happens after CPE (clinical pastoral education, which will be this summer) and before Internship year. 

I understand my role as a Director for a congregation, and know I can handle those responsibilities.  That is also the case for my role as Administrative Assistant.  There is always room to grow in these roles, but I knew before I ever began working in those positions that I could fulfill that sort of ministry.

MIC is a whole new game.  I think I have the skills to be a pastor.  I'm certainly building them through my seminary education.  But can I put that education into practice?  Do I have what it takes to stop thinking like an administrator and begin thinking like a pastor?

While I was fretting about this big, unknown reality of my future, I met one of the women who will be serving on the lay committee supervising my work.  That woman was so sure that God had called her to be on that committee, and knew that even if she didn't have all the answers she would figure it out.  She accepted this step in her baptismal vocation, and saw how she had been called to this role.

I don't know what is in store for me at St. John's,but I do know that right now, this is the next step to living out my baptismal vocation.  It is time to embrace the pastor-stuff. 

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Walking the Labyrinth

As flames are lit and lifted, as darkness falls softly around my shoulders, as Creation mischievously plays in shadows I am able to watch the beauty of the dying sunset. I am able to ponder where the song of Mother Earth is beckoning my spirit to. The unknown holds great promise and great fear. 

One of my fellow bloggers remarked as we were discussing the business of blogging how she had missed my posts. So the Gypsy returns, getting out of the way of the end of the academic year, which is racing towards the finish line in a haze of mass exodus.

As a part of a spiritual discipline, walking the labyrinth has resurfaced in our popular, modern Christian practice; there is one right outside my Ministry in Context congregation. As a church community we surrounded the labyrinth as we gathered the night of the Easter Vigil and there was blessed silence and pause for reflection. The cauldron of fire stood at the center of these endless wave of circles; the center of our journey is lit with glorious flames that sway and dance  as if in encouraging us to continue even if everything will appear the same to the reflection in our gaze.  The interesting thing is that from that center, one can continue on their journey that perhaps retraces their steps from where they have come. Perhaps in that center we face our fears and doubts and can see everything a bit clearer even if we are still a bit unsure; perhaps we step from the widening path and into cleansing fire of rebirth so that we can continue on our journey. 

In conversation with a board member about the Seminary's journey making a bold witness and proclamation of the Gospel about living into what the risen Christ has commanded us, he questioned me about the use of the term "Middler". As Middlers we are in the midst of this journey of Seminary, the center being Endorsement and Internship Assignments and miraculously the winding paths of the labyrinth open up ushering us forth. Yet, my own spirit clings to the root of the willow tree thoughtfully because perhaps I have mentioned before I remain here within the center, for now and I am not alone. Remaining here is not being left behind because there is so much one can explore and contemplate; there is an exciting year before me of classes not only at LSTC but those beyond our doors-reading and discussing Augustine and Malcolm X; contemplating Bonhoeffer and Dr. King; continuing to discern the call of Redeveloper from both my Synod and my Seminary for me. 

In a few days, these halls which were always reverberating with lively discussion, with songs and with laughter will fall silent. The brightness of Creation beckons us to reach our our hands and touch what God has blessed us with: returning home, exploring other lands, reaching new shores with nervousness and with glee and resting our feet in the low Prairies where God first spoke life into our call to ministry. 

There is still much to be done in these last few days, still ministry to experience and to learn. The Seminary Community is vibrant with a cacophony of souls who climb further up the tree, to new heights and raise their voices in praise and thanksgiving for no matter where we are or where we go, there is always proof that Christ is with us. From being the center of ridicule on the cross, to being the center of resurrection and eternal life, the Risen Christ is right in front of us.

Lape Bondye, God's Peace. 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


It's been far too long since my last post.  For that, I apologize, especially to my mother and Travis. (Hey, guys!)  If my absence this past month is any indication, internship can be quite a busy experience.  With Holy Week, Easter, committee meetings, and one large fundraiser, April was a non-stop thrill ride.

Easter Sunday was, as one would expect, a very long day.  With a 6:30am Sunrise Service to start the day, Andrea and I were well on our way to Good Shepherd while the stars still shone in the sky.  I gave my Easter sermon, had breakfast with my parents in the fellowship hall, marathoned two more services, and then Andrea and I had a fantastic dinner at the home of some of our lovely parishioners.  It was a long day, but it was full of celebration - the kind that can only be concluded with a nice, joyful nap.

This past weekend, our congregation held its annual "Garage" sale in the basement of the church.  For the week leading up to the event, parishioners lined their cars up by the back door, and one-by-one unloaded their old belongings to donate to the sale.  It was literally a non-stop flow of traffic three days in a row.  When we thought no more could come in, more came in.  When we thought we couldn't fit any more in, we fit more in.

We filled the entire floor of the Family Life Center (pictured above), two Sunday School rooms, the fellowship hall, and the long hallway between them all.  The whole basement was full of furniture, clothes, holiday decorations, toys, exercise equipment, dishes, antiques, books, movies, and everything imaginable.  I'm almost certain I've been in smaller thrift stores.

For two days, people from Palos Heights and all the surrounding suburbs came to find hidden treasures, good deals, and new-to-them home furnishings.  There were about 80 parishioners who helped out through the week, working together, and having a fantastic time.  And, when it was all said and done, we managed to raise around eight thousand dollars!  On top of that, there were over two moving trucks of items left over, which a local charity took to sell in their thrift store.  The money raised is going to be used to send our teenagers to the Youth Gathering in New Orleans this fall, and with 33 people going, it's going to go a long way in helping our high schoolers have a fantastic experience this July.

I am constantly amazed at the continued love and care that the people at the congregation, and in this community, have for one another.  It's truly a reflection of God's love.