Sunday, September 30, 2012

One Month In-

Hello all!
Let me introduce myself: 

I am a second, well actually a third career, seminary student who lives on campus part time.  While my journey to get here has not been a short or easy one, I know that I am called to serve in this capacity.

The above two sentences are burned into my brain because I have said it to so many people, particularly during the last three years while I made the final decision to say YES to God's call. And as many seminarians and pastors know, I will be saying these words, and modifying them throughout the next four years as I continue this wonderfully inspiring, challenging, and sometimes scary journey.

I have completed 4 full weeks of seminary, and I have to say it has been fun, busy and rewarding.  While I stress about the homework and my ability to keep up with the homework as I split my time between home and campus, I find that my stresses are not much different than students who live on campus full time.   Home is in Madison, not Chicago, and the majority of my social life is in Madison, but I have to manage my time just as a full time student living on campus does.  We all make choices as to how we spend our time, and we have many of the same things vying for our time; family, friends, children, homework, cleaning, finances, and the list goes on.  Thankfully we have technology and I'm able to keep in touch with my nieces & sisters.  I  follow Twitter feeds to keep abreast of Madison politics and my home church.   Most importantly, I skype with my husband a couple times a week which is always a highlight. 

Monday starts another week of intense theological thought and study.  Monday also starts another week of growing in faith and friendship.  And for all four of these I am extremely grateful.
Joy in serving!
Stacy g-s

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


A summer of dreams was spent mostly healing up from surgery on a torn ACL in my left knee, which in turn made my summer quite uneventful.  The hardest part of the summer then became my expectation to work with the ELCA National Youth Gathering and help with their multi-cultural event, which was in New Orleans, Louisiana.  I still had hoped to participate, and waiting to see if I could heal up enough to make the flight, a week or two from the dates in July I had to resign from my post.  A crushing blow, but the right choice.  Coming to Austin in early August, I was greeted with stories of the gathering from my pastor and some youth.  A little bummed out at what sounded like an amazing experience, I decided with the help of some parishioners to be proactive with these experiences.  I went and printed out a bunch of their photos from my pastor and kicked off our youth group with a memories session at the local Taco place down the street.  It helped create conversation of what they wanted to do with their experience as they came back to their normalcy here in Texas.  For me being a person who lived in New Orleans for 6 months, I was so happy just getting a chance to hear their stories and ask questions with knowledge of where they had been.  I was also able to tell them some of the stories and history that I learned while I was there.  New Orleans played such a big role in my story of getting to seminary.  It was the first time that I really understood and felt a definitive call to pastoral ministry. My National Youth Gathering in high school was also in New Orleans and I remember many memories still today that personalized my faith.  I was so happy for the opportunity to reminisce and talk about that experience as well as hear about how different and unique their experience was in the same place.  What a great way to kick off the year and think about all the things we want to do with our youth.  Giving them ownership and a chance to grow out of their experiences.

Monday, September 24, 2012

How To Install A Bishop

HFASS Seminarian Amy Hanson and I

Last night I had the privilege of attending the installation of Bishop Jim Gonia as the third ever bishop of the Rocky Mountain Synod of the ELCA.  Bishop installations don't happen all that often, so getting to not only attend one, but to put on my alb and join the procession with about 180 other leaders in the synod was pretty incredible.  

Two things really stuck out to me during the course of the service.  The first was that the church world is incredibly small.  Bishop Gonia is married to the Rev. Kim Gonia, who was a senior at LSTC during my first year there.  And on top of that, both of them had worked with the pastor at the church I grew up with in Madagascar through the ELCA Global Mission unit.  It was particularly awe-inspiring to support the bishop at his installation when we have some pretty strong connections to the same people.  

The other thing that stood out to me in such a way was during Bishop Hanson's sermon.  Among his list of wisdom, he talked about what he hears when he goes to preach and speak at places around the country.  He spoke of often hearing depressing things, like declining membership, aging members, decreasing resources, etc.  These are all things that scare a seminarian who is making this call his career.  But, said Hanson, Paul in his second letter to the Corinthians did not shy away from these realities which the church faces.  And in the face of these realities Paul reminds us that
therefore since it is by God's mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart. ~ 2 Corinthians 4:1
Indeed, it is only by the mercy of God that we are engaged in ministry.  I think that is true of much of life...because of God's great mercy in the world we are doing what we do, we are proclaiming the gospel because of the mercy of God.  We are caring for the poor among us and in the world because of the mercy of God.  We are doing God's work with our hands because of the mercy that God has for us and for the world we serve.

Something to think about as I prepare for rostered leadership in this church...that it is only through God's mercy that I am called to this ministry.

(apologies for the lack of "how to" instructions for installing a bishop, but if you're curious...see here)

Friday, September 21, 2012

Exhaustion, Collaboration and a Congressman

Even the kitty is Lutheran

Spring is definitely not in the air nor in our steps. Fall Semester has crept into the comfort of our hearths, hanging out in a dusty corner and spinning a strangely sticky web daring us to even venture over and peer with thoughts of grabbing the nearest broom and swiping away. 

Trying to match the daily rhythm of classes, chapel, meetings, jobs and eating is a feat unto itself. Adding into it the tension of seniors and their approval essays as well as the middlers and their endorsement essays time seems to be slipping from our hands just as fragile crystal snowflakes that haunt our dreams as the weather briskly exits stage left to change costumes and frightens our imaginations. 

Regular trips to the Refectory and Starbucks is always in order. 

But yet, I am thankful because of the community that is present in the classroom which only enriches our learning. Our Systematic Theology class spent the last half of class smoozing with Dr. Klaus Peter's Pentateuch class combining our wits (whatever was left at 8pm at night) on a biblical exercise; My Mission Leadership peers and I listened to presentations from several folks from Churchwide about how mission IS happening in the wider ELCA and got to know one another, community organizing style. Hearing the laughter coming from any one of Hendel's courses reminds me how dedicated our professors are when bringing history and the Word alive for us. Seeing pictures on Facebook of the Biblical Greek class making an extremely tough language fun so that when text study comes knocking we can throw open the door and say AHA!

Strangely enough, even with the struggles, frustrations and repetitiveness Seminary classes can be enlightening and humorous.

Even more strange is who takes these courses.

Sitting in my Augustine, Niebuhr and Malcolm X last week for the first class I did feel rather as an intruder in the hallowed halls of another seminary, brand new and neat, but unfamiliar quiet and empty. Many of my classmates were either conversing among themselves or lost in their own thoughts. None of the roughness under their feet or the absence of shoes. None of the collaborating in the hallways or loudness and liveliness among friends about hanging out at Jimmy's at 4pm. 

Yet, how interesting it was to see an elder Illinois congressman of color walk into the classroom not as an observer but as a student, someone who had been around at the time of Malcolm-who ran in those circles and passed in his shadow; who fought for the same things that my people continue to battle and achieve, rise and fall. How fascinating is that he too, is a child of God who has worked in community and social justice and yet still sits at the feet of Wisdom, wanting to hear what She has for us. 

Just because we pay our dues, receive our degrees and are covered in the Rite of Ordination doesn't mean God still does not have words to speak into our spirits; That the Creator does not have continued knowledge to pour into our souls. Just because we journey and think we have arrived, doesn't mean that there are not nooks, and hidden winding paths into the deepness of Creation that we shouldn't travel.

O what surprises Seminary has to offer. O how I too will never be weary of what God wishes to share with me.

I just wish free coffee was thrown into the deal.

Lape Bondye, God's Peace!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Some Thoughts From the Car

Today I have found myself thinking a lot.  Mostly because I drove for 3 hours and there’s not much else to do other than sing songs that the radio or my CD player may offer.  I’m thinking about songs that would be sweet for this year’s musical, thinking about how to write my statement of the Gospel in 50 words or less, thinking about possible future sermon topics, and thinking about the concept of my canon within the canon.  This mostly came up in light of the popularized fragment which may, kind of, somewhat, slightly, possibly, if we look really hard enough suggest that Jesus had a wife (or in any case a gunaika, Greek for “woman” as well as “wife”).

Somewhere in the midst of all of my thinking I came to the conclusion that I’m at the point in my seminary professional process where I need to start making some of my own definitions and look for some answers to give.   I’m coming to the realization that, while I am still very free to ask questions, it was weird to think that I will be asked questions about religion, theology, who Jesus is and what Jesus means, prayer, and all sorts of other subjects.   Granted, I’ve written my fair share of papers which have questions about these subjects within their prompts, but these questions will now be coming from a totally different community that I am not used to addressing.  Whether from confirmation students or candidacy committees, new questions will come my way and they won’t be on paper or allow me three hours to provide a written analysis.  For some reason, this really intimidates me.

I have had an excellent education.  I have had good friends and family members who have challenged and encouraged me.  I realize this is a process that does not end, but right now I wouldn't mind if things slowed down a little.  I guess this could be what some may call a “growing edge.”

Until Next Thursday!  

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


Some freshly washed pans for Companion Cafe
I am realizing that the biggest moments in my life usually have me at some point being a dishwasher.  When you work at camp many times you end up standing at a sink washing countless amounts of cups and plates.  The same was true in New Orleans when I was interning at a rebuilding camp, where they almost instantly put me on dishes and kitchen duty to help with feeding the 200+ volunteers a week.  And lastly, here in Austin, my Wednesday nights will now be spent at a sink.
My church has started a Wednesday night dinner called Companion Cafe. The goal being to serve up hearty plates of food at an affordable price.  The plates consist of an entree, starch, and vegetable with a self serve salad in the dining room.  Tea and coffee also included.  I am eager to be involved in such a unique, yet simple event.  Companion Cafe will be a great way for us to reach out to our own church, as well as our daycare families, and our surrounding community.  We did a practice run last week and will again Wednesday night be trying our skills in the kitchen.  It was fun seeing some of my congregation in a new light, making food and laughing.  We had more time to talk than in passing on Sunday, a real chance to get to know one another.  This opportunity seems so simple, coming together during the week and eating a big meal together, but it takes a lot of planning.  Even after it starts, Wednesday night at the Companion Cafe will still have people baffled by the simple beauty and worried that there is another agenda, but it's not.  Just come buy a cheap plate of food and hang out with your brothers and sisters for a bit and then go on your way.  But all this food does create dishes, and as a leader in a church to be back in the kitchen washing dishes so others can truly enjoy the night is splendid.
I don't actually think that my big moments in my life are defined by doing dishes, but rather that there is food, and food usually suggests community.  Whether it be at camp, church, or even Jesus with his disciples, you see food cultivating the community.  Even at LSTC we had Sunday night potlucks that were well attended and most meetings were held during meals or with some kind of snack.
For me personally, I love doing dishes!  In the ups and downs of ministry, we are not always sure of the day and what it may bring.  You do not always see the effects of ministry, and it's not that I need to, but for five hours on a Wednesday night I grab a dirty dish and wash it.  It's a chance to meditate on the simple, let my guard down and just clean stuff.  I reminisce to all the sinks I have been at, from a LSTC potlucks, to camps, and even to the future Wednesday night dishes.  I am so blessed to be part of so many different communities.  What a difference a little soap and water can make.

Reunited And It Feels So Good

Picnic Time! 

(This post would not be possible without Meredith, who is on internship in Pine Ridge, SD)

As funny as this is, I think "fresh" is the
best way to describe this dill. 
Today I finally got the opportunity to see another intern face to face.  Meredith and I decided to meet halfway between Pine Ridge and Denver in a tiny town, Sydney, NE.  We met at the local supermarket and bought stuff for a picnic lunch in the park right across the street.  After the initial lengthy hug and laughter in the parking lot, we made our way into the supermarket where I was baffled by the cost of yellow bell peppers ($2.09 each!) while Mer was baffled by the presence of bell peppers at all.

We both have such different internships, hers on a Native American reservation, with no permanent parish home, and mine in urban Denver in a congregation of Sinners and Saints and no permanent building.  But, we were still able to share one of our mutual loves: grocery shopping.

Nebraska's Finest
After our shopping adventure (who knew they sold "reduced cigarettes" that had expired(?) for $3 a pack?! Or 16oz tallboys of Pepsi in cans?!), we hung out in the park and talked, caught up, and played on childrens playground equipment for 3.5 hours.

It's easy to feel a little lonely on internship (even when living with 9 people) because the people you've spent 2 years in really close proximity with are now scattered all over the country.  Skype, Facebook, blogging, and such certainly make communication much easier than in the past, but there is something about being face to face that is so much better, and so much more real.  I am indebted to the interstate highway system and 75 MPH speed limits which both allow me to see a great friend and colleague in only 3 hours if we meet halfway.  It helps me to see that with a little effort, we are all within reach, physically or digitally, and that just because we are in new places doesn't mean that we are forever cut off from each other.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Apple Picking-Up

One of the great things about Chicago is how easy it is to get out of Chicago.  It takes an hour or less to get to suburban malls, Indiana Dunes State Park, Valparaiso University (because it's awesome), Michigan's wine country, and the lake communities of southern Wisconsin. 

You can also end up surrounded by farms and fields, as a group of us did yesterday.  To mark the beginning of fall, seven of us drove out to an apple orchard near Portage, Indiana.  It's one of those wonderful, Midwestern tourism locales that only opens for a few weeks in the fall.  You know, it has Corn mazes, a petting zoo, hay-rack rides, pumpkin picking, and a store full of apple cider and jarred comfort foods.  Oh, and there's apple picking.  Well, there's usually apple picking.  The weather this year did a number on most of the farming industry, and it seems the orchards weren't exempt.  Only 30% of their expected crop survived the late frost and persistent drought, so there wasn't really much to pick.

So, we wandered the orchard for a bit, searching for the few red beauties floating near the tops of the trees.  We shook a few branches and picked up the apples that fell, which made for an adventurous alternative to the abundance we're all used to.  The orchard was actually in fairly good spirits about the whole situation.  They worked all summer to source apples from other orchards, which they put in rain-gutter troughs hung in the trees, with the 2012 slogan, "It's Raining Apples!"

It was nice to see the orchard keeping their spirits up in the midst of an autumn which is proving to be anything but abundant for farmers in the Midwest.  Though our apple-picking excursion became an apple-picking-up excursion, it was great to get out of the city to get a little taste of the optimism of a completely different, though very nearby, culture.

Friday, September 14, 2012

The Dark Side of LSTC

This past week I decided to add something to my LSTC experience that I had not tried before: night cleaning crew.   I basically get to take out LSTC’s trash, clean chalkboards and whiteboards, vacuum, mop, sweep, wipe down tables, and keep an eye out for supplies that need to be replaced.  I get to do all of this stuff from 9pm-12am every Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.  It’s not too much outside of the scope of the maintenance skills I developed at camp but it is an unexpected opportunity for me.  I originally scheduled to work night crew for two reasons: income and intentional time when I couldn’t stress myself out with homework.  I’ve received both benefits that I was hoping for, but I am getting something that I wasn’t expecting from the experience.

It’s one thing for me to go to class and worship at the sacred spaces at LSTC.  It’s another sort of spiritual experience for me to clean them.  I wipe tables where I and other colleagues have spent our day learning, praying, and pouring ourselves into our work and workspaces.  I wipe boards where teachers have imparted ideas and where theologies can continually be manifest in the following class day.  I mop and sweep the worship spaces at LSTC where tears are shed, praise is given, and where God is continually present in our gathering.  Yeah, my job is pretty cool.  J

In this job, so far, I have found that the dark side of LSTC holds many sacred opportunities as the lights which I am so accustomed to dim and a new way of understanding the world of LSTC is experienced.  Perhaps it’s in the darker places of our experience where we learn a new way of understanding our world and our theological perspectives.  It’s probably in the darker places where it’s not necessarily scary, but extremely formative and sacred.  It’s in the dark side of LSTC where I get to experience a totally different way of theological formation.  And where I get to see how much Starbucks our student population consumes on an average class day.

Until Next Thursday! (If I can remember, we all kind of switched up the days.)

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

A Real Oasis in Texas

So this year coming into Texas for internship, my personal biggest fear was that I would never see a Packer game and worse, I would be surrounded by Dallas fans.  A common fear for most Wisconsin ex-Pats, but that is why the Packer bar was created.  A heavenly place where fans of the Packers can congregate and be united when so far from Wisconsin and our beloved Green Bay Packers.  You can look them up online or you can stumble upon them like lucky old me.

I was driving to a nursing home to help put on a afternoon church service, something I had done a lot a couple summers ago, so I was glad to help out.  I did realize that the Packers were playing their first game that Sunday, so I was hoping to catch the second half somewhere on the way home.  While I was driving I had decided I would return home and skip the first game, but on the way I looked to my left and saw green jerseys.  Some jerseys said Matthews, others Rogers, and one Favre (ended up being his first name was Favre, true fan!).   Did I just stumble upon a Packer's Bar?!  I did not have time to stop and went on my way with renewed excitement.  About 2 hours later, I started back the way I came with the new goal of finding that place, hoping it was not a mirage in the desert of Cowboys and Texans fans.  At every corner I searched for my green and gold brothers and sisters, until finally I spotted my soon to be Packer family.  Quickly parking I came in the door with none of my usual attire, no Packers jersey, no Packers overalls, not even my green and yellow shoes.  I arrived and was filled with awe at opening the door to a rowdy room full of TVs and screaming fans.  So much green, so much yellow, they were even selling bratwurst and cheese curds for that at home feel.  I quickly put in an order for some food and as I mingled I was quickly assimilated and became part of the group.  Cheering, high fiving, and booing in unison.  Conversations quickly turned to, "why did you leave WI" and, "how long have you been gone?"  Soon it turned to, "will we see you next week?"  In less than an hour I had become a part of Billy's on Burnett, my true oasis
This place matters so much to me not because I love the Packers so much, but they remind me of home and they accepted me before they met me.

The same is true for seminary.  As much as I love Austin, I find that I miss LSTC, my classmates, and all the familiarities that my last two years have been built upon.  I miss feeling like a part of the group.  That connection was so quick I felt it when I arrived at LSTC the first day.  I was reminded me of a different Lutheran/Christian home and they seemed to accept me before they met me.  That kind of bond is hard to find, and to make such a bond in less than two years, speaks to the community at LSTC and what I am excited to get back to.  I have a wonderful year until I do though, and I will focus on making the most out of Austin, Texas, but for the time being...I have my Packer Bar!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Start The Day Right

LSTC has chapel daily, for those who are new to what we do at the seminary.  My first year, I attended about 1/3 of the time, making up excuses for why I couldn't be there the other days.  Last year I went almost every time, because I realized what a gift it was to be able to gather together in community and sing praises to God, to ask God for wholeness, healing, and intercession, to share the peace with people, to pray for forgiveness for ourselves, as well as those people that sat next to me.
Easter Eucharist 2012 (copyright LSTC)
And here in Denver, I don't have that.  There is no daily sermon or meditation, Eucharist only happens on Sunday instead of Sunday and Wednesday, The font isn't gracefully trickling water into a big open pool, and I'm not singing hymns every day.  

In fact, I'm in the real world.  A world where it's pretty easy to get caught up in the daily tasks of life that happen.  A world where chapel isn't every day.  A world where it doesn't rain, but when it does, the reminder of baptism is crystal clear.  

And yet, there are ways for me to fill the void that not having chapel every day has left.  HFASS does Matins every Wednesday at a local church, which is balm to my mid-week soul.  I have been trying to begin the spiritual discipline of pondering the next week's text every morning and every evening (and times in between when I'm working on a sermon).  I'm still open to more ritual, more tradition, more incense....but I haven't yet figured out those parts of life I'm still seeking fulfillment at daybreak, and while I feel good about it so far, does anyone want to send me charcoal, some incense, and a thurible?

Saturday, September 8, 2012

And Thus Begins The Final Year.

Bond. James Bond.
Some of LSTC's seniors bringing in the new year with style.
It's official.  I'm finally in my last year of seminary.

Internship finished up really well.  It was an absolutely wonderful experience, and I grew immensely in many ways.  It got busy at the end there, but I truly loved every minute.

My internship experience was different from most of my classmates because, while most of them moved away for the year, I continued living at LSTC.  It was strange not having them around, and now that they're all back, we're having a ton of fun.  We grill together, hang out a lot, and share stories of what happened while we were separated this past year.  We're also getting to know all the other classes, too.  With Internship being in the third year of a four-year program, we always have plenty of students to meet every fall.

To show the juniors and middlers how a group of classmates can really get along for some fun, we decided to dress up in our fanciest finery for a community meal during orientation week.  As we waltzed into the Refectory, one of my classmates acted as Herald and introduced us, one-by-one, to the room.  It was absolutely absurd, slightly awkward, and fairly hilarious moment that reminded me of just how close I am to all my peers at LSTC.

I have a feeling that this year is going to be amazing.  As we reflect seriously on our internship experiences, await candidacy matters, and look forward to graduation and first call, I'm glad that we'll be able to bond in a way that will take us from classmates to co-workers in the church.  We may end up states away from one another, but the bonds we're making in seminary will continue in some way throughout our entire careers, as we lead God's people in love and joy.

Friday, September 7, 2012

What Kind of Theologian Are You?

"..every theologian is committed and alienated; he is always in faith and doubt; he is inside and outside the theological circle" Paul Tillich

Over the summer months while I was immersed in the throes of Youth and Outdoor Ministry, my former Ministry in Context pastor suggested some light theological reading before diving into the churning, dark and foreboding waters of Systematic Theology. Apparently Systematics becomes the turning point of our academic lives where the practical we have studied, learned pulls our thoughts and spirits deeper into the journey. In other words, we run screaming at the mere mention of Paul Tillich.

As the Semester triumphantly began and my first class was S.T. I cringed slightly. The beauty of the summer had come, and gone; I'd barely had time to sink and submerge myself into the joys of relaxation and respite; primarily because I was running around 640 acres of insanity. I may have mentioned this before. I digress.

Bringing this back to the forefront, although I had initially ordered and carried with me this wonderful read called "Faith Seeking Understanding" by Migliore, I never got a chance to crack it open and run rampant through its pages. This semester, I mused sadly, was going to be rocky.

Dr. Lea opened up class with an amusing question "What kind of theologian do you see yourself?" My wonderful friend and neighbor next to me stated "How can I? I really have never thought of myself as one." My other fellow classmate (the fellow blogger insanely taking a class on 1 Corinthians) quipped "Uh, okay?" There was laughter and collaboration as we all attempted to figure this out for ourselves. 

For this Gypsy Seminarian, the lingo of who I am as a theologian has been trapped in the English language. Who I am as a child of the Creator and what knowledge and wisdom has been passed down through the drums of the ages; of how my ancestors embraced Creation and allowed themselves to be vulnerable to the message of God; what truly being Christ-like means for my vocation and the message of the Scriptures, especially the Psalms means to my ministry and my mission in this life. 

"Can a system of life which has been practiced for centuries be entirely worthless? Or does it contain elements of divine knowledge that might shed a new understand of the Christian faith? Theology of the ancestors is about an interpretation of the past in a way that shows the present experience and knowledge of God in Jesus Christ as reflected in the lives of the African people."

Ancestral Theology. Hmm.

Stay Tuned.

Lape Bondye, God's Peace.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

All in Good Kairos

During the course of this immersion week into our new classes, I found myself telling a classmate that the classroom may end up being where I get my social time this semester.   Now, at the end of the first week of classes, I’m not so sure if that is the case entirely but it has been a bit of an overwhelming week.  Aside from the Ministry in Context program I will be taking Hebrew, Systematic Theology 1, Preaching, and a doctoral seminar on 1 Corinthians.  Yikes.  I know that my class situation is not as busy as it could be.  I have a colleague who is taking 6 classes this semester (crazy!!!).  I also know that I am not alone in my feeling of overwhelmed as a junior MDiv student told me earlier today that his week has been like “taking a drink out of a fire hose.”  

I’m starting to remember, however, that on Thursday most of us take one big collective sigh of relief and somehow can discover enough time to live the lives we have outside of class. Today after school, I saw a large group go over to Jimmy’s for a celebratory drink.  I am currently doing laundry and getting myself ready to jam with a good friend of mine later this evening.  Looks like the classroom won’t be my only source of social interaction after all.  Still, though, it is somewhat difficult to imagine having a life while classes are beginning. 

Ultimately, for me, it will come down to making time for myself.  I want to jam, talk with people, play the occasional videogame, exercise, grab some sushi, and take a little time to go visit family in other parts of the country.  It will be important for me to remember that this all doesn’t have to happen at once, but that it will happen all in good kairos.

Until Next Thursday! 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

One of Those Cat Ladies

I have become one of those women who a month ago I used to make jokes about - a cat lady.  While I have always loved animals and been attached to family pets as a kid, I never really understood the people who post pictures of their animals on Facebook or who start a conversation saying, "You'll never guess what Socks did today..." 

This summer I completed my clinical pastoral education unit (CPE) working as a hospital chaplain for the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in New Hampshire.  My primary unit on the hospital was in the Intensive Care Nursery (ICN).  A challenging and formative environment, caring for sick and dying infants taught me that in order to minister in times of crisis, I need to further develop my self-care habits.

I had heard fellow seminarians say that their pets have served as accountability partners for them, being a reason to stop working, go home, and relax.  Upon returning to Chicago, I visited the Anti-Cruelty Society.  It was there that I met Cozmo, a seven-year-old, 17 pound cat who had been in the shelter for the past 2 months.  I learned that because of his age and size, not one visitor had taken him out of his cage.  He reminded me of the babies on the ICN, an innocent being that deserved love despite having qualities that may be seen as obstacles. 

Rescuing Cozmo has been a great gift to my life.  So grateful for love, he is always at my side.  Even as I write this, his head is stretched across my hands as they type on the laptop.  I knew that rescuing a cat would give me the opportunity to share love with another, and I thought it would fill the void of caring for my patients as I transition from CPE.  What I have found is that receiving Cozmo's love is a better gift than receiving.  As seminary students, it may be easy to focus on sharing Christ's love to others, but we must also be willing to recieve it in return.  We cannot give what we do not have, and everytime I snuggle with my cat, I remind myself that to truly care for God's people I must first care for myself.

I now think differently about people who gush about their pets.  If sharing with others the gift of giving and receiving love makes me one of those cat ladies, then it is a label I am happy to wear. 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

First Children-less Message

Is this a kid's reaction to children's messages?
"You all may be seated and we ask that the children come forward for the children's message."  The children's message has been something that I have been debating in my head since my undergrad days when I was studying youth ministry.  I have heard so many pros about why we should allow children to be up front comfortable in their church.  I have also heard the cons with accusations that the children's message is no more than a Christian version of "Kids Say the Darnedest Things."  At the end of the day, as an intern you really do not have a say in whether they happen or not at your church and; but it is so that at my church they are expected.  So I printed up some children's bulletins off Sundays and Seasons, I went and got some props that I thought would really help explain the Gospel, and I waited for my time to come on Sunday morning.  Then the time finally came, and I rose and said that magical phrase. But NOTHING.  No noise and then a slight giggle as I was left childless for my first children's sermon.  I went to go sit down and then i heard a murmur and looked to see a new acquaintance, Travis coming forward.  "Oh no this is going to happen," I worriedly thought.  The trick of the situation is that Travis is 27, just a year younger than myself.  So there I was sitting face to face with Travis doing a children's message for the congregation.  Travis who recently spent a chunk of the last year living in a monastery in Ireland was a much better listener, and his answers were on par with seminary.  It was more humorous that educational, as there were youth younger than him looking on from the comfort of their pew.
When did we put a restriction on coming forward for the children's messages?  Who started to say you're too old for the children's message?  I seemed to look so many different junior high youth in the face and get no response.  Not willing to go up for a children's message, unwilling to participate in a sermon?  As I anticipate that next week  we will have some youth that will come up, I still find myself asking about the inclusive and effective nature of children's messages.  Are they effective or tradition marching on without question.  Are kids waiting and bargaining a day that they don't have to walk up, pleading with parents not this time please.  It looked like it on Sunday, but I appreciate the humor of two guys in their 20's just sitting on the floor claiming themselves as children in the name of the Gospel.

Monday, September 3, 2012

First internship sermon

I got to preach my first sermon at HFASS yesterday, and almost had to 'lead' the service.  Nadia had a speaking engagement (well, 5 in 4 days and 2 states) and her flight was scheduled to arrive at DIA at 3:30.  Of course, it got delayed, and was then scheduled to get in at 4:27.

Luckily the Spirit interceded when I had nothing but sighs too deep for words and Nadia's plane picked up speed in the air and got into the airport with enough time for her to get to liturgy at 5pmand change into her clerics.

The spirit also showed up in the preaching event, which always happens, but is a relief nonetheless.  Nadia has a tradition that whoever is preaching is prayed for by the other person before the service.  In that moment, I felt my nerves disappear and I was filled with the peace that only God is able to give.  As the service started and we sang Schumann's mass I was filled with emotion, as only liturgy can do.

I am going to have to get used to preaching in an interactive environment...I've never had anyone (until last night) talk back to me in the middle of the sermon.  It was nothing terribly distracting, but I made a point and someone said pretty audibly 'wow' in response.  Everyone laughed out loud and it all worked out, but I have a feeling I will like Holy Spirit interruptions like that!

Till next week!

Edit: here's the sermon!