Tuesday, October 30, 2012


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

Living a Normal(?) Life

Hey everyone!  Apologies for the late post.

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 26, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Let Go and Trust God.”

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

Thanks Be To God.

A Dip Worth Taking

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

You never know who you're gonna meet...

Skip Wachsmann

We had a pulpit exchange this past weekend where we brought in an interim from the Austin area to my church First English.  Skip Wachsmann was a graduate of Christ Seminary-Seminex, the first class that received a degree from their also did so with the accreditation backing of LSTC.  Skip’s first and only call before becoming an interim in Austin, was 34 years in the inner city of Detroit in an all black congregation.  I had the pleasure of working with Skip on Sunday and seeing his unique preaching style and see what happens to a white kid from Houston thrown into inner city Detroit for 30+ years.  Just days later, I was able to sit down with Skip and hear stories of Detroit, Seminex, and just his journey to sitting across from me with a beer and a wealth of knowledge.  I had a blast hanging out with him and hearing stories, some of professors that can still be seen at LSTC and others about journeying from LCMS to AELC, which would later join with the ALC and the LCA to form our modern day ELCA.  Skip reminded me with a rememberance of the reformation coming this Sunday about how much trust in God it takes to really make a difference, and what real faith can look like.  Skip and many faculty and students put their careers on the line to stand up for the Gospel, doesn’t get any more reformation than that.  Thanks Skip, thanks Seminex, thanks Luther, but most of all thank you Gospel.  Happy Reformation everyone and keep standing up for the Gospel.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Things I Wish I Knew

Image source
I went on a retreat for Urban Servant Corps this past weekend and we did an activity called Cross The Line. We did something similar my junior year at LSTC during orientation, only with a circle instead of a line. The premise of the exercise is that everyone in the group stands in a line and a moderator reads out various situations. If you self identify as being a part of one of those situations, you step forward and are asked to think about how you feel about being part of the group that "crossed the line" and how you feel to be apart from the rest.

For example, the moderator read "If you identify as LGBTQ, cross the line." I, along with several others crossed the line. For me, in that instance, being apart from the others did not really affect me, nor did being with a group of other people who had also crossed the line, as I see my sexuality as something that just exists and I don't have any problems talking about it.

However, there was one question that made me start to cry because I had crossed the line. The statement was "If you do not know your ethnic heritage, cross the line." I stepped forward, along with many other people. Granted, I know that my heritage is part German and part Welsh, but there are also parts that I don't know...what I'd like to term EuroMutt.

As a white person with an exclusively European heritage, I'm part of millions of people who have little to no knowledge about their ancestry past a few generations ago...we see ourselves as Americans...something that saddens me greatly. I have friends who understand deeply the ethnic groups from which they come and how that has influenced who they are, and I don't have that, and likely never will. Part of my history, and indeed, part of myself was lost at Ellis Island not too many generations ago.


It was cold, rainy, dark, and miserable.  The stadium lights permeated the darkness to shine on a sea of orange shirts, fighting an ancient battle to run a pigskin down a neatly-combed field.  Okay, maybe it really wasn't that miserable.  Maybe it was awesome.

It was the season opener of LSTC's first foray into the University of Chicago's inter-mural flag football league.  In the past, our seminary has traveled far across the country to Gettysburg for their annual Luther Bowl weekend, which is coming up this Saturday; however, the team opted to miss that event this year in order to attend the festivities surrounding President Nieman's inauguration.  I'm not a huge fan of long roadtrips in crowded cars, so I had never witnessed an LSTC football game until Thursday night.  It was really cool to see our students gathered on the sidelines, as players and as fans, together in a communal gathering I hadn't witnessed here before.  It was a ton of fun. Of course, the fact that we won helped, too.

It seems grey hats are an optional part of the uniform.

There are still about 5 games left, all on Thursday nights.  Hopefully, I'll join the team for a few games, if I ever get my nose out of my books and get to the weekly practice session!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Ahhhhh The Memories!

One year ago I attended LSTC's seminary sampler, and today starts this year's fall session of the sampler. For me, it was two days well spent, and I hope this year's attendees find their time well spent also. My journey included visiting three seminaries that are fairly close to home in Madison, WI. While I had my mind made up as to which seminary I was going to attend, life happened; and our family was given dad's diagnosis of Alzheimer's. My sisters and I could finally name all the odd things dad was doing since mom's death 18 months earlier, but we knew we needed to work with dad to keep him safe and independent as long as possible. Seminary was put aside as my sisters and I worked with various agencies, learned how complex the paperwork and waiting periods are and also learned that people of meager financial means have so few options to truly keep their loved one safe.

Working with these organizations, we did find a fantastic place for dad to live, and he is still there. We know that he is cared for, far better than any one of us girls could, so I went ahead and re-visited seminary. By this time I changed how I would 'do school' and pretty much had my mind made up to attend LSTC full time, and go home on the weekends. But I never lived on campus because I got my undergrad while working full time, so I wanted to experience seminary life. So I attended the seminary sampler last fall. From the initial emails from staff, I pretty much had confirmation that attending seminary here was the correct decision. And with every encounter, my “yes” was simply reaffirmed. Whether it was meeting professors, current students, and even potential students, some who are now my classmates, LSTC was the place I was called to be for my seminary studies, and this fantastic journey to become an ordained pastor.

This morning's sermon title was “Learning Obedience”, and I was happy to hear the pastor say that he too has a hard time with the word. Something about the word simply rubs me the wrong way, but this morning I thought of it differently, and realized that last year's seminary sampler was one of the first steps I took in obeying my call from God and saying YES to seminary. Then again, LSTC makes it hard to NOT obey my call from God!

Fall Foliage by Gina Kresic
If anyone is on the fence regarding seminary, if you are thinking ordination, Phd studies, or other Master's level coursework- I cannot recommend highly enough the seminary sampler. Don't worry if you didn't make it to this one, there is another one in March 2013!


Thursday, October 18, 2012

Ministry as Breaking Bubbles

Post-Reading-Week time is an interesting point in the semester.  Theoretically, everyone should be all caught up with reading, assignments, and life in general.  We have had a full week of no additional assignments or class time.  We had a break.  Unfortunately, the hard truth is that this is a world which rarely exists in seminary.  Here’s why: life happens.

It’s always a strange experience breaking out of my school life for an extended period of time.  Even in college I can remember my first time back home.  I went to Southpark Mall where I was amazed at all of the people’s clothing styles, language, and general interests.  I remember thinking, “Are people really like this?”  Readjusting to life outside of school for a week is a bit more challenging for me, as I am suddenly thrust into a world of reality which usually does not cater to the world of theory in which many institutions live.

In light of this reflection, I am really grateful that LSTC gets us, the students, out there from time to time.  I do not stay in Hyde Park every Sunday or Wednesday.  I remember going on several field trips as a part of my ethics curriculum.  I remember going to an immersion experience during orientation week to really make the statement, “This is where we are.  This is real.”

To be sure, I still put myself in a familiar scholastic bubble which gets jostled at every break.  Life is a bit different, but I will get better at breaking my bubbles as I learn more, and do more, ministry. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


So I usually brag being from Wisconsin about Summerfest, largest music festival in America, right in my backyard and LSTC's in the great city of Milwaukee, Chicago's up and coming hip cousin.  Last weekend I was introduced to something equally as great as my longtime tradition of Summerfest, the Austin City Limit's Music Festival (ACL)...oh my goodness! 70,000 people hanging out for three days in a giant park that overlooks downtown Austin, listening to so many greats of so many different genres.  I filled my mornings with bluegrass, banjo's and mandolin's playing at rapid paces, and in the evenings I deafened myself with electric guitars and drums.  I had an amazing time and I didn't really peg the true why until the third day of the festival.
Keep in mind there is a quote by one of my friends that I might majorly screw up, but she was explaining to someone my love of music..."no you dont understand, he is addicted to live music, it's like his crack."  Now that is a little over the top, but not too far off and the reason i say this is because of the layout of my third day.
I woke up Sunday morning, I went to church and preached the sermon (oh yeah I was tired, but Stewardship Sunday waits for no one!!!).  I left immediately and I arrived to the park, able to get front and center for this onslaught of music.  I had a little time before Gary Clark Jr, Austin native who plays the guitar to it's extreme, so much so that I think he might be Hendrix reborn.    After that was a newer group called the Civil Wars, with heart crushing harmonies and stories of love lost.  Then came The Avett Brothers, my whole reason for going to ACL, one of my favorite bands ever and a group that just seems to ignite crowds with their behavior and sing along style of music.  I closed out the night and weekend with the Red Hot Chili Peppers, who I have been listening to for years.  But why does any of this matter?
Jimi...I mean Gary Clark Jr.

The Civil Wars

The Avett Brothers!!!

I realized why I need or am addicted to live music...Gary Clark Jr. plays with a spirit that anyone recognizes as pure passion for music.  He knows his guitar so well that he can sing what he plays, a rare feat in soloing (Jimi Hendrix could do it).  The Civil Wars have a passion in their lyrics that you realize in the way they sing and harmonize, they really synced with the crowd.  The Avett's have an energy that I have never seen matched.  The way they sing and scream, run around and play with a ferocity that is unmatched, but can slow it down and sing a ballad that brings tears to the eyes.  That kind of raw power can only be created by a few.  Lastly, the longevity of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, knowing their ups and downs and all they survived over the years, and how they have adapted over the years.  They have found their niche and they cant imagine doing anything else.
Live music creates a family that seems to understand each other.  Especially at the front, the theme is that the people we are about to see play music that understands me, excites me, empowers me, and for some including me, got me through the hardest parts of life.  I have seen joy and pain in concerts, people laughing and some crying, others smiling while others look deep in thought.  This weekend was worship; a community living together, breaking bread together, caring for each other, standing in the rain together, standing in the sun together, and singing loudly, always looking out for one another.  We became something more together than apart, the same calling that has pushed me to seminary and kept me in the church all these years.

Friday, October 12, 2012

I say "egg" funny

Hello, all!  My name is Janelle and starting today(!) I’ll be joining the LSTC blogging crew.  To get us rollin’ let me fill you in on a few tidbits of my story.

I’m a first-year (junior) student in the M.Div. program here at LSTC.  While downtown Chicago is at my fingertips now, I never in my wildest dreams imagined that I would be living here for any reason, much less to attend seminary!

Born and raised in the Metro-DC suburbs of Maryland, I am the only girl and the youngest of the four Neubauer children.  My brothers and I, we’re pastors’ kids.  Like my grandfather before, both my mom and dad attended Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg, serving as pastors in the Lutheran Church.  Needless to say, we made for a fine bunch of acolytes when our parents were in a pinch. 

While the church was like our second home, each of us children was on a life trajectory far different from our parents, or so it seemed.  We were all taken aback when one of my brothers (who studied Geology and Environmental Science) discerned a call to ordained ministry.  Like our parents and grandfather, he too graduated from LTSG.  ……..Whelp, I’ll spare you the details of my call story and discernment process (I’m positive chunks of it will appear in future posts!) but turns out that ten years after my brother, it was my turn to share my thoughts with the family; and here I am.

Yes, here I am.  I find myself at peace in this place, gently walking (well, sometimes rigorously trotting) alongside classmates as we begin our journeys toward ordination.  Still, I wrestle every day with questions.  I feel so called to this ministry, but where exactly am I going from here, O Lord?  I guess I didn’t catch on from before when I had no clue that Chicago was in my future…

For now, I am trying to focus on the astounding things I am learning on a daily basis about my church, my faith, my community, and myself: My church cares about being an intentional and inclusive place of worship; my faith calmly rests in the tension between thanksgiving and beseeching; and my community is committed to engaging in faithful dialogue surrounding many modern day issues.  Some really. amazing. stuff. is going on around here.

And what have I learned about myself?  Well, a lot!  But to prove seminary isn't only about deep personal thoughts and realizations, I've learned that (according to classmates from Texas, the Carolinas, and even Illonois)...
...I say “egg” funny.  Who knew!?


Making a Joyful Noise!

Your friendly neighborhood Gypsy Seminarian and company..Thanks to Jan Boden for this picture!
Once upon a time there was mass chaos in a community. Everyone raised their voices in a cacophony of mixed rhythm of noise and cymbals trying to gather together and breathe in one beautiful note but they all had their own method; no one would open their hearts to be communal with the other. Then a little light voice piped up over the sea of notes and chimed "HEY".....

Okay, so perhaps that's not how it happened mind you but I have to confess that before Seminary I was quite introverted. And now? I still am.

Last year, our Seminary was reaching out for prayers and for the Holy Spirit as they continued to strive to a holistic balance for our entire community. This meant that many of our independent Centers had to ponder new ways of doing ministry and for our newest named Pete Pero Multicultural Center that meant perhaps it would be left on the shores, lost among the shadows of the evening. 

On a Thursday evening late last Fall Semester the Students of Color met to brainstorm the how and why about the Center. In the midst of this kicking the soccer ball session I saw an opening and offered "Hey, why not a benefit concert? Works for everyone else." Great! the group approved and I was pleased knowing someone who would slam the idea into the goal except..

"Hey Kwame, would you mind heading this up since this is your idea?"


Seminary has unfurled before me as a place to explore my ministry, vocation and my call. Seminary has been a safe haven for introverts as I for the opportunity to actually get involved and feel a sense of accomplishment. Even with the struggles and frustrations as with any ministry, the church is not dead. As the realization dawned over me this week that taking a fundraising idea from start to finish is just as doing a Stewardship drive at a church. That seeing a project through is just as if one was starting a new ministry or revitalizing one long ago forgotten. Being immersed in projects and activities is the practical side which gives us a smooth balance to the academic. Learning also how to delegate, promote and organizing is also too, tools that we need as aspiring pastors and leaders of the church. Learning how to kick the doors open and allow the Holy Spirit to rush in, to flood in, to take a seat and challenge those safe places in our box is an awesome rush.

Musicians collaborating as the Spirit moves them. Picture by R.Pitts

Haunting songs of praise and of direction by our Gospel Choir. Picture by R. Pitts

The Creator hears us in many different forms; we are all His children. Picture by R.Pitts

I would be lying if I didn't say I am thankful that this Concert for the Center has drawn to a close. But I am more thankful because of the impact and the visibility the Center now has and how much people were touched by the music, multicultural. I am thankful for my fellow students who marched in those worn, kicked open doors and made a joyful noise about how important this place was to us. 

Now, for a well deserved nap.

Or perhaps plotting and planning for something new.

Lape Bondye, God's Peace.

Thursday, October 11, 2012


Our latest topic in MIC class is the Myers-Briggs personality types and how they affect our pastoral ministry.  After an hour, I felt like we had a pretty good grip on which individual personality traits might affect which behaviors.  In one sense, humanity and all of its intricacies in relationships seemed predictable.  That notion, however, was shattered before the end of class.  My class had done a particularly good job of falling into a major pitfall when it comes to these sorts of tests: labeling each other and pigeonholing each other into roles we were not comfortable in or had never experienced before. 

Looks like we weren’t as predictable as we thought.

It can be kind of nice and disconcerting for someone to tell you who you are.  I always find personality tests interesting because they can help me put my finger on some parts of my personality that I had a hard time understanding.  This past summer at CPE, however, my supervisor’s supervisor was sitting with the five of us and proceeded to go around the room pointing at each of us and saying, “You’re an extrovert” or “You’re an introvert.”   I wasn’t expecting his label to bother me, but when he said I was an introvert, I had a pushback.  How do you think I am an introvert? Do you not know me?

I find comfort in the fact that, no matter whether someone points at you or whatever totals you might score on a test might say, we are more.  It’s not necessarily that we are totally different (I do have an introverted side, after all, not too distant from my extroverted side) but that we are more.  We are more than a piece of paper.  We are more than a pointed finger.  How cool is that?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

A Vision of Reconciliation

When a person is a candidate for ordination, like myself, one becomes pretty familiar with document called Vision and Expectations.  All ordained leaders and candidates for ordination are expected to uphold this document and the expectations laid within it.

This is an important document, one that any of us who follow it doesn't take lightly.  A pastor in the ELCA commits at ordination to live a life above reproach.  Vision and Expectations helps to inform what living beyond reproach would look like.  In seminary, we start living into those expectations now.  One expectation is to live, teach, and preach in accordance with the confessions of the church.  Another expectation is to pray for the church.  Yet another expectation is for single leaders to live a chaste life and for married and partnered couples to remain faithful for one another.  As you can imagine, upholding these expectations can provide different challenges to different people.

Another expectation is to practice reconciliation in all of my relationships, including family.  While that seems easy enough in an abstract way, I actually find this expectation the most challenging and work the hardest to uphold.  I come from an extended family that has a habit of keeping secrets to avoid conflict.  This is not always conducive for reconciliation.  There are many members of my extended family who do not speak to one another.  Family systems are not easy and changing family dynamics is even harder.  While there are many fractures in my family that have proven to be healthy fractures, I as a pastoral leader need to develop the ability to discern when the best means of reconciliation is parting ways and the times when it is better to reconnect.  I also need to learn how to part ways in a way that truly is a form of reconciliation. 

Fractures in relationships, good intentions gone awry, and family secrets are an inevitable part of our human experience, whether that family is a blood relative or the family is a church community.  Reconciliation is not always easy, and there will be times when we stumble.  But it is then we remember the expectation to stand true to our church confessions; confessions that tell us in Christ we are forgiven when we stumble in striving to live a life beyond reproach.  In that confession, I know I am reminded that I am supported and loved, strengthening me to get back up and try again. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

A Lesson in Micah 6

Logo for an amazing ministry in Austin
"He has told you , O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord Require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? -Micah 6:8"
Some of my favorite words in the Bible, one of my favorite camp songs, and now the tag line of a new ministry that I am working with here in Austin named Micah 6.  
"The mission of Micah 6 of Austin is to work together to identify and meet the needs of the homeless and the impoverished in the University of Texas campus area."
One service that they have started more recently and I was able to experience is a youth drop in center...
"The center is staffed by several hosts each Sunday, and it offers a safe, comfortable place for homeless youth in Austin to use computers connected with the Internet, visit with each other, play games or engage in arts & crafts, relax and lounge on nice furniture, use the rest rooms, get plenty of ice water & iced tea, get some snacks, and eat a tasty and nutritious early supper."
 Micah 6 is something that my church works with and is one of it's members that gives money and helps out with all of it's different services.  The youth drop in was my first chance to interact with the group and I found myself quite pleased with the results.  Some of the young adults put together a meal for the "nutritious early supper" part.  We made Sloppy Joes, Caesar salad, mashed potatoes, and fruit salad, with desert being some delicious homemade (from a box) brownies with a scoop of ice cream.  Everyone brought something, and some who couldn't just dropped off their part. 

When we got to the center, we were greeted by the volunteers that supervise from 2-6 and they pointed us to the kitchen.  We set up shop and started heating our food back up and cooking our brownies.  We were told to glove up and get ready after a vigorous hand-washing (health codes).  We all served what we brought, so I was ready to serve up all kinds of fruit cups, which meant I wasn't the most popular person in our assembly line of goods.  In my constant state of rejection, with little to do, I was promoted to brownie cutter! Almost everyone wanted a brownie and I was a success story overnight.  After a quick run of plates, we set to cleaning up and even quicker than that we were on our way. 

What was a flash in my story line for the week, was some of my best time spent and as I walked out I was impacted by what I saw.  Backpacks bigger than what I used to hike the Inca Trail and faces so young with a weariness I have only seen in hospice.  Yet these kids are very much alive and have no place to call their own.  This safe place is a four hour respite from something much bigger going on.  They are a commentary of the left behind, but at the same time they show us what the human race is capable of handling.  I left last Sunday thinking I could do more, because they could do more.  I'll be back at Micah 6 sooner than later, and I can guarantee that, but I also hope to find some more places to volunteer my time and efforts. 

Like most ministry opportunities I feel like I received more than I gave.

Columbus Day? No thanks.

Sad, isn't it?

So, I'm not gonna lie.  I used to celebrate Columbus Day, mostly with the joy of being off from school, but thinking about the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria, and how in Fourteen Hundred Ninety Two Columbus Sailed The Ocean Blue.

The reason I was so excited about this day was in part because I lived in Columbus for 4 years during my undergrad.  Also...I was excited because that is what society told me I should be...Excited that Columbus came to America because without him, I wouldn't be here.

Then seminary came along, and I befriended Vance Blackfox, who happens to be Cherokee.  Columbus Day quickly became pretty much the opposite of what I had always celebrated, as I was faced with the realization that I was celebrating my being in America at the expense of so many Native people who were pushed from their homes into the most uninhabitable parts of the country, or just flat out killed.  I had to face the realization that my ancestors gave blankets infected with horrible diseases to Native people as an act of charity...or really, genocide.

I can't make excuses for my ancestors...because there are none to be made.  What white people did in the name of manifest destiny and exploring the new world is inexcusable, and the world is at a loss because of our actions.  We eliminated a diversely rich cultural identity because we thought they were savages, and a threat to humanity.  We didn't stop to see that we were threatening their humanity, and our murder of Native people made us savages.  We didn't stop to see the beauty and wealth of knowledge that Native people possessed because we were afraid.

Thanks Vance, and all the other people who have taught me so much about Native peoples and white privilege, which kept me from seeing what I was 'celebrating' for so long was at the expense of entire civilizations of people...and my best friends.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Ready- Set- GO!

Faith is daring the soul to go 
beyond what the eyes can see.
Reading Week, Here We Come!!

And here are the books I could realistically take home with me to Madison and read during the next few days.  Alas, my backpack will not hold all of them, and truly, how will I get them back to the apartment via public transportation! 

A picture of a pile of books isn't very unique is it? When I decided to include the picture with this week's post, I hesitated. But this journey I am on has been traveled by others. Praise God for that! Thankfully I am walking in the path of many pastors who also listened to God's call; some who quit a comfortable career, a comfortable life and commuted to seminary. I am blessed to learn from those who went before me and all current classmates, whom I share daily joys and concerns with.

A friend gave me the plaque which I have sitting on top of the bookpile. It normally sits on my bookshelf, and I see it each morning when I wake up. When I miss my family and the comfortable life I had in Madison, I am reminded of all the fantastic support which gets me through each day of classes and each hour of studying. Support which I cannot see with my eyes, but support which comforts me and strengthens me.

Faith and unseen support have carried me through the first four weeks of classes and to Reading Week. A week I look forward to because I can spend more than 48 hours with my husband, and I can get caught up on reading/ papers/ classes and start working on CPE paperwork.  Oh, and maybe I can start working ahead on my classes, those final papers and upcoming tests.  Classmates, what do you think?   Former seminarians, what do you think?

Faith: Faith is daring the soul to go beyond what the eyes can see.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

A Howling Chorus of Canine Hymnody

It's time for that annual blog post about LSTC's annual Pet Blessing!

But first...

One of the things I love about LSTC (and Chicago in general) is how welcome pets are in the community.  I'd estimate that over half of the student population has a pet of some kind, be it a dog, cat, rat, fish, or one of those leafy green ones that sits in a pot all day.  When walking between the school and our apartment, it's pretty much a given that we'll cross paths with someone we know, and it's almost as likely that we'll see a fellow classmate walking her or his dog.  My wife, Andrea, and I had wanted a dog since the day we got married, and LSTC was the first place we lived that allowed pets.  So, naturally we got our scruffy little mutt the day before classes started my Junior year.  Rufus has definitely brightened up our lives, and though it seems silly, he really is a part of the family.

When we heard that LSTC commemorates St. Francis of Assisi's day with an animal blessing, we were so excited.  Our home church in Fort Wayne does this, and we were a little disappointed that we'd be missing it when we finally had a pet of our own, and so this service was yet another way that life at LSTC began to feel more like home for us.  At this year's service, which happened this past Thursday, we had plenty of dogs and one fish.  Dr. Adam preached theologically and historically on our connection to animals and God as our canine companions barked the occasional "Amen!" The animals all came forward, then, to receive prayers of blessing, that they may live joyfully with the humans who are blessed by their companionship.

Aside from the novelty of being able to bring your pet to church, aside from the hilarity that ensues when dogs prefer to socialize instead of listen to the sermon, and aside from the barking, howling, and yowling that pets add to the community's music, there's good reason for marking this occasion at least once a year.

 The good reason is clearly bow-ties.

Sure, St. Francis isn't the only saint associated with animals, but choosing his day of commemoration to celebrate his love of God's creation is a legacy that can speak to some of God's people in their contexts.  We bless homes, relationships, creation, vocations, food, shawls, and even backpacks.  It makes sense, then, that we bless the non-human companions who are a life giving part of our families.  There is, of course, a whole lot of theological and liturgical conversation that can spring from this kind of service.  But, we're at a seminary, and we love any occasion that gives such opportunity for lively debates.  Rufus and I look forward to it every year, and every year I look forward to talking about the liturgical theology of it with my classmates and professors afterward.  It's one of the many reasons I love being in this seminary community.

Friday, October 5, 2012

The Power to Say No: A Journey

I'm surprised I haven't found this plasted across my Treehouse Door..

A number of weeks ago, the middlers, super middlers and the interiddlers gathered in the spacious, sprawling Common Room on the third floor during our free time (which is commonly known as lunch time) for the wonderful presentation by our Field Ed folks on "Brace Yourself (blank) is getting Real" or what is more known as Internship Orientation. They attempt to make this as cheerful as possible, with colorful paper smiling up at us loaded with tons of information.

Dr. Baeder was in the midst of answering question when the subject of what a typical (insert laughter here) week within the parish/congregation might look like. This translated into a 55 hour work week of fun. I swiveled around in my chair to high five my other awesome interiddler gal and we silently nodded "We got this." However the tension in the room increased almost in waves upon hearing these words and from the back of the room, someone pipped up "55 hours? The students need to organize and unionize! That's ridiculous."

Before the snarky (term of endearment)  part of me (sung to the tune of Katy Perry's 'Best Part of Me') surfaced thanks to a year in my fabulous MIC congregation(no worries, I love them all to pieces), I had to pause for a moment: although longer days and prayerful nights were going to be the norm in all of our vocational lives, we still needed to practice self-care which does not come easy. As pastors and depending on the situation, we literally could be doing many things for the betterment of our parishes and our congregational members. We may end up taking care of things that perhaps we had not thought of; we may be snatching the reins of life because we are perfectionists and if its going to get accomplished, we want it done correctly.

And that brings me to the present, because recently a number of my friends have pulled a "NO" intervention on me. I am seriously guilty of getting involved in any and everything because, well I blame it on my genes (and my mother would agree wholeheartedly). Projects, benefit concerts, problems, organizing people, running meetings, high liturgical circus fun...yes every time these are presented my mind begins reeling about how we can get these things perfectly finished and polished. I can not say no. Is it the fact that I am so enthused about being in Seminary and involved in ministry that I do flying leaps over this journey, racing towards a horizon that is beautifully blinded by the fragility of sunrise?

Then again, the Creator raised His hands to the darkness of the beginning of time and with a deliberate and slow tempo created a thing of wonder and a joy to behold and praise forever and ever. There are moments when He tugs at my hand and sits me down to show me corners of this, Mother Earth and whispers for me to stand still and behold. 

So I am practicing this, saying no and speaking life into what I can do with joy and a resounding "Yes". I am practicing surfing on waves that can carrying me safely onto shores filled with seashells, curled and hidden in the waters of Baptism. 

It is going to be very hard, however to let go of control and just breathe.

Lape Bondye, God's Peace.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Support in the Process

Just a little while ago I left a Hebrew study group feeling a bit....frustrated.  I will leave it to the readers discretion to know whether "frustrated" is the right word to describe feeling so overwhelmed that I was moved to tears and wondering if this class will be the one that ends my seminary education and candidacy process. 

Language has never been my thing.  In undergraduate, it took four attempts and a very generous extra credit project to fulfill my language requirement.  The exhaustion and sense of overwhelming I have about language followed me to Greek last year.  I remember thinking my second semester that I felt so much at home and joyful about my education.  In hindsight, I realize now that the joy probably came from being out of my first semester when I was pounding Greek flashcards every night.

So this evening, feeling "frustrated", I came home and do something I always do when I'm upset - I cleaned.  I did my dishes, changed my cat's litter for the second time today, emptied my fridge and scrubbed my bathroom sink.  There is something about the work of cleaning that gives me space to think, and quite frankly, calm down.

As I was scrubbing away, I gained a little perspective.  Yes, today was another challenging day in the world of vocab learning.  But that's not all today was.  Today I read a lovely blog written by my dear friend.  Today I was the assisting minister in chapel where my biggest mistake was dropping a microphone (I count that as success!).  Today I had lunch with three friends and had spare time to squeeze in a nap.  By all accounts, it was a really good day.  

Most importantly, when I was feeling overwhelmed in my study group, thinking that Hebrew was my ultimate nemesis, I had three friends there reaffirming me.  Supporting me.  Not thinking it was at all bizarre that I was feeling pressure.  Upholding me in Christian love when that pressure seemed like too much to bear and brought me to tears. 

It can be easy to lose perspective when you are trying so hard to learn something and it isn't going as well as you'd like.  It is in those moments not to lose sight of the forest for the tree, and even when you do, know that the people who love you will support you in the process. 

Monday, October 1, 2012

Park(ing) Day Eucharist

Note: So, this happened on Sept. 21 and I'm just now getting around to writing about it, many apologies for people who were curious about it.  
Free Jesus in a parking space!    ||    Photo courtesy of Rick Strandlof

Every September 21, an event takes place simultaneously around the world, throwing pedestrians off, and confusing drivers everywhere.  This day is called Park(ing) Day and is a moment to recognize and reframe what public land looks like.  Since parking meters are technically public property, the organization says, then anyone should be able to meter out a space and do what they want there, not just park cars.  The initiative started with turning a parking space into a public park (complete with sod and park benches) and has grown to metering out spaces and doing all sorts of things in them, to raise awareness for...well...anything.

One of my parishioners, Rick, found out about this and said "lets do a Eucharist in a parking space!"  Naturally, we said yes.  So, I was in charge of getting all the supplies from church and hauling them around to 3 different parking spaces in downtown Denver throughout the day.  Each spot, we fed the meter (one of them was only $.20/hour!) and set up an altar, a prayer station, and gathered with HFASS people and some passersby and celebrated the Eucharist.  "Free Jesus (for all sinners and saints)" got some looks, and some questions, and some ignoring, but all in all it was a really great experience and opened some conversation about what church can and could look like.

Pastor Nadia posted about this on her blog in about 4 sentences and it sparked a ton of debate.  One of the critics said that the Eucharist should only be celebrated where there is a community of baptized believers, and should be done reverently instead of in a parking space.  We at House have no membership, and what that means to us is that whoever the Spirit brings to worship is the Church, regardless if it is in our worship space or in a parking spot.  We also practice radical Eucharistic hospitality at House meaning that everyone, without exception, is invited to have the body and blood of Christ.

Ultimately the rules we have around something that is not rightfully ours to make rules about are about preserving 'us' and keeping out 'them' when we should be called to embrace the 'we' as the body of Christ.  And...you know...HFASS tries to show people that Church doesn't always have to be something so inaccessible, that's why we bring it to the streets in a parking space.