Sunday, September 1, 2013

Orientation is done and now on to classes!

Last week was filled with reunion of classmates and a time to meet new (to me) students.  I find that my campus living/ commuter status puts me in a unique position because I relate to so many more students.  And that works great for me because I love to meet people, learn about them and witness how God has worked through them.  I continue to be amazed and reminded that God is so much bigger than any of us can imagine, and that was made abundantly clear when I looked around the room of students and faculty during orientation week.  The student population alone consists of male/female, white/ black, gay/straight, old/young and pipeliners/second career students which is just a smattering of the groups represented at LSTC.  And for that I am grateful to be a part of this student body, because it is representative of the fact that God works in so many ways, and is also a fantastic reminder of the fact that God is always present.

This image provides a much need smile as I complete my endorsement essay.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

End of CPE

Getting a Tour of Mayo's Heli-Pad
Twelve weeks goes by so fast, and my summer in Rochester MN at Mayo Clinic and Hospital is done; I am moved home and get to spend a couple weeks at home before I head back to campus and begin my second year of studies.

  CPE, Clinical Pastoral Education, was quite an experience, particularly in the vast organization called Mayo Clinic & Hospitals.  We had extensive orientation and numerous didactics.  Near the end of our time, we were able to tour the heli-pad, which was an amazing experience.

  Our group was diverse in denomination, age, and marital status.  Since we had diversity within our group, we gathered a couple times and did the totally geek seminarian thing- we talked theology!  We gathered at Newt's North, and had some great discussions!
2013 Summer Interns - Theologizing

CPE, chaplaincy in a hospital, pastoral care; what is it?  What did I learn?  If a person welcomed me into their room as the chaplain, I truly felt we were on holy ground.  I don't say that lightly because I have taken a few years to accept and use the word holy, and I truly believe that God is present in all aspects of our lives.  When a patient welcomes me into their room, shares their vulnerability with me, and sometimes their raw emotions with me how can I feel anything but humbled?  How can I feel anything but a knowledge of God's presence in the place?  Holy Ground because of what is being shared in the presence of God.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Mid-Unit; Mid-Summer; 4th of July

This week in CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education), we present our mid-unit progress.  We share with the group where we are at on each of our goals, and we evaluate our peers and our supervisor.  We really start looking at group systems which helps us when we encounter the inevitable church council and ministry teams.  How do people work together, what role does each person take on, consciously or unconsciously.

Mid-summer- already?!?!?  One of my last summers since next year I will be heading to or already on internship.  I continue to be astounded at how quickly this has all gone.  Even though I ignored God's nudges for the last 10+ years, now that I am in the midst of doing what God wants me to do, a part of me wants it to simply slow down.  And the reality is, this summer I am able to do that.  Where I am staying in Rochester, I have the privilege to stay in a home.  Yes, a true home where I am cared for, served, and am part of the family.  And because of this, I am able to take a chance and slow down.  Yesterday I did some baking, a cheesecake and two batches of scones.  Later this week I am getting a massage, and each week I am able to take time to simply be.  Be present with God, in the midst of God's beauty.  And Scott comes to see me so that we keep in touch via SKYPE, but also I am 'relieved' of the driving headache this summer while he drives from Madison and we spend a mini-vacation in a hotel, catch up, tour Rochester, and spend time with friends.

Fourth of July- fireworks oh my!  Unfortunately this year I will  not be able to be part of the Columbus WI fireworks crew since I am in Rochester, and I will be oncall on Friday night.  I will hit at least one fireworks show while in Rochester, so I will sort of get my pyro fix attended to.

Last week I preached on Galatians 3:23-29.  In a couple weeks I am preaching on the Good Samaritan.  I am thinking I will start off with a story of Fr. Damien who worked in Hawaii with people who were quarantined
One of the churches built by Fr. Damien on the island of Molokai 

because of Hansen's Disease.  I am still working on the art of tying a particular text to people who are in the hospital and making it relevant.  What a true privilege it is to speak to people about the Good News we have in the Gospel, and what a greater privilege it is to walk with people as they journey through life, living out the Gospel.

Sunday, June 9, 2013


As I've been living in various places I find myself questioning, "Where is home?"  When I moved items into my Chicago apartment, I ensured Scott, ok- maybe myself- that home is always in Madison, with Scott.  Yet, when I talk to classmates about where I am going after class, I find myself blathering out a long explanation about going to 'the apartment.' 

Do these pithy quotes define what is 'home'; "Home is where your heart is." and, "Home is where you rest your head."  What about the fact that Jesus was constantly on the move during his 3 years of teaching, preaching and making disciples? What do I say now that I essentially have 3 places where I can rest my head during the summer; an apartment in Chicago, the lower level of a house in Rochester MN and my home in Madison WI.  First off is the fact that I am unbelievably fortunate to have so many places to rest my head.  Second is the fact that each place has it's own personality, and honestly each place surprisingly serves me in a way which I need to be served.  Served, cared for and loved.  I believe I have just answered my own question.  Each place is home because each I am cared for and loved at each one.

Second week of CPE, (Clinical pastoral education) is going very well.  I have started clinicals, and am working on goals along with this week's reflection paper.  I have to say, my peers do make us into an outstanding group of students.  We quickly got over the first two days of shyness and quietness.  We now laugh easily, and most importantly laugh at ourselves.  I truly believe we will continue to be a cohesive group and will continue to learn from each other and grow as people.

Monday, May 27, 2013

A New Chapter Begins

My first year of seminary is complete.  My husband and I survived the separation and I survived the commute.  Tomorrow I head to Rochester MN to begin my next seminary chapter, CPE at Mayo Clinic and Hospitals.  A summer of intense self reflection while I review, ok, re-write, my endorsement essay and work in a chaplaincy setting of a major hospital.  As I look to this new chapter, I know that we will have additional chapters throughout this seminary process, yet I also know that we are being carried through this process by God's grace and the fantastic support of friends and family.  What is even more awesome during this entire process, is the new friends we make, some who will become lifelong friends, spanning the country.

Campus I'm sure is quite desolate compared to the flurry of activities during the academic year, but fortunately FB and Twitter allow us to keep in touch throughout the summer.  And off to CPE.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Gospel on God's Terms

I am from Cleveland, Ohio, and I am a westsider.  Even though I am now living in Chicago attending seminary and am packing up my apartment to spend the next year on internship in St. Louis, Cleveland is my home.

I love Cleveland.  I love that it is filled with salt-of-the-earth people who work hard at jobs they less than love so they can put food on the table.  I love that our world renowned art museum is free.  I love that we are a city that has the one of the best heart hospitals in the world, and that we can turn something like our river catching on fire as a reason to name a Great Lakes Brewery beer.  It doesn't matter that we have been hurt time and time again by our sports teams, we always have hope that this year, this season, this time will be the year. 

I love Cleveland so very much, and my heart is breaking for it right now in grief as we learn that in our neighborhood on the west side of town, three women were held hostage in a basement for ten years.

I have been invited to preach at my home congregation this weekend, a date that has been booked for months.  I love going home to preach, but I must admit I am very intimidated about climbing into the pulpit this week.  There is no question in my mind that at least one person between the three services this weekend will know a family member of one of those women, if not the women themselves.  The Holy Spirit has been gnawing at me all week, leading me to preach the sermon that was not planned instead of the one that was. 

The blessings about home churches is that they love and nurture their seminarians.  They can love us to a fault.  No one in my congregation would bat an eye if I preached the sermon I had written, the one about mothers and baptismal vocations.  They would forgive me for overlooking the elephant in the room.  They would forgive me for preaching the easy way out.

But that is not what I as a leader of the church am called to do.  I can feel the Spirit leading me down a road that hopefully will bring the right message to the right people in the right time.  This is why we preach - to bring the Gospel of Christ to the God's people when they need it most.  God does not ask us to preach the easy sermon.  God calls us to be faithful to the Gospel on God's terms, not ours.

So today I pray.  I humble myself before the wisdom of the One who shelters people in all their joys and sorrows.  And I trust that where in my humanity I fall short, the grace of Christ will ring loud and strong. 

Monday, May 6, 2013

An Experience of God

A couple weeks ago we had our spring Intern Cluster Retreat for all the interns in Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, and one from South Dakota.  We spent the day talking about staying renewed and refreshed in ministry (scintillating, I know).

One of the sessions we had was about when this year we've been able to think about God in a new way.  And, as we were going around the circle, one person stopped the conversation and took it in a different direction.

"I'm less interested in thinking about God in a new way and more interested in experiencing God in new ways."

That got me thinking...about thinking.

After all, we spend so much time in seminary thinking about God that I wonder how much we miss out on experiencing God fully.  Or making note of new experiences of God.  Or considering how people we preach to and people we pastor to are experiencing God.

some people experience God in candles and such
I'm part of a generational shift in which experience is a legitimate and celebrated form of knowing.  I have experienced Grace to be true in my life.  I have experienced the love of God when I couldn't love myself.  I've experienced the work of God when I can't bring myself to hate people I liked to hate a lot.

All of these experiences, plus all the others I have on a daily basis, lead me to know God.  And of course I can think about those experiences, but thinking about them doesn't make them more or less true to me.  I think the primary way in which we can know God, in a postmodern context, is through experiencing God in all ways...ways as old as the table of bread and wine to ways as new as Facebook pastoral care.

How have you experienced God lately?

Friday, May 3, 2013

When Shall We Three Meet Again?

Time slips through the slender creases cradled in our hands and yet is an ever present companion

When shall we three meet again?
In thunder, lightning, or in rain?
When the hurlyburly's done, 
When the battle's lost and won.
That will be ere the set of sun.
Where the place?
Upon the heath....

Where shall we meet?

The semester is now racing through the closeness of the trees as the 
sun softly crawls and spills onto the horizon; as I fill my calendar with
deadlines for my own sanity offinishing strong and satisfied my world has
begun its transformation.

Our community here is a transformative and transitionary one; we spend 
two or three years soaking up the warmth of knowledge and stand in pools of
questions that trickle off o four feet, leaving an outline of dwelling among our
footsteps as we walk away,presumably to dry off. We attend Chapel and
gallantly observe as the names are breathed forth of those leaving our 
community; we hug one another and remark-"Next year, in front of the font." 
Now, that next year has arrived, and the realization that there are people I 
will never see again.

My biological class, as I am fond of saying, the class of 2014 will be returning
this summer as we, my adoptive Class of 2015 will be embarking towards the 
islands of Internship..and our paths may not cross. I won't have time to chat,
catch up, reconnect with them. And  yet, there is a difference. Our energized
class of 2016 will take their bow onto the stage and leap into the audience 
as the path to internship widens and beckons them forth-and I may miss their 
performance. And yet there will be a difference.

There is something that shifts in the atmosphere as one shifts away from the 
harmonious LSTC community: the realization that this, our vocation and what 
Our Creator has called us towards is concrete. Our souls sync up with others 
whose experiences reflect with our own; our bond reaches out and is as tangled
as stout ivy that covers and blankets statues and figures that belong to time

There will be Synod Assemblies, First Call Pastor Conferences and Clusters, 
Churchwide Assembly gatherings and the magic of  Skype. We shall meet once
more but this time our feathers and our costumes will be slightly brighter. 
We shall recognize each otherbut the transformative blessings of the Triune 
God will encompass our very beings and we shall view one another in a
different light.

This shimmering pool of water speaks to me even now, as I have conversations
with dear friends of mine from the class of 2012, who joyfully come and visit 
these hallowed halls  which reflect back to them as an oasis. They now stand 
as my cloud of witnesses,to the indescribable joy and challenges of being among 
the ordained. 

This year was our turn among those gathered at Chapel; the Book of Life or 
rather our awesome Field Ed's binder was opened and we were called forth to 
boldly proclaim and to ask God to help and guide us. We traveled through the 
font as the waters of baptism were playfully splashed about; our conversations
as we passed  the peace turned to"So have you heard from your Intern
supervisor?"or"Where are you going to be staying?";"My intern congregation..." ,
"There are a couple of LSTC alum who are serving in the area and.."

Where shall we meet? Joyfully out in God's Creation where we serve, and 
continue to be nourished through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Thanks Be To God.

Lape Bondye, God's Peace.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Loving the world madly, like God does.

Last night I had the opportunity to be a part of Colorado and national history. The Colorado legislature passed a civil unions bill last month which included civil unions for LGBT people and their partners. I had the honor of attending the bill signing earlier and last night, at midnight on May 1 the law went into effect. To help celebrate, clergy from all different denominations and faith traditions were asked to be on hand to sign civil union licenses along with plenty of magistrates (if people didn't want a religious service). Nadia was asked to be one of the officiating clergy, and in true HFASS style, we had liturgy booklets ready with a liturgy for blessing civil unions, hymns for couples to sing if they wanted, and 20 or so members of the community ready to surround the newly unioned couple with love, support, and prayers.

There, of course, were some glitches in the system, like one couple had the wrong names on their license and had to go back and get a new one. But, perhaps the biggest glitch was that they did not have regular coffee for the event, only decaf. That meant at 1am I got to run to the 24 hour diner 7 blocks away so we all could stay awake for the whole thing. (These are the very glamorous and exciting parts of internship)

Angela and Michelle
3 HFASS couples got their union licenses last night. One couple, Angela and Michelle, met at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago 7 years ago, and are planning a ceremony for August but told me that they couldn't imagine not being part of such a historic and momentous event. After Nadia signed their license, all 20 of us belted out Blessed Assurance at the top of our lungs in the middle of the municipal building. I cannot imagine a more fitting song for these two as we blessed their lives together.

It was quite an incredible night, and a huge honor to see the faces of 260 people getting unioned, and getting to be part of blessing some of those unions in the presence of God and an awesome church that shows up in the middle of the night to sing, bless, and love people madly, like God does.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Ordering Our Steps

Just so we are clear

The day after Easter Sunday there was a post on Facebook celebrating the fact that "Easter was over" so now it was time to get back to "normal things." 

But I digress.

At least as far as normal life returning is the scattering and the struggle of Spring breaking through its shyness on life's stage, so that Winter doesn't hog it all. Spring is about rebirth and renewal, allowing your heart and spirit to shine each and every brand new morning. Perhaps even time to shed the grayness and the shadows and stepping out into the beauty of Creation.

Whispering in the background is "sabbatical or self" care; I decided to do something that I do on occasion and with celebrating Spring, I bought myself something cute. These wedges apparently are all the rage; walking in them down rain soaked streets was slightly difficult placing my very being in an awkward position until a rhythm is established. It placed me outside of my comfort zone, which in a nutshell carries my paths in this: 

Worn, reliable and steady these have carried me happily connecting with Creation; digging me within the good, deep Earth and allowing my being to always being immersed in Baptism, comforted by the familiar.

Yet what has changed? Regardless of where our steps or how they are wrapped, The Holy  Spirit surrounds us, energizing our souls and empowering in the ways that The Creator has lovingly and continues to guide us where God wishes us to be, even if we stumble and struggle finally into a rhythm where we stride through flowing, tall grasses graceful as if to say, "I am a Child of God."

This past Monday afternoon, we gathered with our hearts bare and yet open to what our reaction would be as the stone rolled away and we were faced with the vision of the empty tomb in the form of Internship Assignment envelopes. Would we dance and weep at the sight, too overjoyed for words or would we run away, confused and chaotic? 

As the water flowed from the font in Augustana Chapel even in its noisiness we were reminded that regardless of where we were being sent on Internship this summer, God goes before us and the Risen Christ remains with us on this journey.

We are placing our feet into new shoes, where sometimes our feet have to get used to how it feels or how weirdly we may carry ourselves...until we are assured and proudly, march on.

Lape Bondye, God's Peace.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Soon and Very Soon

One of the things no one mentions before starting seminary is that once you've been in countless hours of classes, chapel services, and congregational visits, the soundtrack to your life starts to sound a lot like a collection of hymns.

Or maybe that's just me.  A few weeks ago when uncertainty was filling my thoughts, my soundtrack-for-the-day song was "You Are Mine."  On a day when I was contemplative about the journey, the track was "I Want Jesus to Walk with Me."  And now, a mere 72 hours away from my internship assignment, my the track that is on repeat is, "Soon and Very Soon."

The process of preparing for internship is filled with excitement, nervousness, and a bit of uncertainty.  Last fall when I was at my endorsement panel (one of several steps as a candidate for ordination) I remember talking to clergy from my home synod, brainstorming about what type of sites may be the perfect blend of nurture and challenge.  It seemed so surreal at the time, almost as if the day would never come.  Now, it is merely a breath away.

I am starting to realize the complexity that comes with embracing the internal and external part of this process.  As my friends who are seniors are preparing for first call, and now here in the midst of internship assignment myself, there are moments that can seem that we have no control at all.  While the uncertainty can make us feel this way, in reality that is something very different.

I have often associated control with picking where I would go, choosing where I would live.  These things at this point are truly out of my hands.  But I do have control on how I choose to enter that unknown environment, what stories and gifts I choose to share about myself, the trust I place in God and God's workers who decide my placement. 

I also have control to consciously remember that in a week the uncertainty I feel today will look very different.  This moment in time is temporary.  Soon and very soon I will be connecting with my future supervisor, brainstorming about what ministry will look like in a place that I will call home that is not a phantom mist on some generic highway.

Look out, Texas, Nebraska, Florida, Nevada, Missouri, or Arkansas.  Soon and very soon, one of you is going to be my home. 

I know. But.

I know.... but......
I know today is not my 'day' to blog, but I'm blogging anyway. :)

I know that I live in WI, but I do a double take when I am home and see WI license plates.

I know that Easter Sunday is 'over' but everyday is Easter- Alleluia!

I know that I survived first semester of Seminary, but surprisingly second semester is nearing an end. YIKES!

I know that spring brings summer flowers, but it also brings road construction, lane closures and slow traffic.

2005- Dad Turns 65- Dad & his Grandsons
I know that seminary has provided one of the most awesome support groups as I deal with my dad's death, but nothing.

Luke 24:5. Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, he has risen.

The sun is coming up, the stone has been rolled away and Jesus is risen.  It is a new day!  Jesus shows once again how his presence on earth is counter cultural to what is expected.  People expect Jesus to die, and 'stay dead'.  Thanks be to God, Jesus did not 'stay dead.'  He walked among people who walked with him, who learned from him, who ate with him.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Life after Seminary

So, I spent my weekend visiting a parish.  Not visiting some place to fulfill some class requirement or to prepare for the next step of seminary, I visited a congregation which will one day be my first call as an ordained pastor.

So, that's happening.

I drove down with my wife, Andrea, as well as another seminarian who's also going to be joining me as a resident pastor for the next two years in the Quad Cities.  It's so surreal to think that, even though there are classes to finish and papers to write, the two of us have already been called to serve our first congregation.

Soon, this word will be synonymous with "Home."

It's almost like this whole seminary thing is about to wrap up.  I feel like it was only recently that I began this whole process and visited LSTC as a prospective student (Where, oddly, I met my new/future resident-pastor colleague).  The visit this weekend was a good first taste of what's to come in that congregation, but more than anything it made me realize that my time at LSTC is almost over - that May 19th is just over a month away - that soon I will be a pastor.

There will be more time to reminisce in the weeks and months to come.  Right now, though, I feel incredibly grateful for the time I've spent at LSTC, where I truly feel as if I've been prepared to go and do this job I've now been officially called to do.  And, as I wrap up my final classes, I know that even when the symptoms of senioritis are in full force, I'm still being prepared, and this place will still be teaching me until I hand in my final paper.  In fact, this place may in some way still teach and prepare me beyond that.  LSTC has changed me, and that is a wonderful thing.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

This is the night!

Tonight is the biggest night in the liturgical calendar.  Tonight, we will gather in churches, seminaries, and congregations around the world to keep vigil as we await the resurrection dawn.  We will tell our greatest stories, light the New Fire, remember our baptism, and feast around the table.

Even though this is my senior year at LSTC, and even though I've been on chapel staff for two of the years I've been here, this is the first time I'll be participating in LSTC's Easter Vigil service.  Because I'm the sacristan, there's been a lot for me to do to prepare for tonight, and I'm eager to begin this great celebration as we gather with two local congregations to share in my favorite night of the year.

Because of experiences a number of us had at Holden Village in January (Did I tell you about Holden?  No? I should do that soon...), I've fallen in love with using candles that are made of pure beeswax.  At Holden, we used 100% beeswax tapers for evening and night prayer, and somehow they made us feel more connected to God's creation.  Maybe it's because they smell like honey, or maybe its because their golden hue seems more natural and less processed by human intervention.  So, when we returned back to campus in February, I began plotting ways we could use more of this kind of wax in our worship at LSTC.

Behold, the 100% beeswax Paschal Candle, to be lit tonight at the Easter Vigil!

It's the little things in life, isn't it?

This candle, along with new beeswax altar candles and tapers, has got me very excited.  In the Exsultet, which is sung tonight, we will hear these words:  "We sing the glories of this pillar of fire, the brightness of which is not diminished even when its light is divided and borrowed.  For it is fed by the melting wax which the bees, your servants, have made for the substance of this candle."

When I hear those words, I'll be happy knowing that the pillar of fire is, indeed, fed by the work of bees.  I could go on for hours talking about why I think using pure beeswax is the best way to go, but the simple fact that this is a candle that we know comes from the most natural of sources is enough for me to feel more connected to God's creation on this holy night.

(P.S.  If you want some beeswax yourself, look up some Greek Orthodox monasteries here in the US.  They do great work!)

Friday, March 29, 2013

The Final Countdown

Time keeps on slipping, slipping...into the future...
Surrounded by the struggling, yet blossoming Spring it is strange just to sit here in the Treehouse and be contented especially on this Good Friday.
There are moments perhaps in the stillness of beautiful, abyss-full dark nights illuminated rarely, by a full moon that we may find ourselves awake for the amusement of lazy angels who curl comfortable in trees above our heads; under the watching eyes of the Holy Spirit who these past couple of days has poured Herself into my soul, prodding my mind gently as I crafted my sermon for a local Good Friday Service for this evening.
I am amazed how my life has ebbed and flowed, and how now I have arrived at this place in time. Joyful that we are almost to that Easter morning; thankful of what this week has always meant to me. Come Monday it is back to the insanity and chaos that is Seminary life and I write those words with love.
In about 15 days time, my fellow classmates and I will gather in the Chapel, joining hands and calming fluttering hearts as we find out exactly where we will be serving for the next academic year. Internship-didn't seem so nerve wracking 2 years ago and it is in these moments I am reflective-because it not only impacts me but also the tide of change that is occurring in my own hearth and home.
The comfort that I have known; the family that was just a couple of miles  away will now seem like light years. The community and the normal rhythm of life is beginning to shift and my eyes opened; opened to the possibilities of where Our Creator will point in the direction-and I shall follow.
For the time being, my spirit leaps in colorful abandoned, because of the coming of the Season-of renewal and rebirth, of the cementing of the promise and the rejoicing that this life is not finished, and death is not the end.
May you have a blessed Triduum.
The Hope of Easter Morning begins....
Lape Bondye, God's Peace.

Friday, March 15, 2013


I think right about we could all use one of these.

Usually March signals the shift in the atmosphere that we have all been clamoring for. Winter has had her run on the stage, and now the scene changes and the intermission is slowly coming to an end. The orchestra now lifts the flute to their lips, and we await the light trill; the orchestra positions the violia against its shoulders and we await a sunny note to be pricked. What instead we are met with is a long drawn out soliloquy which has no end.

The Ides of March also signals the countdown, one month until we merry folk find out exactly where we are going; The Internship process for our interesting and calico band of seminarians has been one to write home about-filled with laughter and with a mysterious air. Therefore as we hunker down in the Refectory and the library, hushed away in the deep, soft chairs of the Grand Hallway our eyes are bright with mischief and with the question "Can we just know already?" 

Does the thirst that perhaps has been quenched throughout academica, returned because we have the need to actually be immersed in ministry? To make that first home visit; preach sermon for the third time on Sunday; converse with colleagues at Synod meetings; preside over a funeral? To actually be on our own and see what life is like on the other side? Do we view our Senior peers with envy because they soon will be living the dream?

Or mayhaps the Holy Spirit is dancing throughout the rainstorm, telling us that its alright to come and play?  The idea of being a living witness through Christ radiates through our being and we will be able to share and journey with new fellow brothers and sisters. It is exciting and nerve wracking and hopeful and scary all at once.

And last week, we were able to shed some of that nervous energy as we honored our own St. Dorothy-who even as she leaps into semi-retirement, still is informing us and helping us with scholarships galore:

Here's to the coming Spring, and to finally able to sing the words..

Lape Bondye, God's Peace.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Leadership & Holy Spirit

2013 Leadership Conference
Tonight starts LSTC's annual Leadership conference, which is a great opportunity for alumni to gather, reconnect and engage in a great topic.  Of course, current students and community members may also take part, and I look forward to this year's event as I am pursuing an interfaith emphasis in my M.Div studies. 

LSTC's Leadership conference is yearly in the spring, amongst Lent, First year students researching MIC (Ministry In Context) sites, Second Year students interviewing for internship sites, and Senior students awaiting their synodical assignments.  As a first year student, I am currently researching MIC sites, which are churches where we spend 7 hours a week for two semesters in our second year of studies.  Since I am a commuter student, I am restricting to Madison, WI and have already identified various sites.  When I am in Chicago for the weekend, I go with classmates as they research various sites.  And I am grateful for these various visits for I believe we all tend to get stuck or comfortable in a particular style of worship, and I know I personally like to be greeted each Sunday morning by people I know.  But as I visit different ELCA churches, I find nuances and differences within each community which is a reflection of the vast richness of God's community.   Whether the preacher memorizes the gospel text, you sing bluesy well known spirituals, listen to a full choir sing an anthem in Latin or cross the aisle as you share God's peace, any where you go Sunday mornings you will see God's abundant creation and beauty.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

And to the Ends of the Earth

Seminary's winding down for us seniors, and many of us are starting to get an idea as to where we're going to be headed after graduation.  Last week, a good number of us received our regional assignments.  We'd given our preferences back in December, and we gathered in the chapel to find out which regions chose us.  If it felt like the NFL draft, I'm thinking it's because it was a lot like it.  After a short prayer service, we were each handed an envelope, and with bated breath, we opened to see what the Holy Spirit had in store for us.

Some of us found out we'd be going where we'd hoped to go.  A few of us were caught of guard.  Either way, that night we all had a better vision of what our lives will be like once we leave this place and begin our careers as pastors in the Church.

This is where some of us are being sent.
This week, we've been hearing, one-by-one, about which syonds in those regions we'll be going to, narrowing down the vision of the future even further.  It's exciting, and also slightly frightening.  As one of my friends said, "Some big questions have just been answered, but now there are new ones."  I think the majority of us, though, feel extremely confident in what we've learned at LSTC, as we've grown through the Spirit into our identities as pastors, leaders, and care-givers for God's people in this world.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Guilty Pleasures

I can always tell the state of my metal health by three things: how clean my apartment is; if my writing is sane enough to be published; and how many containers of Ben & Jerry's is currently in my freezer.

Right now, half the furniture is dusted, I am writing a blog post, and Chubby Hubby is taunting me from my kitchen.  So I'd say I'm halfway back to normal.

Stressful times are not uncommon while in seminary.  Right now the community bobbing up and down, ebbing and flowing with the stress filled waves of CPE openings, Senior Assignments, and Internship interviews.  Any one of these things is enough to make a person reach out for their favorite guilty pleasure.  The irony that they all occur in the Lenten season when chocolate is out and vegan Friday's is in does not escape me.

When I first started seminary, I didn't think anything could be more stressful than learning Greek.  A half a year later when I was on CPE in New Hampshire watching parents say goodbye to their newborn who had died from birthing related injuries, I realized that languishing over languages doesn't even scratch the surface of stressful.

Such as with life, a few months later when the sea had subsided and I was back in school, I again felt overwhelmed by language and found myself trolling the dairy aisle at the grocery store.  Stress is real.  Stress happens to all of us.  And it doesn't matter what has come before, when we are in the midst of a stressful time we crave those creature comforts as if for the first time.

It's important that comforts don't become their own source of stress.  As a stress eater, I could easily go up a pant size during finals.  It takes work to remember that when the water surges around us that the waves will again subside.  In the midst of my CPE sea, I never would have realized how much I benefited from the grace of watching parents say goodbye in a loving way.  I never would have realized that living in rural New Hampshire would make me courageous when applying for internships, ready to accept any geographic location or community size.

Our greatest guilty pleasure is the one we don't need to regret in the morning and the one that won't make stepping onto a scale a haunting experience.  The grace of our loving God gives us the life vest to bob in the water when our legs are tired of treading.

Perhaps the reason why CPE openings, Senior Assignments and Internship interviews happen during Lent is to help us remember to reach for our Bibles instead of walking towards the freezer.  Chubby Hubby is delicious, but the grace of God is a remedy that lasts forever. 

Friday, March 1, 2013

6 weeks , 45 days, 1008 hours, 60480 minutes until…

March Madness? Spring?

Perhaps those things and much more but now we weary travelers gather in front of the hearth awaiting the passing of this storm within and throughout Creation; a tsunami of classes, papers, reading and sleepless nights. We are released from the endless pasted smiles on our faces flowing down neatly cobbled hallways exchanging stories and baring our souls for strangers.  We huddle in darkened corners at stout carved wooden tables, mumbling and rearranging our futures with “So what are my top three choices again?” and “Do I really want to spend a year here?”

Meanwhile, the waterfalls have begun to open and push life forth as the Seniors are finding out now what Synod will be welcoming them and where they will be calling home. It is a shift in the atmosphere for many of us-we as Middlers/Interriddlers struggling over endless bridges of classes, trying to keep focused all the while realizing that in six weeks those doors will burst forth, opening us a new journey-and the Holy Spirit leading the way with a smile, in Her pink sandals cheering us along, calling out "You are a child of God!"

For now, we are hopeful for days that fill the skies with warmth and our afternoons playing volleyball, stretching out in the sun; in this Lenten season, we await that Sunday morning where the Sun will appear a bit different to our gaze but our souls will dances as fragile flames rejoicing at the coming of something phenomenal, something counter-cultural.

Lape Bondye, God's Peace.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Lenten Discipline

As this semester continues to creep by week by week, I find that this semester is 'heavy on the reading'. Between the Gospels, Confessions, Pastoral Care & Counseling and my Interfaith Emphasis class of Arab Awakening! I easily read 300 pages a week.  And unfortunately, these readings are nothing like the Laura Ingalls Wilder books I read as a child!  But, even with the intense class load and traveling home every other week to see Scott, I am disciplining myself to a Lenten practice: Weekly Bible Study and Daily Prayer.  OK- that is two practices.  While the prayer tends to be hit or miss, this past week at 7:30 each morning I found myself reading the assigned scripture, praying for myself, my prayer partner and others.  And, each morning I pray that I continue to have the daily discipline for prayer.  A wonderful tradition which I learned from my home congregation.  May you too find a discipline which brings you ever more closely to God.

God's blessings on this Lenten season~

Friday, February 22, 2013

And They're Off!

For many of us this is what the week has felt like...

"Come and fill our hearts with your peace, You alone O Lord are holy/ Come and fill our hearts with your peace..."

In this time and place, as we listened to gathering music Thursday morning before Chapel began, perhaps this is what many of us hoped and wished for. Spring not only begins another Semester of learning, of questing and dwelling but also of realizing how the journey now turns. Underneath the glow of candlelight and of voices raising as incense, weary travelers joined hands and hearts as various schooners, runabouts, sloops and longships sailed for Regions known, and destinations unknown. 

Still the flow of Creation ebbed and flowed as others raced into the beginnings of a never changing dawn. 

This week, many of my classmates began a two week migration as we delved into the waters of Internship Interviews, shedding out of our comfort zones and switching the microphone to the "on" switch for a good part of a day. For me, the realization of this bend in the crossroads encompassed my spirit the night prior and weighted heavily upon my spirit. What do I want out of this Internship? This common question in various colors was painted throughout these beginning conversations and for a moment, I honestly could not pull down and envelop myself in one particular shade. 

A wonderful elder and Assistant to my Bishop, Pastor Ray Lagania preached a rousing sermon Thursday morning. In this time of meditation, reflection and prayer Pastor Lagania not only proclaimed the Good News, he exclaimed the Good News! The good news of encouragement that Jesus Christ flows within our spirits and takes root within our souls; that we are not alone in our mission and ministries; that we were definitely not alone as we embarked on these journeys of Regional Assignments and Internship Interviews. Lent should be not about sorrow and somberness-but as people of God, brothers and sisters in Christ we should rejoice...because in this time we remember that Christ overcame death and soon we shall be able to shake the rafters with praise and thanksgiving.

Lape Bondye, God's Peace.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Ashes to Ashes

Note: This post originally was published on my personal blog.

Last Wednesday, as I was getting ready for bed, I looked at myself in the I was washing off my cross of ashes that I had gotten earlier in the evening.

This year was the first year I paused mid wash, to look at my forehead, and I was struck off guard by what I was looking at.  My face wash is from Lush and it is called Dark's a face wash whose major ingredient is ground charcoal.  I swear by it for keeping my face clean, but it is kind of a gross black paste that is rather messy. 

And here I was, washing off my cross made of palm ashes with the ashes of some unknown tree that gave its life for my face wash.  

As I looked at myself, there was no distinguishing between where the palm ash ended and the face wash began, it was all smeared together on my forehead.  In one moment, the sign of my mortality mixed with the refreshing promise of cleansing...all in one.  

And as I looked at what I had created...a mix of dirt and clean, of death and new life, of the visible and invisible cross on my forehead...I was overwhelmed with emotions...considering that maybe all of life is like my forehead.  We are sinners and saints, yes.  But Ash Wednesday reminds us of our mortality, and simultaneously reminds us of the cross of Christ which claims us at baptism and promises life eternal in the Kingdom of God.  We are dead in sin...we confess it weekly, yet we are forgiven and free...reminded weekly.  

Living in this all encompassing life is beautiful...and maybe it's the reminder I needed going into Lent this year.  I admit I wasn't as into Lent this year as I was Advent (normally it's reversed...I like Lent more...) but as I looked at myself in the mirror, I thought about how daily, in an effort to clean my face, I spread ashes on it...and so Lenten discipline:  Being mindful of my face wash...and being mindful of the cross on my forehead.  

Monday, February 18, 2013

Field Education

Ministry in Context; Contextual Learning; Field Education are all words to describe the next round of paperwork for seminary.  Last week we met with Dr. Terry Baeder and Marji Shannon, AiM to discuss the process for next year's Ministry in Context Class.  Short summary- we work in a congregation for 7 hours a week, for no pay and work with a site supervisor to get real life parish ministry experience.

I come from a large urban congregation with multiple pastors, so I want to experience a different setting, which won't be difficult, I know.  So Sunday morning Scott, my husband, and I made a visit to a different congregation in Madison, and followed worship with a discussion of what I call, "The Pros and Cons of This Place"

Scott & I at a wedding.
And during the discussion was education time for Scott, as to what MIC involves, what I will be doing each week and I do believe I saw the smallest glimmer of a smile cross his face when I mentioned that I would be home EVERY SINGLE WEEKEND!

While this summer's CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education) is our first true field education experience, it will be such a different experience because that will be my focus.  I won't have to juggle classes like HEBREW and Systematic Theology while I travel home every weekend to be in a parish for preaching, teaching and leading.

As with each new adventure, I initially view it with great joy and enthusiasm.  But once the date draws near to start this new adventure, my apprehension grows and the joy fades into the sunset.  And, as I get older and experience more of these adventures I know this about myself, and have gotten to a point where I start to talk myself out of the apprehension and become reinvigorated again by the joy.

On that final note, I am off to work on a paper for Pastoral Care- a reflection paper on W. Paul Jones Theological Worlds.  Because being a good pastor and leader involves intense reflection and knowledge of self :)

Friday, February 15, 2013

Closing the Lid on Perfection

The Gypsy Seminarian at Worship; Awesome place to be. Photo by Jan Boden

What will you shutter away during these days of reflection, renewal and journeying?

How counter-cultural these past two days must appear: we gathered out of humbleness in darkened sanctuaries, our souls smudged with a foreboding sign; we tripped through multi-colored fields of poppies boldly declaring our love in the coming morning sunshine.

At the church I currently have the joy of working this year as Confirmation guru, one of my youth commented "Should I wipe this off after we are done?" The week prior my 11 year old son, as I was picking him up from school so that we could go to said church thoughtfully replied after I inquired why he was carrying his cross necklace in his pocket, "Well, some of my friends are not really religious and I didn't want to offend them so I just waited until you picked me up." A fellow brother in Christ from another denomination was thrust in the spotlight for joining in an ecumenical service that apparently he should not, according to his denomination-and had to apologize for joining prayers of healing for a horrific event in an otherwise normal, everyday quiet community.

When did it become pase to be Christ-like? Why do we shutter away the sign of whose we are and whom we belong to except only to proclaim it boldly one day out of a year and even then we are apologetic? 

And yet throughout the world of social media there was a revolution; messages of Love from the text that sometimes leaves us scratching our heads or silent with deep meditation, a word from The Word reminding us and comforting us that God's Love never fails spilled out in endless waves. Through ashes we came forth but while we are here, being a witness boldly through the simple act of passing the peace, of professing Love for all from where we are as Christians into the social media- cradling those who are in pain, who are forgotten, who have been discarded by this world sometimes is the simplest act of love we can do.

There is no perfect way we can be Christian people daily, and by our ability to laugh and learn; by our ability to be vulnerable and affirming in our faith the sign of the Cross will be then, a sign of change; change that is continuous within our very being and throughout our spirits that we too, are a work in progress.

Lape Bondye, God's Peace.