Monday, January 28, 2013

Wade in the Water

Not an image from this particular baptism...but look at our crazy font
Okay, so there was no wading in the water...because the font at my church is old school (like, it has a lock and a brass relief of a dove which actually looks like a raptor) but we had the first baptism since I've been there yesterday.  

Typically House does baptisms on baptismal festivals (like the Easter Vigil) but we aren't really all that strict about it and this instance was no exception...or maybe it was the world's largest exception.

About a month ago, a woman emailed House to tell us her story.  In it she recounted that she was raised an atheist and a cultural Jew, but in the midst of watching her family lose everything in Hurricane Sandy, she saw something odd.  A bunch of Lutherans and Episcopalians in New York cleaning up the damage and rebuilding.  It was something she hadn't experienced before, and wanted to learn more about these strange benevolent Lutheran people.

Through a series of circumstances she found House For All Sinners and Saints and listened to every single one of the sermons that have been preached here.  In her email she explained that she laughed with our community, cried with our community, and she felt the presence of God in her life for the first time.  Because she felt like she was part of our community, and had just discovered this God thing, she wanted to fly to Denver to be baptized into our community, knowing that it was unlikely she would be back often, or maybe ever.

After discussing the request in Housekeeping (our Church Council) one member of it pointed out that we unapologetically have an open table at House, so we had to have an open font as well.  I know that there is a lot of debate in the church about open tables, and it's likely that those same people will be in disagreement about our open font as well...(and we've worked to help our newest sister in Christ find a church home in her part of the country)...but, regardless of thoughts surrounding our practices, it was one of the most beautiful things I've witnessed thus far.  Baptisms, for me, are such a powerful and amazing reminder of my own baptism.  That, 25 years ago, I too had water poured over me and I was sealed with the Cross of Christ forever.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

we walked to Jerusalem

This time last week I was on a walk with a friend.  While the most immediately eye-catching detail of this walk would be the route we were taking (walking from Bethlehem to Jerusalem), the fact that we were able to take this walk together at all was the most humbling and pertinent of details.  I'll give you some quick background to explain...

I was walking with my friend Shadia, a Palestinian Christian who lives with her family (immediate, extended, and very extended family) in the town of Beit Sahour, Palestine, located in the West Bank.  When I was a volunteer in the Jerusalem/West Bank program of Young Adults in Global Mission (a global mission program of the ELCA), Shadia took me and my YAGM roommate in as if we were members of the family.  This J-term I went back to visit as part of an independent study, reconnected with Shadia, and was welcomed back as if I had never left.  

Her hometown, Beit Sahour, is known as the town of the Shepherds' Fields, located just a stones throw down the hill from Bethlehem and just a few kilometers from Jerusalem.  And yet, almost all residents of Beit Sahour are not allowed to go to Jerusalem.  This is not a phenomenon that only applies to Beit Sahour.  Unless Palestinians from the West Bank apply for special permits or have residency in Jerusalem, they are restricted access to the city that, for many, lies within walking distance.  During the holidays (Christmas and Easter), Christians are allowed to apply for permits in order to access the holy sites.  And so last Sunday, with my US passport and her Christmas holiday permit in hand, Shadia and I crossed the Bethlehem pedestrian checkpoint together... and we walked.

We're on our way!  Photo taken just outside of the
Bethlehem checkpoint
Though I had lived alongside Shadia for a year, this was the first time I had ever entered Jerusalem with her.  During our walk she pointed out everything she remembered and knew about this route to Jerusalem, including gardens she and her husband George would take their four children to play before they would enter  the Old City.  Having walked this route to and through the Old City alone many times during my previous year there, I was finally looking at it through the eyes of a friend who remembered and had lived life before the Wall separated her from it; a friend who knew each nook and cranny though it had been a year since she had last been through the city; a friend who wasn't bothered by the tourists and sat in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre with me to pray; a friend who knew many people we ran into in the streets of the Old City, others who had permits in hand.  The Old City felt different when I walked with Shadia.

Shadia looking toward the Old City of Jerusalem
We eventually walked to the other side of the Old City and caught the bus back to the Bethlehem checkpoint.  We crossed the Wall and meandered our way walking back down to Beit Sahour to relax for the evening and rest our legs.  But when I woke up Monday morning, all I could think about was how if I wanted to make the trek again, Shadia would not have been able to join me; her permit had expired.  

Walking an unavoidable stretch of the Wall on our way back to Beit Sahour.
On the last day she would be able to go anywhere in Jerusalem, or Israel for that matter, for quite some time, she chose to walk with me.  It was a simple walk, an ordinary activity for the two of us to do together, but this walk was surrounded by extraordinary circumstances.  It was a blessing.  I am blessed to have been able to visit her this J-term; I am blessed to have been able to experience Jerusalem through her eyes; I am blessed to have had an eye-opening year through YAGM that led me into a beautiful and complex relationship with the people of the Holy Land.  But most of all, I am blessed to know Shadia, to call her my friend, and to know we walk together on life's journey.

Micah 6:8 -- He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.  And what does the Lord require of you?  To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.


Can it truly be, that first semester is done?  That Christmas Break is done and J-Term is done?  I am now enjoying my one week at home with my husband, to catch up on non-student life.  J-term consisted of rural immersion to Nebraska, and while I grew up in rural Wisconsin, I very much appreciated this experience.  Since I grew up with little faith formation, I did not experience life in that capacity.  Also, a pre-teen wonders why people are so cruel as she is being bullied by her female classmates and has little faith for such hypocrisy as these gals attended weekly catechism with her in earlier years.  I found that I experienced life differently because I no longer believe, 'the grass is always greener on the other side'. One of my last nights in Nebraska, Cathy asked, "Do you think you'll serve in a rural parish?" I answered honestly, "I don't know.  I have 3 1/2 years of education to complete, and I don't know where Scott and I will be at that time."  I can now add to that response, " But I do know that the rural immersion trip was a great experience, and provided me plenty of fodder for discernment."

One of the great things of the J-term trip was getting to know my classmates better.  Even though I am on campus part time, I find I have a hard time forming deep relationships with classmates because our social lives are so very different.  When we were on the trip, we spent an inordinate amount of time together, almost to the point where I at least, needed some ME time.  But through these experiences, climbing into the tractors, sharing a room, and sharing a 35 minute van ride as we traveled from one farm to another, we were allowed time for sharing and most importantly laughing!

J-Term participants and our Host Pat Ebmeier who drove us around Bertrand NE.

Friday, January 18, 2013

What I Did on my J-Term Vacation?

Rugged Camp Fun...right....

There is a new buzz word: solo parenting.

J-Term or January Term around here means a variety of things: For many people once the end of the semester approaches, there is a mass exodus. Facebook updates joyfully proclaim traveling homeward, traveling to conferences or stocking up and preparing for classes for J-Term. This is when all the neat, interesting and awesome travel seminar courses commence. 

In this interim time where the community slowly murmurs to a serene afternoon river, caressing smooth rocks embedded in earth instead of cascading over this is also usually the time when I am either serving at a Church or camp as well as finishing up time with my two children before they returning begrudgingly back to classes and school. This is also a time, in this blessed quiet for my own spirit to reflect as Creation erupts in fields of crystal and white, of downy snow covered fields and sidewalks delighting us to yet another beauty that the Creator bestows upon us.

Except this year, I found myself on vacation from the church I serve as Youth leader (No Confirmation) and several weeks before me which I would have nothing to do! I happily attempted to empty the library of books that I needed for future research, planned my topic and scheduled when I would read and so forth. My only mini vacation? Hanging out at a LOMC Summer Staff camp reunion: silly Santa gifts, good grubby food and night hikes galore!

And then the supply preaching requests came up (You try preaching three services on Epiphany!). And then the conference circuit happened: Lutheran Ethicists?  Wow, I did not know these folks existed (well not saying that but I did not realize there was an official group). The topics, the conversation, the fact that I was the only M.Div'er there! The Conference of Lutheran Ethicists are a part of a larger conference: the Society of Christian, Muslim and Jewish ethicists which brings a good size membership out for a three day fest each year (Ph.D students they have a student membership-for you). Emotional Intelligence Assessment Workshop? Although this was also promoted as a class through the Seminary, I was humbled that my Synod office asked me to attend. Great concept, awesome stats..just three days too long. The Youth Conference? Something close to my heart and close to home! But by the end of these conferences, I was completely exhausted.

Who is this international man of mystery?
But alas, I digress.

These past couple of weeks I have also been doing this solo since my globe trotting husband decided to take the J-Term course with Dr. Mark Swanson and Dr. Peter INDIA.

My own mother was a single parent and educator for quite many years. She scheduled and served both at her schools and at her church home. I watched, learned and retained how she was able to balance everything as the only way she knew how. We lived in a community where people who were not connected by anything other than where we came from and who our ancestors are, looked out for myself and those other children who lived and played. As I have dived briefly into these waters of solo parenting I am thankful for God placing me here in this community, where my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, in faith who remained here during this quiet time shared fellowship and friendship with one another. 

The Spring Semester will soon be upon us, and our friends who are traveling in Seattle, Nebraska and India will be home soon. For many this is just another continuing in the journey down the sometimes racy, rocky waters of Seminary. For myself and other middlers the horizons of Internship and  for our seniors, Assignment are coming into view. 

It's beginning to look a lot like April...

Lape Bondye, God's Peace.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Brr, it's cold in here

I have lied to the world for far too long, and I need to come clean about it.  For the longest time, I told people that winter was my favorite season, that I loved snow, I loved the crisp air, I loved everything about the season.

That's a lie.  I've come to realize, while living in Denver, where the average daily temp. is about 42 degrees, that I don't mind having warm winters.  In fact, I prefer it.  Today, when I woke up it was 6 degrees outside, never mind any wind that might have been blowing (I wouldn't know if there was) and my roommate who leaves for work at 5:45 said it was 2 degrees when she left.  That is far too cold for me, I've finally come to realize.

And the conclusion I've come to is that I was just telling everyone I loved bitter cold to make myself believe that I actually liked it.  It was all some sort of elaborate psychological ruse I've been playing without knowing it for years.

I'm glad I've finally figured that out, but it makes me wonder...what are the things you try to convince yourself you love but actually hate?

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Music Muses

"Estes Park" by Albert Bierstadt
Happy Epiphany!  I was at the art museum last week (if you're in Denver I'll take you for free!) thanks to a membership that my internship parish gave me at the beginning of the year.  Denver has quite a big museum and it takes a long time to get through, so I give myself an hour or so every couple weeks to do a floor...that way I don't get overwhelmed with all the art.

Anyway, I was on a floor I hadn't been to yet and it was filled with paintings of the "wild west" as well as landscapes of Colorado.  I got to a room where the obvious focal point was the painting above.  It's about 5 feet tall and 8 feet wide and the benches in the center of the room point directly to it.  At two of the chairs, there were iPods with headphones.  There were several playlists with discriptors like "majestic" which hinted at the music they were going to play.

I sat down, put on the headphones, and clicked a playlist.  The first song that came up was "Tis a Gift" by Allison Kraus and YoYo Ma.  I listened through to the end, looking at the painting and letting it consume my entire range of vision.  I put myself in the foreground of the painting, thinking about people who struggled to live in that land in front of the mountains, considering what life must have been like for the native people who lived there first, and later those who settled from Europe.  Then, the song was over and I went to another playlist.  The first song that came up on this one was "Fanfare for the Common Man" by Aaron Copeland.  This song immediately drew my focus to the peaks of the mountains, and my heart swelled with the orchestra and I felt such amazement at what God created.

2 songs.  1 painting.  2 drastically different experiences.  I think this says a lot about life...when we listen to the soundtrack of our lives one way, positively, for example...our focus is on that.  When we listen to the soundtrack of our lives another way, negatively, for example....our focus becomes on the cynical.  It's the same life, we just get to choose how we listen to the world around us.