Monday, December 11, 2006

2nd Sunday in Advent Sermon

During the Advent season, we spend the weeks prior to Christmas waiting and preparing. It is a time to prepare ourselves for the coming of Jesus Christ. In Luke, we hear the Isaiah passage recalled that says “prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight”. It is here in Luke that we are able to see the fulfillment of this passage.

We learn that the voice in the wilderness is that of John the Baptist. Throughout the gospel, we discover John to be a man who many would not want to be around. He has been living in the wilderness throughout his adult life, eating locusts, running around in camel hair and a leather belt, most likely rarely bathing. His proclamation of God’s Word was not in the soft sweet voices we are so use to hearing on television or in church. He had a temper and was known to go around telling people how he saw it.

Despite all that would make John despicable to most, he was the one God has chosen to get the world ready for the coming Messiah. We are told that the “Word of God came to John”, just as it had to Abraham, Samuel, Nathan, Elijah, and Jeremiah. This divine message is bearing good news to all people. It is a message to awaken people to prepare themselves and each other for the coming Messiah.

John was given the task of preparing the hearts of the people through his preaching, which included a call to a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. John’s baptism was done as a way of putting one on God’s side. To refuse to repent and be baptized by water was viewed as rejecting God, even for those who led good, obedient lives. John knew this baptism was merely a preparatory one, one of repentance, and that Jesus would soon bring a baptism of the Holy Spirit.

The word repentance means to make a change in one’s mind or thinking. As God was using John the Baptist to prepare the hearts of all for the coming Messiah, he was calling for people to change how they perceived God and their relation to him. Through the Messiah, they would see God in a whole new light, in human flesh. It would no longer be a God who seemed far off, but one walking side by side with them. Soon, the way they related to God would be completely different then they had ever known, because the Messiah would come, not as the warrior many expected, but as a small child. Jesus would change the way people were to relate to God through his life, teachings, death and resurrection. Those who would follow the Messiah would find themselves changing their way of thinking. They would repent.

Over the last eight or so years, I have spent my summers as a either a pre-school teacher or nanny in someone’s home. These experiences have offered me many opportunities to observe the exuberance of the average three year old as they strive to discover their independence.

As most parents and preschool teachers can attest to, three years olds LOVE to do absolutely everything on their own. “I can do it by myself” is their favorite phrase. I can picture many past moments where I watched as one of my preschoolers eagerly grabbed the plates and silverware to set the table for our class lunch, throwing up a hand anytime I came near to help shouting, “NO! I can do it!” Picturing what I knew would be an on-coming disaster when they tried to set the pitcher of milk on the table, I would stand there and cringe. Then, moments later, I would be at the table trying to clean up the spilt milk with a huddle of three year olds screaming “I can do it!”

I use this example as I think it strongly relates to our relationship with God. So often in life, we view ourselves as being the ones who can change our situation. We hold onto the reigns of our life and circumstances, unwilling to change our way of thinking unless it fits what we think must happen. Just like the three year old, we believe we can set the table all by ourselves, when in reality the task at hand is too big, and our hands are just too small to hold the pitcher without losing our grip.

The repentance we are called to is not one that does not seek outside help. The call is to move beyond the thinking “I can do it all by myself” and into “I can’t do it all by myself.” We need Christ because without him we are merely sinful human beings, wallowing in hopelessness and despair, attempting to break free without success. Through him, we are forgiven and cleansed of all unrighteousness, something we have no power to do on our own. Anytime sin is spoken of in the gospel of Luke, we hear the offer of forgiveness. Through Christ, sin and forgiveness cannot be separated. In those moments where our thinking switches back to thinking we can do it on our own, the love and forgiveness given to us in Jesus is there, offered to us as a free gift.

The fulfillment of the Isaiah passage recalled in Luke does not end at the call to prepare ourselves for the coming Messiah. It goes beyond this and moves into the promise that every valley will be filled, mountains will be made low, the crooked paths made straight and the rough ways made smooth. It is here that we learn how the world changes through the coming of the Messiah. It is thought that the meaning of this passage is one of equality.

The world we live in today is still imprisoned with so many barriers. We do not live in a culture free from inequality. There are still separations based on race, economic standing, marital status, age, and even sexual orientation which place us in our different categories. Our world offers us opportunity upon opportunity to separate ourselves from others. Yet, Christ came to change all of this. The message given to us is not one of the rich become poor and the poor become rich, but one where the rich and poor meet in the middle. It is no longer slave and free, male and female, Jew and Gentile. Through Christ we are all made equals and the gift of salvation is given to all.

The last line of the call John the Baptist is making states, “and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” One might ask, however, where is the salvation of God? How can we possibly have seen it when our world still seems turned upside down? The salvation of God is seen in Jesus. In the Gospels, we hear of how when Simeon saw the infant Jesus, his thinking about death changed. When Jesus came to his home, Zaccheus stated “today salvation has come to this house”. As a result his thinking about wealth changed. When we change our thinking, when we repent, we see the salvation of God. We recognize that Jesus is the one who offers us, each and every one of us, grace and forgiveness. He is salvation, come to us in the form of a child.

No, our world is not perfect. It may seem the crooked paths are still crooked. The mountains are still impossibly high and the rough ways continue to get rougher. Neighbors still hate neighbors, segregation is still alive and well, and wars continue to grow stronger by the moment. Yet, the world is not what we judge God’s salvation by. Salvation is not seen in the diagnosis of cancer. It is not seen on the streets of Iraq. It is seen in the eyes of a child, born in a manger for our sake. It is seen in the eyes of the Messiah. So, let us look not to ourselves when looking for a smooth path, for we cannot create one on our own. Let us repent, change our thinking, and pass the pitcher of milk to the one who is given for our sake who will make the path smooth for us. Amen

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Trip and the Troublemaker

Well, Melancthon was actually a troublemaker before the trip! Last week, this sweet, innocent looking kitty decided to sneak out when I was trying to bring in boxes. Surprisingly, however, I did not discover he was gone till the next day! Katy, my other angel, was going crazy running from window to window crying. Finally I realized Mel was not at my heels, and then the panic set in. After a few hours, a missed meeting, and several tears, he decided the rain that was starting to come down was not appealing and came home. He had no voice, but he was home!

It amazed me how emotional I became when he disappeared. I think it stems from the fact he became a part of my life during such a rough time of transition. Moving cross country, beginning a four year Master's program (a seminary no less), and all the growing up that came with it made him my little family. Plus, he has the personality of no cat I have ever met (sorry Katy!). He is too cute and such a loud, codependent kitty. Such a baby!

This morning I arrived back in Pennsylvania after six days with my family in Seattle. It was wonderful to be completely spoiled with home-cooked meals, my puppy, and of course being surrounded by family. I am really looking forward to having some of them out for Christmas this year. It is strange to think that I will be hosting Christmas! Wow, how life changes...

Thursday, November 09, 2006


Don't kitties just have the best life?! If only we could all sleep that content everyday?
My days are passing by so quickly lately. I can hardly believe I leave to spend thanksgiving with my family in less than two weeks. I am looking forward to it so very much.
Although I am enjoying internship, I am ready to get away for a few days. It will be so nice to spend my days like my cats! Sleeping, eating, looking out the window daydreaming, and chilling with my loved ones. I don't think it gets much better than that!
My sermon last weekend went very well. I felt it was one of my better ones, but like most students, I still have a long way to go. My biggest critique is that I really need to learn to expand upon the ideas I have. I am one of those people who gets to the point so quick without taking time to reflect. I think the more I preach, the better I will get at that.
This weekend I go to a junior high event for three days. We have a large group of kids going, and I am really looking forward to this. As a kid, I never got to go to these things, so it will be a great learning experience for me. I can't wait!

Saturday, November 04, 2006

All Saints Sermon (my third sermon at this church)

A couple years ago, the world said goodbye to one of its saints. I had the privilege of being by his bedside as he took his last breaths. He was a man whom I had never met before. To this day, I cannot remember his name; but I know he was a saint.

Earlier that day, this man was walking out of his home, as he did every afternoon, to check the mail across the street. His age slowed him down a bit, but that did not stop him from maintaining this daily routine. The house he had lived in most of his life was built at the crest of a ridge, which made it difficult for on-coming cars to see what may be happening at the top. This unfortunate location was the cause of this man’s death. As he was headed back to his house, a car struck him.

When I arrived at the hospital that day, this gentleman had already been to the surgery, and his family was waiting outside the intensive care unit for news of his condition. It was a larger family, all of whom came together to pray for and physically be there for their loved one.

I spent the evening with them, waiting, telling stories, and praying. I learned of this gentleman’s background, how he was a hard worker who loved his family dearly. His first wife had passed away and just months ago he had married a very sweet woman. There was nothing spectacular that stood out about him, other than the love that was so evident in the room.

He was a man of strong faith. The family shared with me some of his favorite Bible verses and hymns. We sang those hymns around his bed with his ministers from home, nurses, and doctors. As we continued to have what became a worship service, this saint slowly took his last breath. And there, at around 5:30 in the morning, we said goodbye.

Today is the festival of All Saint’s Day. It is a day in which we remember the saints that have gone before us, and the ones living in our midst. The Greek word for saint is hagios, which means holy. The word Holy literally means to “be set apart”, some paraphrase this as “special.”

In the Old Testament, something became holy when it came in contact with holy things. An example of this is in Exodus 29:37 where it says: “For seven days make atonement for the altar and consecrate it. Then the altar will be most holy, and whatever touches it will be holy.” Contact with holy things was limited solely to the priests. This created a separation and hierarchy among the priests and common people.

For us, there is no longer this hierarchy or separation. Jesus changed all that. We come into contact with holiness all the time through our contact with God. Our Holy God makes contact with us through the Word, the waters of forgiveness in Baptism, the body and blood of Jesus Christ in Holy Communion, and the fellowship we have in the Body of Christ. Through all of this, we are made saints, because God’s love for us is so great that he has come into contact with each of us.

God has given each of us the title of saint as a gift. Through Jesus’ death and resurrection, we were given grace, so that, in baptism, our old selves die to sin and we are raised to new life. Daily, we are called to repent and God forgives us, bringing us to a new life beyond all our sins. We are now not labeled as sinner in God’s eyes, we are labeled a saint. Not because we live a great life, but because we are in contact with the Holy God.

All Saints Day is a day to remember the saints that have gone before us, but it is also a day to remember the gift God has given us in making us all saints. We are saints here and now because we are connected with the Holy God here and now. Sometimes it is difficult for us to realize this. The focus is not on the new life we have been given as a saint, but on the life of the sinner.

In our Gospel text, we hear about Lazarus. He is there, dead in the grave. There is nothing he can do to get himself out of his situation, he is complete dependent upon the power of God in Christ to give him his new life. When he is raised and comes out of the tomb, we have this image of Lazarus still bound in the grave clothes, which Jesus proceeds to tell him to remove.

The question is, are we not just like Lazarus, coming out of our baptisms, raised to a new life yet still hanging onto our grave clothes? It can be difficult to leave the old sinful life behind and take on the title of saint. We recognize that daily we still sin, there is no way to get around that. Yet recognizing that our Holy God sees us as a saint is hard to grasp. We tend to keep our grave clothes on, holding onto those sins Jesus freed us from.

The humanness we all possess makes it difficult to move beyond the sins we have done. The way we hurt our best friend, the loud harsh words we said to our child when we were just too tired to deal with their never-ending questions, or possibly the time I hit someone I love? How can we ever let these things go, when we, the one who sinned, hurt just as much, if not more, then the victim? Letting go of our sinful past can be so hard. Accepting the present and future title of saint can feel nearly impossible. Yet Jesus still calls us to take off our grave clothes and go.

There was a great quote handed to me earlier this week from a Jan Karon book entitled “Light From Heaven”. It states “Every saint has a past. Every sinner has a future.” Yes, all have pasts. Every single one of us in this room is guilty of being a sinner. Every one of us has lied, cheated, stolen, or done some kind of wrong. We all have a past and we all continue to do wrong things in the present. The marvelous thing is, we have been forgiven our past and will continue to be forgiven our wrongdoings. We all have a future. God has claimed each of us as his own and given us the title of saint. We have that reality, and we have the hope that comes with it.

The gentleman in the hospital was just like each of us. I am certain that he had hurt most of the people who were by his bedside at one time or another. Yet, in the last hours of his life, each of those people were there by his side, holding his hand stroking his hair, telling him how much he was loved. To them, no matter what he had done, he was still perfectly loved. That is how our Holy God is to us. We are loved, perfectly, by the God who has deemed us as saint. And, like the saint in the hospital bed, all have the hope of the resurrection awaiting us in the future. Amen.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

An Update!

I am very sorry for the length of time it has been since my last update. As you may imagine, things have been pretty busy and I just now am having a chance to update this blog!

Outside of internship, my time has been spent doing the basic household stuff, and working on Asher and Jacob's Friends. For those who do not know, this is a volunteer group dedicated to praying for and offering support to parents who have lost a child or have one who is seriously ill. If you would like to join, just go to the link on the adorable picture of my monkey nephew!

Other than that, I have been enjoying my work at the church! I just now got back from a Harvest Party. The children were adorable as usual. I went as "Olga the Sleepy Viking!" I took a short nap this afternoon and figured why get out of my pajamas when it is a costume party! I knew I could work it into my costume somehow. It worked wonderfully and was oh so comfortable!

The town has been very windy and cold this week. At the halloween parade I nearly froze my toes off. In actuality, I love this time of year. It is so pretty and the cold gets me in the mood for the upcoming holidays. As a native northwesterner, I have learned to appreciate the rain and "dreary" days. My perfect way to spent it would be curled up in my pajamas with some hot chocolate and a good movie (I read enough for school and work!). I am looking forward to having a tree in the corner of the room too, as it makes the mood just right!

Well, that is all for now. Please check out the updates on the friends list below. This time of year tends to be rough for so many families.

-Vicar Laura

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Busy Busy Busy!

Wow, I cannot believe it has been so long since I have done an update! I guess things have kept fairly busy over here. I am enjoying work immensely, though had to slow down a bit this week. I got a pretty nasty cold and lost my voice for a few days, but it seems to be clearing up. I am so grateful for this, as this upcoming weekend I have a senior high retreat. It really wouldn't be good to have no voice when trying to lead Bible studies, would it?!

Other than that, it has just been the basic busyness of work. Next week I will begin doing home Communion. I am looking forward to this, as it will give me an opportunity to meet congregational members I have not had the chance to get out to see. Also, I will be heading back to Gettysburg for a day of lectures. I'm honestly not looking forward to the lectures, but it will be good to see some friends I haven't seen in a while. Please check out the updates on Asher's Friend's list. It saddens me the list continues to grow. I love being introduced to new families, but I hate that more children are ill.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Missing Home

This is a picture of my "little" sister Jamie, stepmom Patty, and I at Pike Place Market during my trip home in August. As usually happens during this time of year, I am beginning to miss home a bit. I think it is related to the upcoming holidays. Thankfully, I will go home for thanksgiving and then have family come out for Christmas. I can't wait!

Things have been slowing down some regarding work. Part of me is elated, the other part doesn't know what to do! This is the first time things have really slowed down enough for me to rest a bit and reflect on how life has changed so much in the last 6 weeks. Well, if I really look back, how things have changed in the last six months! Becoming an Aunty to two beautiful boys, losing Jacob, walking out on my job, going to Oklahoma, going to Maine, going BACK to Oklahoma, then Seattle, and finally, my move to Hollidaysburg. I cannot believe how much has happened in such a short period of time. It all seems so surreal.

Off to Bible Club! Till next time...

-Vicar Laura

By the way, I absolutely hate moving Asher's friends to the Angel section. Please keep Jake's and Caleb's family in your prayers. I also added some more angels. It takes some time to add new names, so I am doing it in spurts. Please be on the lookout for more new names in the near future.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Loves Of My Life

I had to show you a picture of my beautiful children, Melancththon and Katharina, and then of course my gorgeous nephew Asher on nasal cannula. Isn't wonderful to see his face?! I am praying so hard soon he will be completely tube and bag free (he also has a colostomy).

Life has been going fairly well this week. I started my Bible Club, which will last for seven weeks and is each thursday night. We had about twelve children show up. I must admit the program was a little rough around the edges, but now that we know about how many kids and what ages I will have the chance to really adapt everything. I am praying the program is successful in teaching the children about the basics of the Lutheran church and is fun for them and us.

Today I went horseback riding for the second time! This trip was with the 5-6th graders. I was much better this time around! I am getting more comfortable with it and actually really enjoyed myself. The mountains are so pretty with all the different colored leaves. I took pictures and will post them soon, possibly tomorrow. Oh, and I was so close to taking home this really cute kitten there at the stables. He was so tiny and oh so cute! Good thing I have a little self-control and my supervisor to remind me that I do not need nor do I want to be a crazy cat lady! :)

Thank you all for checking in on "Aunt Laura", leaving me wonderful comments, and of course for praying.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

A Very Proud Aunty

I typically don't use this journal to update on Asher, as he does have his own very popular website, but I am so proud I can't help myself. He has made such strides in the last couple of weeks, with going from the vent to CPAP and lowered oxygen levels. And now, today, he took his first try at nasal cannula and did amazingly well. He also had his first bottle, and was able to take in 5cc's. What an amazing child. I am so ready to hop on a plane! I cannot wait to go down to Oklahoma for his homecoming; I know it will be very soon!

Okay, so now onto vicar life! Thank so much for all your prayers regarding the funeral. It went amazingly well. The family was so gracious towards me and offered such words of encouragement. In some ways, it was almost more like they were ministering to my needs than the other way around. I guess God was using all of us to be there for each other; what a gift.

This weekend I also preached for the second time at this congregation. I felt a little uneasy about my sermon, as I had very little time to write it. It seems God always takes the sermons I think are awful and turns them towards good, as the congregation thought it was wonderful. One area I really need to work on is trusting in the words God has given me in the sermons.

Alright, I am off to go and work on my amazon wishlist. I keep forgetting how close Christmas is getting! I can't wait to get my tree up!

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Another First

Hello friends!

I just wanted to jump on here really quick to ask you to please pray for me tomorrow, as I will be doing my first "solo" funeral. Pray that God uses me to minister to the family as they mourn the death of their loved one. Amazingly, I have a sense of peace about it; I can only attribute that to God's presence.

I promise to do a much fuller update in the near future. This week has just been absolute madness and I have not had much of a chance to take a moment to breathe. When I have that opportunity, I will be on here, filling you in on all the details!

-A Very Tired Vicar

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Many Thanks

I wanted to jump on here to thank each of you from the bottom of my heart for the loving comments you have left on here. Knowing so many of you feel the same way about these special children warms my heart. I considered it such an honor to attend Christi's service, and I know so many of the rest of you would have loved to join me in saying goodbye to her at the funeral mass. Please know when I went, I considered myself a representative of all her faithful followers from the website.

In regards to Asher's friends list, well, it is something I always wanted to do. Before Asher and Jacob were born, I had been following many of these sites for about 2 years. When we started the boys website, I knew it would be a great opportunity to bring attention to other kids in need of prayer. I had no idea it would become such a great ministry. I praise God often for blessing me with the opportunity to update the list and ask for prayers for them (and pray for them myself). Thank you for continuing to bring my attention to new kids; what a blessing you all are. I consider you to be my partners in the Asher's Friends Ministry; without you the list would not be what it is today.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Angel Christi

Today I attended Christi Thomas' funeral mass. The 5 1/2 hour drive up, I continually debated whether or not I should be making the journey. Some told me I grow too attached to the children whose stories I follow through blogspot, caringbridge, and carepages. Others encouraged me that I was doing the right thing. But, I must say, it was kind of strange driving so far to attend the funeral of a child I had never met in person.

The service was beautiful. It truly honored the life of a girl who touched so many through her brave fight with neuroblastoma. So many people were there, each with their own story of how they knew her and how she touched them. I certainly had my own story, yet still felt a little out of place.

It was not until a lovely couple came up to me during the reception, that I began to feel like I was meant to be there. They were excited to meet someone who came to know her through the website and loved looking through the stories some of you sent for Shayla. I then had the opportunity to go and meet Christi's parents and sister. The second I said my name, Angela recognized me (that made me feel good!). It was in our short encounter, a mere few minutes, that I came to know the full reason God sent me there. It was not only for the family, it was also for me. It was my opportunity to not only grieve over the loss of Christi, but all of the other children who I have prayed for yet never had the chance to meet. It is amazing how one can bond to total strangers. I really needed an opportunity to formally cry over the loss of so many precious fighters. It is not that I grow too attached to them, though a bond is formed. The fact is that each and every child that I come across somehow makes me a better person. They impact how I do ministry and how I live my life. I hug stronger, I call my family more, I pray more, and I empathize more. I realize that my life is not my life, but is a gift given to me by God to serve Him. Each and every time I come across a new sick child, I am reminded of that.

Alright, so that is a super long tangent, but it is the revelation I had today while being in the midst of Christi's family and friends. What a great teacher she was and will continue to be to so many, even in her death.


Tuesday, September 19, 2006

So Much Sadness

I took this picture while in Oklahoma. It is a statue across the street from the Oklahoma City Bombing site that was placed by a Catholic Bishop whose parsonage was located there. This had to be the most powerful part of the memorial.

I saw this picture earlier today, and it really turned my mind towards all of the children who are suffering right now, particularly Emmie Rose and Christi. It seems that when things begin to calm down and life becomes more peaceful, more suffering comes to the forefront.

Please, if any of you get the chance today, check on the children on Asher's friends list, located in the update previous to this one. If this is something you have never done before, I strongly encourage you to do so. I know it takes alot our of you emotionally; it does me on a daily basis. I also know of the temptation to separate yourself as much as possible from the pain others are facing. Doesn't it feel like our own pain is plenty?! But I promise you, even though it is agonizing to be any kind of witness to the suffering of another, particularly a child, you will get so much in return. My life has been greatly enriched through praying for and getting to know each of these children.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Leaving On A Jetplane!

I have a ticket to fly home for Thanksgiving! I could not be more excited to have the opportunity to spend this time with my family and friends. It is so difficult to come to the realization so many of my holidays from this time on will be spent away from family (as holidays tend to be work days for Pastors). This, of course, will be determined by where my first call is of course. I may be blessed with being assigned to the northwest synod, where the majority of my family lives. We'll see in two years what happens!

This week has been really good. I had a full day off work on Saturday, and spent it in my pajamas watching movies, hanging out on the internet, and on the phone hearing about how Asher's extubation went (

Sunday we had a 5 1/2 hour confirmation course on the sacraments. It is neat, as in this church instead of doing weekly courses, they turn them into 3 block courses throughout the year. This makes it much easier on the families and I really think the kids learn more. It was fun getting to know the jr. high kids. It seems many of the stereotypes i've made about teenagers just aren't true. So many of them have great hearts regarding their faith and one another. What a blessing to see.

Sunday I also got to assist with my first baptism. This has to be one of my coolest experiences yet! I cannot wait for the day I get to preside over my first one. I have to say, this is one of the first times I didn't cry at a baptism. Typically I am a bowl of mush, but as I had a role in this one, I was distracted enough to where I didn't fall apart!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Sugar and Horses!

Please see my prayer request for Asher below!

Hello everyone! It has been a while since my last post; I apologize. Life has been quite busy here in vicarland. Last friday I had a 5-6th grade lock-in, which was a blast. I think next time we should put a limit on the sugar intake though! Then after the worship services on Sunday I went horseback riding with the senior high youth. This was my first time ever horseback riding, and let me tell you I was nervous! Thankfully, I had the most lazy horse of the bunch. All Domino wanted to do was eat! I had to keep grabbing the reigns and pulling his head up, poor thing. If I didn't have all these other horses trailing after us, I would've stopped to let him eat in peace! I have two more horseback riding trips coming up; I hope my comfort will continue to grow.

Other than that, I have been attending lots of meetings and Bible studies. I've also gone to a ministerium meeting, with Pastors from other denominations in the area. I did some visitation by myself and have had LOTS of paperwork! There are so many things involved with ministry that we don't always realize. Pastors are definitely busy people! At the end of the week, I will have done almost 70 hours of work. The average I have been putting in is close to 50. One thing I know I will learn this year is how to balance work and self-care.

Thank you for checking in! Sometime in the next few days I should have my new verizon DSL hooked up, so I will be able to add pictures! I also promise that with having faster internet connection, my updates will be more frequent.

-Vicar Laura

Happy Prayer Vigil!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Please be in prayer RIGHT NOW! The doctor is talking about possibly taking Asher OFF the vent within the next few days. He said not to get too excited (is he kidding?) but they are going to try. PLEASE BE IN MAJOR PRAYER that not only they try the transition, but he is able to stay off the vent. Before they can wean him off the vent, his oxygen, which has been in the 50's and 60's lately, needs to come down. After the vent, he will be on CPAP, which typically is short term. After that he will be put on nasal cannula. Please pray CPAP is merely a short term deal, and Asher is able to get onto nasal cannula quickly.
Also, they are going to try and get him on full feedings at the same time. This would mean no more lipids or TPN. Please pray he is able to handle full feedings. After the Vent, CPAP, and full feedings happen, all we would probably need is bottle feedings.
We are cautiously optimistic about all of this. These are major transitions for our little monkey, so please pray he is able to handle it like the champ he has always been! Thank you, faithful followers. Please spread the word to all your prayer chains, families, friends, etc. Praying for a productive week!!!!!!!!
Aunt Laura, Mommy,Daddy, Grandmas, Grandpa, Aunties, Cousins, etc

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Keeping Busy!

Well, life stays busy in vicarland! I have busily been working on a 7 weeks children's program, to begin the first week of August. It is on the basics of Lutheranism (reformation, baptism, communion, etc). I think it will be great, especially since I have a bunch of retired teachers eager to help!

Please be in prayer for me tomorrow. I am assisting with my first funeral, as well as doing a lock-in with a bunch of 5-6th graders! It will be a crazy day, but I know God is guiding me throughout. Thank you for checking in! I know this is short but I need to get back to work!

-Vicar Laura :)

Monday, September 04, 2006

My first sermon as a vicar!

For my first sermon, I was asked to speak a little bit about who I am and what has brought me to this place in my life. When looking at the Gospel text for this Sunday, I can honestly say to you that I had a difficult time relating it to my faith journey. I then proceeded to read our lesson from James. Now, I must admit, like most people in ministry, I can't stand the book of James! Yet, at the same time, in reading it I realized there was a great deal of relevance between the text adn my own life. So, today I will be brave, bold, and will introduce myself to you by preaching on one of the least liked books in the Bible!
In studying James, I have come to believe the bad reputation the book has received is a bit unfair. Sure, the name of Jesus Christ is certainly missing, as it is mentioned only twice and the cross is only mentioned once. Baptism is left out of the picture as is grace. So, really it is not the most Lutheran book in the New Testament. This is emphasized by Martin Luther describing James as "an epistle of straw that is easily consumed by fire. When the straw is burned away, the pure golden nuggest of the Gospel is missing." But, as with any book in the Bible, James does have its place.
The focus of James is works. We as Lutherans tend to view the term "works" as a dirty, evil word. I know my defenses come up any time I hear it in regards to faith and I find myself spurting out, "I am not saved by works but am justified by grace through faith in Jesus Christ!". Then, finding myself out of breath, I go and get a drink of water and go to my quiet place to calm down. The question is, how did we get this way? Why are we so against works in regards to our faith?
Part of this can be attributed to the history of Christianity over the last 2000 years or so. If we look back at the time of the Reformation, people were buying indulgences in an attempt to take years off their time in purgatory. There was a significant amount of idol worship of varying kinds. People throughout history have frantically searched for ways to cleanse themselves of their sin by doing anything and everything imaginable to get into heaven.
Look at the messages we receive today. I have heard many people say to others what constitutes as a real relationship with Jesus Christ. To go to heaven, you need to pray more. You need to go to church more. You need to speak in tongues. You cup needs to be overflowing and you need to open the door of your heart to Jesus Christ. The general message in Christian society is that in order to go to heaven, we need to do this, this, and this. When viewing works this way, it is a little easier to understand our sensitivity regarding this subject, as we believe it is not by our own doing that we are saved, it is by what Christ has done FOR us.
So why do we have the book of James in the first place? Should we just ignore it and pretend it doesn't exist? If we still consider it to be scriptural, where does its message fit into our faith lives?
It may come as a surprise to learn that I did not grow up in church. My parents made the conscious decision early on that they would allow each of us, my two sisters and I, to determine what we believed in regards to religion. You see, my mother was a presbyterian and my father grew up in the mormon church. Upon becoming an adult, my father left the church and had no desire to ever participate in any denomination again.
Throughout my childhood, I had a fascination with religion. Most of my friends were active in their various religions, including: Mormon, Catholic, Buddhist, and Presbyterian. I tagged along with many of them and had a tremendous desire to discover what I believed to be true. An almost nightly ritual I established with my mother was asking her if we could go to church. Typically, there was some reason as to why we could not go, but this desire never escaped me.
In 1992, my parents divorcd, and both married someone new within two years time. My mother's new husband had lived in Alaska for many years and desired to return. So, in 1994, we moved from Kirkland, WA to Petersburg, AK. This was a difficult transition for my sisters and I, especially because our father remained in Seattle. To make the situation even more complex, two weeks after we arrived in Alaska, my new stepfather began showing signs of becoming abusive and we left him.
During this time of crisis in our lives, I again asked my mother if we could go to church. For the first time in my life, she said yes. We first began attending the Presbyterian church. On saturday nights, however, my mother also began attending the Lutheran church. She soon invited me to join her, and it eventually became our church family. In 1996, my younger sister Jamie and I were baptized.
In baptism, I was given new birth and made a member of the Body of Christ. Through this, I was inaugurated into a life of discipleship. When the Pastor said, "Let your light so shine before others that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven" I realized that my life was not my own and I was to be a servant of God. It is through this that I can relate to the book of James.
After much prayer and discernment, in 1999 I enrolled in Trinity Lutheran College in Issaquah, WA. It was here that my faith life blossomed. I came to have a deeper understanding of what it means to be a member of the Body of Christ, and spent these four years discerning what God was calling me to do. I received my Bachelor's in Christian education in 2003, and then enrolled in seminary. Originally, I came to Gettysburg to become a pediatric hospice chaplain, but through my academic courses and life experiences, I now believe my call to be in the parish as an ordained minister.
The book of James calls us to put our faith into action. "Be doers of the word and not merely hearers." The concept of doing encompasses the practical implications of what it means to be a Christian. For me, part of putting my faith into action was to go to Bible college and then seminary. For others, it could be something entirely different. God does not call everyone to become an ordained minister. But God does call all of us to a life of ministry.
We are all called to practice love towards one another. Faith is not to be separated from this. Some have put this as not just talking the talk but walking the walk. Our faith is evidenced through our actions. The greatest strength within our Lutheran tradition is one of the greatest dangers we face. We believe in Christ alone, grace alone, faith alone. We know that we are saved by no one and nothing else other than Christ. So, here is the danger. Why should I do anything for anyone else? Why does it matter how I dress, how I speak, or if I don't do anything for anyone? I'm already saved, so I really don't need to go to church or shovel my neighbors walkway. I have the freedom to do whatever I want without any consequences.
But isn't having faith in Christ more than just a free ticket to heaven? In Holy Communion, we are fed the body and blood of our Lord and Savior in fellowship with our brothers and sisters in Christ, strengthening and nourishing us to continue on in our lives of discipleship. We are given this gift so that Christ can continue being experienced through us towards others.
What a tremendous gift God has given us in entrusting us with caring for others! Through God blessing us with the free gift of grace, we can become blessings. This, I believe, is the heart of the book of James. No, it doesn't mention grace, and in many ways speaks to works righteousness, but the heart of the message is true. We are all called to care for each other because we have been taken care of by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It is not about what we get out of the deal, but about what we have already been given. It is about faith.


Woo hoo, I made it through my first sermon at the church! We have three services, one Saturday night and two Sunday morning so I had many opportunities to refine everything. Praise God, it went really well. Lots of great feedback from both the parishioners and Pastors. Tuesday I meet with one of my supervisors to go over everything in detail. Aside from this, everything is continuing to go wonderfully. I'm almost completely moved in (only dial-up internet still) and am settling into a routine. The church has been keeping me hopping and I truly feel it is where I am supposed to be. This week will be really busy, with a lock-in, horseback riding trip, hospital visits, a funeral, and several other normal church activities. I am hoping Wednesday morning I will be able to go to the sewing circle! Thank you, as always, for checking in and especially for your prayers. Again, I hope within the next couple weeks I will have a faster internet connection so I can get pictures up.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Vicar Life, Part 1

Wow, I am so sorry for not updating sooner. I arrived at my site on Tuesday, and have slowly been getting my life back in order. My duplex is wonderful, and the cats and I are really enjoying all the additional space. It will take a while to get it fully decorated.

As for vicar life, well, it has been chaotic yet at the same time wonderful. I am getting the last of my sermon finished today, and have my first service tomorrow (there are three each week). I am nervous and excited at the same time. The supervisors, rest of the staff, and the congregants I have met so far have been incredible. I already feel so blessed to have been assigned this church.

I don't have internet yet in my place, but do have it here in the office. I really shouldn't be using the computer for anything but work, but wanted to keep you all informed. Thank you for your prayers, I have certainly been blessed by each of you. More updates (and pictures) to come!

-Vicar Laura

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Hello friends!

Wow, so many questions; thought i'd better hop on here and answer them! First, the green duck is Captain Squirt. He was actually found by some of my seminary friends while doing Katrina relief. He now travels with different students throughout our country and soon the world! I took him with me to Maine a few weeks back and he is now with me in Oklahoma. On Saturday he will fly with me once more to Seattle!

As for internship, I will be headed out to a town near Altoona, north of Gettysburg I think. I am very excited to experience another part of Pennsylvania and to really grown in my skills. Thanks for checking in and I will post more soon! Oh, and please keep Joey's family in your prayers, as well as all of Asher's friends.

Friday, August 11, 2006

What the heck is a "vicar"?!

The great people at wikepedia have an incredibly detailed definition of "Vicar". Here is what they have to say about the term when used in the Lutheran church:

In the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, The Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod and the Lutheran Church - Canada, a vicar is a candidate for ordained pastoral ministry, serving in a vicariate or internship, usually in the third year of seminary training. Typically at the end of the year of vicarage, the candidate returns to seminary and completes a final year of studies. After being issued a call or assignment, the candidate is ordained as a pastor in the ministry of Word and Sacrament. The role of a vicar in the Lutheran tradition is most comparable to that of a transitional deacon in the Anglican and Roman churches, except that Lutheran vicars are not ordained.
The title "Vikar," used in the Lutheran churches in Germany, is comparable.

Alright, i'm back off to pack! It is amazing, I always thought I kept my apartment somewhat neat. I'm discovering i'm a complete pig and live in a dumpster!!

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Oh How Life Changes!

Seminarian friend Kelley (on right) and I at the Ocean in Maine!

Well, I am finally getting the finishing touches done on my move. It is amazing how much one can accumulate in only two years! I am surprised at how emotional it has been moving from the seminary campus. The last 2 1/2 years here has been incredibly life changing. I am actually, finally, on my way to internship.

For those who are a little confused as to what internship will entail, let me give you a very brief overview. During the next 12 months, I will have many of the same responsibilities as the Pastors (it is a husband/wife co-pastor team) yet am under their supervision. The only real difference is I am not ordained and am a student and there for educational purposes. I will have a committee that will meet with me monthly to discuss how things are going and to evaluate me. I will preach at least once a month, do visitations, Bible studies, various classes, retreats, and so on. I will also assist (not preside) in baptisms, funerals, etc. What a year it will be!

This Sunday I will leave for Oklahoma to visit Heather, Adam, and Asher. I will stay there a week then fly out to Seattle for a visit with other family and friends. Please pray for safe flights (especially with all that is going on) and for a wonderful vacation!