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