Sunday, December 09, 2007

Called to love through prayer

Although William Law and I would not have agreed on many things, he is the author of one of my favorite sayings. When Asher and Jacob were born, thousands of people throughout the world (literally) came to pray for these two amazing little boys. One day when I was reading a book of quotes, I stumbled upon one by Law which said, "There is nothing that makes us love someone so much as praying for them." When I read this, my eyes could not help but well up with tears, as it touched at the heart of what so many of us were experiencing at that moment.

I have been working somewhat diligently today on another project for my Epistles course. As I was studying Paul and the core teachings in his letters, I was been unable to control my mind from drifting. I've read over and over again about the call to unity as the Body of Christ. In the context of Philippians, it is the call to be unified in the midst of proclaiming the Gospel. In our little internet community, it is still the call to proclaim the Gospel, but in the form of praying and supporting those who have become family even though we have never met.

While making dinner, I thought back to last year when I attended Christi Thomas' funeral mass. This was yet another beautiful child I had never met yet fell in love with over years of following her battle with neuroblastoma. There were many who thought I was crazy for driving five hours to a funeral when I knew no one, yet my internal reaction was always "but I did know her". I knew Christi as I journeyed with her via the internet through her treatments, through her jokes and outings, through her last days. Most importantly, I knew her and fell in love with her and her family through prayer. That is what compelled me to go and it is what made a five hour drive feel like minutes. I just knew in my heart I had to be there.

When William Law says there is nothing that makes us love someone as much as prayer does, he is speaking complete truth. I know many of you who have joined in praying for the caringbridge community understand this fully. During the last couple of months, we have lost so many on Asher and Jacob's Friends list. In the midst of celebrating the holidays, there has been a deep sorrow in knowing so many were losing their loved ones. In a way, we have been grieving alongside each family. In the suffering of these families, our hearts are broken.

I have been asked by some why I continue to follow these families when there is so much sorrow involved. I've been told to protect myself from unneccesary grief. Yet I know, as i'm studying in Paul, the call is to love. It is to love and risk the suffering, as Christ loves us so much he suffered on our behalf. We are co-crucified with Christ, participating in his suffering and death. Loving others includes suffering, it is not free from pain and grief. Our call to proclaim the Gospel includes taking such risks in order to pray for others. It is the gift God has given us. I will take the risk, as the reward is so much greater. To love others and see Christ in them is one of the great blessings I have experienced. So, I will shed the tears and continue to love these children of God through prayer.

Friday, December 07, 2007

7 Days and Counting...

I have a strong love/hate relationship with early December. The end of the semester always gets me quite neurotic and riled easily. I'm finding this year is worse than others, particularly because I know the importance of doing well in my courses. Graduation is just around the corner, and I kinda need certain classes to graduate!

The thing that makes this crazy time of year wonderful is the Advent season. Preparing for and anticipating the celebration of Christ's birth. The fresh snow we actually have on the ground! The pretty little 5 1/2 foot tree in the corner of my room, stuffed full of presents nicely wrapped for my family. It's cold but hey, i'm an Alaskan and we like the cold! Even in the midst of the stress, this time of year is still one of my favorites.

At the moment, I am taking a "brain break" from my Hebrew final. The papers and tests are slowly winding down. My big stressor exegetical paper is finally done. Having this accomplished has taken a huge weight off my shoulders. In all, if it was double spaced it would have been 17 or so pages. After a week of staying up till between 2-4:30am, it is in the professors hands and finally out of mine!

My foot is slowly doing better. The physical therapist gave me a scare the other day by telling me he didn't see it getting much better. He felt I would probably always have the feeling of walking on a rock. According to him, I have basically no arch support anymore and there is little to protect my metatarsals from each other, which causes the rock feeling. I left his office feeling extremely burdened. He is looking for solutions to try and help the foot, but I did not get the sense he was confident about what he would find.

Thankfully, I have felt a small improvement this week. I have spoken with others, including my chiropractor who specializes in neurology. Most have expressed my feelings that I am less than a month out of surgery and my foot is still quite huge. It needs time to heal, and I need to keep working on it to loosen the scar tissue. I will never be 100%, but I doubt I will always be this bad. I do plan to call my doctor on monday to discuss what was said by the physical therapist, just to get his opinion (and reassurance!).

So, it's been quite a week! I feel so blessed to be at the end of my second to last semester. I will deeply miss this place, but am very much ready to take the next step. After almost 8 years of higher education, it is time to move on!

Hope you all are having a great week. I'm ready for some hot cocoa and a Christmas movie! Maybe I should finish my final first though...

Friday, November 30, 2007

The Joy's of PT

I don't know about the rest of you, but I think physical therapists find extreme joy in their work. It seems the more pain your in, the more their excitement rises. Makes you wonder, doesn't it?!

In case you haven't guessed, I began physical therapy today. It is my second go around, the other was before my first foot surgery. Thankfully, the PT was a really nice guy and was surprisingly gentle today. Although my foot hurts more this time around, the PT was actually easier!

I know as time goes on, he will get more aggressive. Today was more of an assessment to see where I am at. I was pleased to find out I am actually way ahead of the game! He told me my range of motion is where people typically are in week four (i'm only 2 1/2 weeks out), which is great.

The biggest struggle I will be facing is all the scar tissue. After two surgeries, there is a ton of it. Walking is by far the hardest thing to do; it feels like i'm walking on marbles and my big toe does not like to move. Hopefully if i'm aggressive enough, i'll work through it in no time!

Other than that, i'm in the midst of the last couple weeks of classes. Although i'm escatic at the idea of being done for the semester (1 more to go!), i'm so nervous about getting everything done. I've had to take extensions on some work, which I hate. It makes it so much more intense to make up the work plus the other things that are due. I know i'll get through it, I just have to pick at it one paper at a time.

This monday is the big day in regards to the call process. My paperwork for call/assignment is due into the ELCA headquarters in Chicago. The papers are very intense and have really forced me to look at my call, skills, and theology. I'm excited to have this done and in the office. In case your wondering, this is my resume type paperwork. Part of it goes to the Bishops during my assignment to a region and then synod; the other part goes out to churches that consider me for call. Pretty intense/exciting stuff!

Alright, speaking of all of that, I should probably get to it! Thank you for all of the comments to my last post. Sometimes I really wonder if i'm just talking to myself. If I am, that's okay. Writing really is therapeutic!

Here is a picture of my foot as it looks now. I hope it doesn't gross anyone out. Some have been curious and asked to see. As I aim to please, here it is! The swelling and bruising is really down a lot; you should've seen it two weeks ago!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Goodbye Boot!

Whew, surgery is OVER! I had my foot surgery two weeks ago, and am finally starting to get back to normal (well...somewhat). I was quite surprised at how painful the first week was. Honestly, I was not prepared in the least. The first few days it felt like the entire foot was on fire. After doubling the pain meds, I felt much better. *smile*

It turned out that there was much more in my foot than expected. My doctor was shocked to find I had not one but two neuromas in my left foot. To top it off, they were two of the biggest neuromas the doctor had seen all year.

The bone spur on the joint of my big toe was about 1/4 inch thick. He said they basically fractured my big toe and then cut off spur. I have to say this has been the roughest part of the recovery.

So, aside from the scars from my last surgery, I have three lovely new incisions: one is around 2 inches long, the other two about 1inch each. My foot looks like it has been through one tough battle. I still have quite a bit of pain, tingling, shocking feelings, and swelling. Then of course I have the permanent numbness. I am adjusting and I think not having the boot will help with this. I am so glad it is over.

My doctor is very, very happy with the progress made already, and thinks I will feel a whole lot better once all the healing has occurred. I am so blessed to have him as my surgeon and that everything has been taken care of. Hopefully, this is the last of my surgeries and I will be back to the gym, snowtubing, and long battlefield walks very soon.

Thank you for all your prayers, emails, and support. I apologize it took so long to update. I'm in the middle of finals, so it has been hard to balance my recovery, papers, and updates!

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Hooray for Future Happy Feet!

Cutie Patootie Katharina peering off the couch

Hooray, I have a surgery date! I'll be sliced and diced on November 12th, only a mere 11 days from now. It is exciting and nerve-racking all at the same time.
Thankfully, the surgeon is an amazing person and is reworking his schedule just to fit me in. They had no openings until January, which will not be a good month for me school wise. What a blessing this doctor is; I will forever be grateful for the generosity he has shown towards me throughout this process.
This week has been a jam packed one. We had Luther Colloquy at Seminary, which is a day long seminar on Luther's theology. Honestly, I never really get into the lectures, but the socializing is great! We had so many of my old friends here who have graduated or are on internship. It was great to forget about school, feet, and call papers for a couple days and just enjoy the company. That, accompanied with school and surgery scheduling stuff made for a fun week!
Alright, it is time to cut this blog a bit short and get to bed. I've been doing the "stay up till 2am" gig a few nights too many and need to get back to a real schedule (wow, do I sound old). The next 11 days will be crazy with doctor appointments and trying to work ahead in classes. Probably shouldn't be writing call/assignment papers and exegeticals while i'm on happy drugs!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

School, Cranky Foot, and a Moody Cat to Boot!

Well, I am finally over half way done with my second to last semester (not that i'm counting or anything). It is amazing how I went from actually being excited to be in class to being overwhelmed with senioritis all in about a couple weeks. This is the third bout of senioritis I have had in life, and I am ready to NEVER have it again. Eight years of college is more than enough for this lady!

Speaking of senioritis, I think it has actually spread to the cats. Melanchthon, the lovely kitty cat above, is becoming extremely moody. It actually seems like he is more than done with the campus life. The break outs from our room are becoming more frequent and he likes to hang out at the fire doors, planning a real escape. To top it off, he is actually beating on Katharina for no apparent reason! She will be lying around, minding her own business, and he will just come up and whap her on the head! What a little beast. He may look cute, but he is definitely not Mr. Innocent.

In the midst of this fun-filled semester of courses, call/assignment papers, and the upcoming Approval interview in Anchorage, my annoying left foot is getting more and more cranky by the day. For those who do not know, I had decompression surgery in July for Morton's Neuroma (tumor-like substance wrapped around the nerve). The surgery failed miserably to say the least. My foot is so cranky that even as I sit here typing there is a pulse throbbing right in the ball of my foot. It seems there is either always a dull ache, electrice shocks, or the pulse. I kinda prefer the dull ache!

So, this semester I will be having yet another surgery. All of the conservative treatments i've had since last February have not worked, so I will be having the part of the neuroma with the tumor on it removed, along with a bone spur on the joint of my big toe. This bone spur has also been quite painful, so let's chop that sucker off too.

I really hope all of this helps, as I don't want to be dealing with this problem during graduation time and my first call. I miss being active so much. This foot thing has made me a big ole blob. I can't even walk to class without the foot bothering me. There are so many things that are way worse than this, and I am very grateful to be an overall healthy 27 year old. I think the best thing about this thing is it has helped me see how truly blessed we healthy people are to be able to do the everyday things. Not being able to walk two blocks without hurting has really helped me see a small glimpse of what it must be like for all the shut-ins I visit. As whiny as this entry is, I do feel grateful for this chance to gain some perspective. A little neuroma is nothing compared to what so many in our world face day in and day out with nothing that will ease their pain.

So, here's to hoping my next entry will be a neuroma free one! I should find out this week when surgery is, and will be sure to let you know.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Goodbye Vicar Life, Hello Seminary!

Hello Everyone!
I know, it has been another long stretch since my last update. I really do apologize, life just got too chaotic.
I finished internship on August 29th in a whirlwind of activity. For two weeks out of August I was on my own while the pastors were on a mission trip to Honduras. Thankfully, no major crisis' arose during their absence, as I was busily packing up the apartment and working on the dreaded approval essay.
For those who do not know, the approval essay is a twenty page theological essay on trinitarian theology (topic changes each year). This is part of the last phase of the candidacy process to be ordained. Writing this paper was very difficult in the midst of saying goodbye to the congregation and moving to seminary. Thankfully, it is finished!
The transition from internship back to seminary went better than I anticipated. I was afraid that entering classes again would be difficult and the motivation to do schoolwork would be lacking. To my surprise, I am loving school and feel energized to learn. At the moment, I am taking: Hebrew, Ethics, Epistles, Mission Strategies, and Integrative Seminar III. Integrative is a course taken each year, depending on what year of schooling you are in. It is simply a reflective type course and the curriculum in it is very light. At the moment, I am loving each course for very different reasons. The language of Hebrew is not required at this seminary, but I am very thankful I chose to take it. I am finding it fascinating and learning the language is very much like doing a difficult puzzle. It is a good thing I love puzzles!
The day after arriving back at seminary, my younger sister Jamie arrived for a twelve day vacation. I am so grateful we scheduled this trip, as it was just what I needed after the emotional goodbye from Zion. We went to Philadelphia and toured the Independence Hall area and went to the Franklin Institute. It was very cool! I would attach pictures but Jamie still hasn't sent them (hint hint Jamie!).
We then went up to New York City to see the broadway production of Spamalot. For anyone who loves Monty Python I HIGHLY suggest it! It was so much fun and relaxing. For the first time, I chose to stay at a hotel right outside Philadelphia before going to New York. This made it so I wasn't exhausted from driving four hours up, spending the day in the city, then trekking back to Gettysburg all in the same day. I really don't know what ever compelled me to do it that way in the first place!
The rest of our trip we spent going to places around Gettysburg, such as: Lancaster, Harper's Ferry (beautiful), Hershey Park, and even the York County Fair. Jamie and I competed against each other to win the biggest stuffed animals, resulting in a massive pile on my couch! If anyone wants one, let me know!
Now that Jamie is gone and most of my boxes are unpacked, the cats and I are just trying to settle back into seminary life. It is surreal being back. The school still feels like home, yet part of me feels like it is still missing. I loved doing ministry at Zion so much and cannot wait to get back out again. As much as I love school, I love doing ministry in a congregation even more.
This wednesday I would like to ask you to please keep me in prayer. At 9:30am, I will be in my Faculty Approval Panel. This is the second to the last step towards being approved for ordination. In my book, it is the most scary. I will be sitting down with two faculty members of the seminary to be interviewed based on my approval essay, my years in seminary, internship, and discerning my call to the ministry. I know deep down I have nothing to be nervous about as I do believe God is calling me to the ordained ministry. I think my nerves are the result of wanting to be ordained so much, the thought of not being ordained rips me apart. From the sounds of it, the rest of the senior class is right there with me. So, I ask that you not only keep me in prayer, keep the whole class in your prayers. When this is all over I think i'll need to treat myself to a movie or something!
Aside from all of that, I am looking forward to going home for Christmas. I am sure many of you are rolling your eyes at me right about now! I just bought my ticket to go back to Seattle in December. I miss my family terribly, and haven't been back to Seattle since last Thanksgiving. During Christmas vacation, it sounds like I will be having the last of my approval interviews. This will be with my candidacy committee from Alaska and is the most important step in the process. They have the final say over whether or not I will be ordained. I will update you when I know the date for sure. I think it will be my greatest Christmas present. Not having that hanging over my head during the holidays will be wonderful!
So, as you can see it has been a very busy month. Thank you all for being such an incredible support. I will try and make these updates for frequent now that I am more settled. Please do not hesitate to write at any time to update me on how you are doing. In the meantime, know that you are all in my prayers.
New Prayer Site (just moved it this weekend!):

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Last Internship Sermon

“Transitioning by Faith”
Vicar Laura Lynn
August 19, 2007

It is that time of year again. The summer is quickly winding down, for some too fast, for others too slowly. Most have the school supplies purchased, unless you are like me and put everything off till the last minute. Children are getting ready for school, young adults are getting ready for college. Here at Zion, we are getting ready for Rally day, afterburners, horseback riding trips, and the hayride. In the midst of all of this, we are also making the transition of my departure and the beginning of a new year with Vicar Jeff. It is the time of year that we all look towards with excitement, mixed with a little fear and sadness; it is transition time.

If you are like most Lutherans, you dread change. It is one of the most dirty words in our denominations language. What draws many of us to the Lutheran church is that we like things to stay the same. If we do make a change, it is typically small and includes the criteria of being our idea and must include some minor kicking and screaming. We like things to stay the same.
Yet here we are, faced with a period of many changes. There are those changes we face every year, such as a new school year or aging another year. There are also those changes that are frightfully new to us. Health crisis’, divorce, moving from our home, loss of a job. No matter what the change is, one thing is for certain; all of us in this room are in the midst of some kind of transition.

It is difficult for me to believe that I am a mere ten days away from saying goodbye to you. I’ll admit, this is one of the more difficult transitions that I have faced in recent years. Having become such a part of this family, saying goodbye has been made more difficult than I expected it would be when I first came.

In our Hebrews passage, we read of a long line of people throughout our history who have been faced with some sort of trial. We read of the great Exodus out of Egypt, The wall of Jericho falling, of Rahab, Gideon, Samuel, and the like. All of these great people throughout our history were faced with trials and transitions that were far greater than the goodbye we will say next week.

What I take from this passage and the verses preceding it is the simple phrase, “by faith.” By faith Abraham made his home in the promised land, by faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau, by faith Moses left Egypt…always faced with major transitions, but always by faith.
It is only by faith that we can be faced with transitions and be comforted in knowing that Christ’s presence in with us. These great cloud of witnesses attest to that. We may not always understand the purpose of why we are faced with certain things, but we can face them head on, knowing by faith that we will be brought through our times of trial.

I will admit that last year at this time I had a very sour stomach regarding coming to internship. The fear that filled my heart and mind was far worse than even the transition into seminary. For the first time since I was three years old, I would not be in an academic setting. For the first time in my life, I would have an entire year of not only applying the things I had learned, but I would actually be in a pastoral kind of role. The thought was enough to make me keel over (and at times it did).

Imagining the mistakes that I would make, the battles I might face with cranky parishioners, the thought of preaching, chanting, and possibly not getting along with my supervisors was more than I could bear. I did not feel ready to have any sort of leadership role in a parish. Sure, I had been a Christian Education director for many years, but that was far different in my mind. This would be a horribly challenging year.

Of course, this year turned out nothing like my worst fears. I stepped into this role by faith and experienced the joy and beauty that comes with full-time ministry. I was told by the seminary the honeymoon period of internship would last approximately three months; it is now going on 12. I have loved just about every moment of being here. And I learned what it means to approach a transition by faith.

I learned that in transitioning by faith, we are called to be Witnesses. We witness to the fact that even though our time of transition may be utterly frightening, we are called to trust that God’s plan is so much greater; just as it has been throughout history.
I learned that by faith we are called to Hope. We are to have hope that although we may not always understand God’s plan, by faith we can have hope that we will be brought through our times of trial.
I learned that by faith we are called to Inclusion. We are included in a great community, which can be seen in this congregation. It is a community of believers who are sewn together by faith through Jesus Christ. We are called to be in this community to support, pray for, and love one another. It is a community that is there even when we transition into a new place.
I learned that by faith we are called to Need. We are called to need each other and to be served by the Body of Christ. No one can transition by faith without the support of others.
I learned that by faith we are called to Encourage. When faced with any of life’s transitions, we need to have encouraging feedback, whether it comes in the form of prayers, physical help, or loving words. We need to be encouraged that Christ is present in our midst through the community of believers.

I learned that by faith we are called to Respond. We are called to respond to God’s calling in our life, even if it is not what we would have wanted or expected. As I have said many times, I did not want to be a pastor. I did not want to spend my life serving God in a congregational setting. But, that is what makes it a call. We are all called by God to ministry in some form, and it is only by faith that we can discern our response.

As you can see, I learned this year to be a WHINER. Yes, as most of you know, the nickname given to me this year was the whiney Vicar. In discerning what exactly this means for me, I have decided it means far more than being a complainer. It means more than my supposed kicking and screaming about certain tasks. To me, being a whiner is my response to God. By faith, we are all called to be whiners. We are called to: witness, to hope, to include, to need, to encourage, and to respond.

So, when you think back on this year, remember. Although I was always accused of being the whiney vicar, we are all called to be whiney. And it is only by faith that we can truly be a whiny congregation. As we transition into this new year and go our separate ways, this is my prayer for you. That God would continue working in each of your lives, using you as his great cloud of witnesses. By faith you all answered God’s call to serve this community, including me. I pray as you enter this new year with Vicar Jeff, God would use you to show him what it means to be a whiner as well. Amen.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Hoping To Reimerge Soon!

I know my updates have been few and far between lately; thank you for being so patient!

At the moment, I am scrambling to get my approval essay finished (due Sept 1). For those who do not know, this is the last part of the candidacy process, which lasts for the four years of seminary. The essay is about 20 pages long and is based on Trinitarian theology. This is to see how well the candidate is able to articulate their theology and call to ministry. After the paper is done, I will meet with a faculty panel at the seminary and my candidacy committee back in the Northwest. It is both exciting and terrifying. If I do well, I will be approved for ordained ministry. Yikes!

In the midst of all this, I have just preached my last sermon at my internship site. This upcoming Sunday (26th) will be my last at the church. Honestly, I have not had much time to grieve this loss, and may not until I am back on campus. It is truly a loss in many ways, as the year has been amazing and I have a deep love for this congregation. Part of being in ministry is having to really say goodbye. We are not supposed to stay in contact with the congregation members, as it would greatly affect their ability to move on to bonding with the new minister. So, the goodbyes are truly goodbyes.

Please, if you could, be in prayer for not only myself but also for the congregation as we approach these next ten days. It will be a crazy ten days for sure, and I am looking forward to being able to move past this period into calmer days! I would especially like to ask for prayers that I finish my approval essay and that the work that is done will be of quality. Last minute writing can be a little iffy!

More updates to come...

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Long Overdue Update

Hello All!

Many have been asking for an update, so I figure it is high time to update you all on Vicar life!

I am not even certain when my last update was sent out to you, so I will try and backtrack a bit. Sabbatical did go wonderfully, and was probably as smooth as a month in a large parish could have been. I found the time with the pastors away gave me a much needed boost in my confidence level. Since the month away, they have left a couple more times, and the time alone now seems completely natural. I am very comfortable in the role of minister, and know that God has given me these alone times to help me grow in my independence.

Last month, we held our Vacation Bible School. I was "Rowdy the cowgirl" for the week and the kids loved it. I had to break out of my comfort zone and get really goofy in some ridiculous skits. Although a bit humiliating, I must admit I enjoyed being silly for the week. It was a great time and another chance to bond with the families.

Just a couple days after VBS finished, we went into a week of confirmation camp. This is a wonderful program some of the pastors in the area have been doing for over 20 years. The kids loved it, as did the adults. It was awesome to watch their progression not only in knowledge, but in their relationships with God and each other. No matter where I end up in ministry, I would love to participate in a program like this, as it truly leaves an impact on all involved.

A week after camp, my father and stepmother flew in for a much needed week of vacation. We took off to Gettysburg, Washington DC, and Strasburg (right outside Lancaster). We had the chance to explore the Smithsonian, had a private tour of the Capital building (thanks to a congressman I know), and watched the fireworks over the Washington monument on the 4th of July. On Tuesday night we got to witness a sunset ceremony at the Iwa Jima memorial done by the Marines. There were many other great moments in this trip and I could go on forever. Although it was jam packed with activity, it still provided me with some much needed rest away from work. It helped me realize the importance of taking time away from the congregation you are serving. Although I love work, I am human and needed a break!

This week I head out for Family Camp. It is a five day program with about 50 some odd members of our congregation. There are twelve families participating and many call it the highlight of the year. I have been looking forward to it since I arrived, though I know there will be many "humiliate the Vicar" opportunities. They tell me this is because the love me! *smile*.

Aside from this, I have been having a minor annoyance with my foot. I have tried to keep this as quiet as possible, only telling those necessary, as it seems so silly to me. I have a small growth on my nerve (morton's neuroma) that started as a series of charlie horses and is now in constant discomfort. It has been going on since February and as all other conservative treatments have failed, I will be having a minor surgery on the 20th to cut the ligament between two toes; this is called decompression surgery. I hate to even bring it up, but if you could keep me in your prayers that all goes well, it would be appreciated. It is a very quick procedure, but necessary. I really hope it relieves the discomfort, as I have come to realize a painful foot is not a helpful thing in the busy life of an intern. Thankfully, there is a wonderful team of doctors and physical therapists in the congregation who have taken over caring for this problem. I am so grateful for their care.

As you can see, I have loved every moment of my internship, even with a bad foot. As the summer nears a close, I am preparing myself emotionally and spiritually for the move back into seminary life. It will be very difficult to part from this place I have called home and the congregation that has become like family to me. They have treated me with nothing but love and respect. Each person has taken on the role of teacher in a way I could not have imagined. There is nothing about internship that I have disliked, and I know that is a rare thing. My time here ends on August 26th, and I ask that you would hold the congregation and myself in prayer as that transition takes place. Please also keep the new Vicar and his family in your prayers as they begin their time serving at this wonderful place.

Thank you for all your prayers and support. If you have a moment, let me know how you are doing!


Sunday, June 03, 2007

Trinity Sunday Sermon

There is nothing greater in life than watching a child discover something for the first time. Back in January, I went to Oklahoma to visit one of my closest friends. Her little boy, Asher, who I proudly declare my nephew, was still a young infant. One day during my visit, both parents had to be at work so I eagerly took on the task of babysitting him. I had him on the couch and we were having fun, looking at toys and making faces. I sat for a moment, and just observed him. He started to grab for his toy and just stopped. His eyes got really big as he stared at his hand, moving it back and forth and back and forth. You could watch and see the mystery unfolding in his little mind. It was as if he was realizing for the first time that this thing that he uses to grab stuff is actually a part of him. He has control over his hand. He then stuffed his hand in his mouth, took it out, and stared again. You could see that he was kind of like, “wow! I can put this in my mouth and suck on it.” “Oh look, I can take this thing and grab something I want.” I can even grab the other hand and stuff both in my mouth” It was absolutely the most awesome thing to witness. This young boy was putting all of the pieces together in his mind, unraveling a great mystery.
Today is what we call on the church calendar Trinity Sunday. It is unlike most Sundays in the church in that the focus is not on a particular story from scripture, but rather on what most would say is the most important doctrine of the Christian church. Today, we are called to look at the doctrine of the Trinity and try to piece together the great mystery that is the relationship between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
I read once that if a person is to try and speak about the Trinity for more than two minutes, they begin to enter false teachings, also known as heresy. The reason this is believed by some to be true is the Trinity is in fact a mystery; it is beyond our ability to reason through. How can one explain how we have a God that is one essence but distinct in person? And when we say person, we don’t mean like the relation we have with three separate humans. Rather, this is to mean that each part of the Trinity is somehow distinct from each other but united in will and essence. Are you confused yet? I will admit, I am. That is what makes the Trinity a mystery. No one can exactly explain how God can be three in one and one in three. No one can explain how the entire Trinity has been united from the beginning, from creation, and still united on the cross and united in the sacraments, and united for all eternity. It is truly a mystery.
We, in our human nature, desire to find an explanation for everything. How do we cure cancer? How come one sock is always lost in a load of laundry? How come Paula Abdul breaking her nose gets more headlines than those who died in Iraq the same day? How is Christ truly present in the bread and the wine? Or even like Asher, how does each member of our body interact with each other? We have questions upon questions upon questions, most of which will never have an answer.
In our consumerist society, we are always trying to find information as fast as possible. Studies say that in our world today, information doubles every two years. We thrive on knowing as much as possible as fast as possible. Books are becoming less important in our world as the information does not come nearly as fast as it does on the internet. Even for me, in looking for information on the Trinity for this sermon, I found it much more simple to hop onto the internet than to pull out my old dusty text books. Professors of mine have published most of their notes on the internet. I found the information I desired in less than half the time it would have taken me to walk to the shelf, pull out a notebook, and leaf through the pages. We desire for the answers to come quick and easy.
In our Christian faith, we learn that information does not always come to us, and when it does, it doesn’t come as fast and as easy as we would like. The hard knocks we experience prove this to us. Why our prayers are not always answered the way we would like. Why we struggle to forgive even though we know we should. And even the simple questions, like the one the third and fourth graders wanted answered in Sunday school this week about how dinosaurs fit into the creation story. We don’t always know the answers, and when we think we have sometimes found them, they don’t always come in the time frame we would like.
Why do we always feel the need to have all the answers? We are constantly trying to de-mystify the things in life which cannot be explained. We believe we need to know and we need to know now. This is one of the most awesome yet frustrating parts about our relationship with God. Christianity is not about how. It is not about when or even why. It is about who. Who created us? Who created dinosaurs? Who comes in the form of bread and wine? Who forgives us? Who gives us everlasting life? Who is always working in all things? The only thing we need to know is that God is always at work. Who is much more significant in our faith lives than the how questions. We cannot explain the great mysteries of God because if God wanted us to know, we would have the answers. How can God come in the form of three persons yet still be one? It is not for us to know. That is what makes our relationship to God one of faith.
In our gospel lesson for this Sunday, we hear about the Spirit guiding us in truth, who will continue the work of the Trinity in our lives today. It is here that we learn that the truth will be revealed to us only when we are able to hear it. The mysteries of the faith are not always going to be revealed. If and when we are ready, the knowledge and words will come. The Spirit will continue the mission of the church through us, giving us the tools when and if we need them.
The mysteries within our faith offer us great lessons for living our daily lives. It is okay not to have all the answers. It is okay to say, “I don’t know”. Those of you in the adult Sunday school class are fully aware that when you ask me a question, I am not afraid to admit I do not have all the answers. We are simply human, and to accept the fact that some things will always remain a mystery is a healthy thing. How can faith play a role in our lives if we have evidence of all things? There would be no need for trusting in our God. All our questions would be answered. We would have all the evidence we ever needed that God does in fact exist. We would have complete clarity about what is written in scripture, we would know why prayers are answered the way they are.
There would be no need to have faith. Really, there would be no need for us to gather on this day in worship. There is a reason why we have these great mysteries. There is a reason God comes in the form of three distinct persons yet is of one essence. If we needed to understand why, God would provide the answers. But the greater reason, I believe, is for us to question, and for us to build in our faith and trust in our great God. When we are ready, the truth will be revealed, and we, like Asher, will look in amazement and awe as the mystery is unraveled. But until then, we can know that God’s plan is greater than anything we can reason, and we can proclaim all that Christ has revealed and rejoice in the mysteries of our faith. Amen.

Saturday, May 05, 2007


It is hard to believe it has been so long since I last posted! I guess you can say things have been a wee bit busy. Oh well, thankfully it was a "good busy".

Since my last post, I have almost officially survived Sabbatical. The Pastors will be returning Wednesday of this upcoming week; I think I am ready for their return. The secretary and I have found a new norm in the office, and it will definitely be an adjustment to go back to how things were originally. I did miss them though, and look forward to working with them again. They are truly amazing supervisors.

To my surprise, things were very quiet over the last month. I never would have thought I would describe the month on my own as smooth, but really, it was! Yes, my first Sunday I did have a surprise in the supply Pastor not coming, leaving me approximately two hours to write a sermon. The following week I lost my voice as a result of strep throat FIVE MINUTES before my first service. That was most certainly not the smoothest of services. But really, those were the biggest crisis'. I also made a bad mistake that was embarrassing and a good learning experience. We won't go into that, but I will say I learned from it, nothing life-altering happened, and I think things are okay. It was something I had to be reminded of and I am glad it happened the way it did. So, if these were the worst things to happen on sabbatical, life is good.

I discovered during this month that I am more capable than I have ever given myself credit for. The Holy Spirit, to my surprise, really has I believe chosen me for this form of ministry. I am not captive to my insecurities but instead am captive to being a servant of Christ. This is probably the greatest lesson I have learned thus far. So often, I find myself looking at my life with so much humility that I forget what a great creation God has made in me. I learned I need to stop focusing so much on what I am not gifted in and see the gifts that are there to be used for the glory of God. It is truly amazing to discover how great we really are because of whose we are.

So, as you can see, it has been a good month. I have been supported, loved, prayed for, and equipped with newfound gifts through serving in this congregation. I could not be more blessed with being assigned to this internship site, and I am looking forward to seeing where I go next.

Speaking of where I go next, that part of my life is drawing eerily close. This upcoming June, I will be given the packet to write my approval essay. This is the final step of the candicacy process to be approved for ordination. It is scary yet exilariting to finally be here. It is during the writing of this long long long long essay that I will also have to be thinking about and praying about what region I would like to be assigned to. I have an idea of where I would like to be, but really need to focus in on discerning if this is my desire or God's. I ask that you would join me in praying that God would guide this whole process. I know that wherever I am placed (and honestly I do not have much of a say), God will do ministry through me and in turn I will be blessed. It is just so hard to let go of my own desires and open myself up to the possibility I may have to yet again relocate to an entirely new place. Big moves are hard!

Alright, I am off to get myself ready for tonight's service. Hope you are all doing well.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Easter Vigil

I found this on one of my seminary friend's site, and thought it very appropriate for this night. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did:

The Following is an excerpt from the Ancient Easter Hymn, the Exultet, translated into English:

"Let now the heavenly hosts of angels rejoice let the living mysteries be joyfully celebrated: and let a sacred trumpet proclaim the victory of so great a King.Let the earth also be filled with joy, illuminated with such resplendent rays; and let men know that the darkness which overspread the whole world is chased away by the splendor of our eternal King.

Let our mother the Church be also glad, finding herself adorned with the rays of so great a light and let this temple resound with the joyful acclamations of the people...It is truly fitting and just to proclaim with all the affection of our heart and soul, and with the sound of our voice the invisible God the Father almighty, and his only Son our Lord Jesus Christ.Who paid for us to his eternal Father the debt of Adam: and by his sacred blood canceled the guilt contracted by original sin.

For this is the Paschal solemnity, in which the true Lamb was slain, by whose blood the doors of the faithful are consecrated.This is the night in which thou formerly broughtest forth our forefathers, the children of Israel, out of Egypt, leading them dry-foot through the Red Sea. This then is the night which dissipated the darkness of sin by the light of the pillar.This is the night which now delivers all over the world those that believe in Christ from the vices of the world and darkness of sin, restores them to grace, and clothes them with sanctity.

This is the night in which Christ broke the chains of death, and ascended conqueror from hell.For it availed us nothing to be born, unless it had availed us to be redeemed.O how admirable is thy goodness towards us! O how inestimable is thy love! Thou hast delivered up thy Son to redeem a slave.O truly necessary sin of Adam, which the death of Christ has blotted out!O happy fault, that merited such and so great a Redeemer!

O truly blessed night, which alone deserves to know the time and hour when Christ rose again from hell.This is the night of which it is written: And the night shall be as light as the day, and the night is my illumination in my delights.Therefore the sanctification of this night blots out crimes, washes away sins, and restores innocence to sinners, and joy to the sorrowful. It banishes enmities, produces concord, and humbles empires.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Good Friday Sermon

“Were you there, when they crucified my Lord?” The hymn that we sing on this day called Good Friday, poses a complex yet simple question. Were we there? Were we there, when they nailed him to the tree? Were we there when they laid him in the tomb? The answer is yes. We were there. We were there, before Christ with every sinful thing we have ever done, every sinful thing we have ever thought, every sinful thing we have not yet realized. In Jesus’ outstretched arms on the cross, he reached out to take on every sin of the past, every sin of the present, and every sin that is yet to come. Were we there? Yes. We were there as ones who have murdered others with our words. We were there as those who have lusted after things that are not ours. We were there as those who are jealous, as those who have worshipped idols, as those who have taken the Lord’s name in vain. We were there, laying down our burdens before the one who loves us more than we can possibly comprehend. We were there.

Today, Good Friday, we take the journey with Jesus. We journey with him because this is our journey to take. We are the guilty ones, we are the ones who should be tried and executed. So we go with him. We feel the pain of knowing someone else is suffering on our behalf. We watch as he is mocked, we watch as he is found guilty of a crime he did not commit, we watch him stumble from exhaustion towards Golgotha. We listen to the cries of pain as the nails are driven through his flesh and bone. We hear his words of grace and forgiveness when he tells the criminal next to him that today he will be with him in paradise. And we witness his last breath.

We are witnesses to the death of our Lord. The sacrifice that God did not have to give, but did because of unconditional love. Through Jesus, we are redeemed. And so we are called to lay our burdens down. We are called to accept the healing that comes from his pain, from his blood, from his death.

This week, my home congregation in Petersburg, Alaska has taken on the task of healing. After years of brokenness from conflicts with each other and pastors that have come and gone, they are working with the interim pastor to find resolve so they can call a new pastor. Because there is so much heartache and anger towards the past, the pastor has taken this Holy Week to help them find healing. At the foot of the cross in the church, he has placed a paper shredder. Here, they are encouraged to write their feelings on paper, share it with someone they trust, asking them to be in prayer, and then proceed to the foot of the cross where they will find a paper shredder. With that shredder, they are to shred what they have written as a symbol of laying their burdens down at the foot of the cross. Then, at their Easter vigil they will burn the shreds of paper during the opening liturgy.

The actions of our brothers and sisters in Petersburg represents the call of the cross for us today. Today, Good Friday, we are called to be present with Christ at the cross. Jesus did not face the crucifixion to have us hang on to our sins. He did it so that we could lay our burdens down at the foot of the cross. His death was to be the death of our old selves.

By hanging on to our sins, our jealousy, bitterness, despair, we are ignoring the cross that Christ bore on our behalf. In not releasing our sin we are saying that Christ’s death was not enough. He did not suffer enough mockery, he did not experience enough rejection, he did not bleed enough, he did not struggle enough for each breath. We are saying we need more in order to be forgiven. We need to suffer more in order to be forgiven. We need to be rejected, we need to be mocked, we need to bleed. But the truth is, it is not about our suffering. It is not about what we have done for God. It is about what Christ has done for us. He is the sacrifice, hung on a cross on our behalf. The struggle we face lies in finding a way to release our burdens and trusting that Jesus’ sacrifice was enough.

A couple of years ago, when I was serving as a chaplain at Hershey Medical Center, I was called to a patients room in the middle of the night. She was a younger woman, married with small children and had just been diagnosed with cancer. I was in the middle of several trauma cases and was not able to make it up there until very late in the night, but she requested that I wake her. When I finally had the time to visit her, she shared with me her fears and concerns. She was overwhelmed with grief and felt that God was punishing her for all of the awful things she had done in the past. In her mind, it was impossible that God could ever forgive her for the hurt that she had caused others, and that maybe this was God’s way of helping her atone for her sins.

To sit in her room and listen to her story, my heart broke for her. To hear of the guilt that she had been feeling all of those years, and to know that she thought this was God’s punishment for her was unlike anything I had heard before. The concept of Jesus’ sacrifice being enough was something she struggled to understand. We talked and prayed for hours about how God’s love for us is so great that he gave Jesus as a sacrifice for our sins. We talked about how through Jesus’ stripes, we are healed.

I do not know what happened to this woman after our visit. When I was leaving, there was a calmness that had overcome her room. She seemed to be at peace and slept soundly the rest of the night. In the prayers we shared that night, she, like the people in Petersburg, took out her paper shredder and laid her burdens at the foot of the cross. For the first time in her life, she trusted that Jesus on the cross was atonement enough for her sins. The burden she had carried all those years was finally released. She had discovered the hope in knowing that Christ died for her sins.

Jesus’ work for us is enough. He has already taken on all of our sins, all our burdens. In recognizing that this has been done, we, like the woman at the hospital, can rest peacefully in knowing that Jesus has healed us through his body and blood. Nothing we have done in the past nor will do in the future can change the fact that Christ suffered and died on our behalf. The sacrifice has already been made.

Martin Luther, in a sermon he wrote for Good Friday said, “We are to consider Christ’s sufferings in a way that we are to be comforted by them. This takes place when we do not let our sins remain in our consciences, but lay them upon Christ and reflect upon the love of God and of Christ that shines forth out of these sufferings.”

Christ’s death evidences to us God’s ultimate act of love. It is the greatest gift ever to be offered us and frees us from the need to fear and worry. When Jesus died on the cross, we were there. The sins Christ took upon himself were not only the sins of those who lived before. They were not only the sins of the disciples who failed to stay awake on the mount of olives. They were not only the sins of Judas who betrayed him. The sins were not only those of the guards who arrested him, Pilate who failed to release him, the crowd that turned against him, or those who nailed him to the cross. The sins that were taken by Jesus the Christ were the sins of our grandparents, our parents, our brothers, our sisters, our children, our children’s children, ourselves. They are the sins of all who lived and all who are yet to come. Jesus came for all. Jesus suffered for all. Jesus died for all and his loving actions will continue for all. Amen

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Halfway Through

Well, actually I am almost seven months through! I can't believe how quickly the time has gone and feel so blessed to have had this experience. I look forward to what the last half of internship will bring.

At the moment, we are finishing up mid-year evaluations. These are nine-page evaluations that are written by myself, the pastors, and my internship committee. So far, the pastors and I have finished our evaluations and they look pretty good. We are on the same page and anything I need to work on is fairly minor, such as chanting and learning different styles of preparing a sermon. I look forward to Monday when I hear what the committee has to say.

In the church world, we are nearing Holy week. If I am to be completely honest with myself, I am totally exhausted. Sadly enough, today the craziness of Lent hit and I took a really long afternoon nap. This exhaustion was evidenced when yesterday I took a real, full day off and had a couple friends from seminary over (in pic above). We had a great time, but I found it very hard to relax. I have been go go go for so long, that to actually take time away from the normal busyness felt abnormal. This, to me, was a sign that I need to start making self-care a real priority. I always talk about how important it is to take care of yourself, but rarely take my own advice to heart. A lady at the church gave me a pass to the YMCA, and I think it is time to use it. I also think it is time for me to start setting aside time each week just to go out and do the things I love, like taking a drive to nowhere or going to the movies.

My being tired concerns me most because of the upcoming month long "mini-sabbatical" the pastors are taking right after Easter. I feel so completely competent to handle things while they are gone, but am worried I will already be tired going into it. Thankfully, the last time they were gone things seemed to be calmer than when they were here. If this is the case at least the first week they are gone, I think I will be good. Plus, if I get a day or two to just rest before, maybe that is all I need.

I think the real issue is I just hit a wall today. The last couple of weeks have been so busy I haven't had the time nor the energy to even talk to family and friends. Some were so concerned they called a ton just to find out if I was okay. For those who know me well know this is completely out of character. Normally i'm always on the phone. I think with the nap I took today and a quiet night at home tonight, I should be back to my normal, busy, happy self. Sleep and movies...there is no better therapy! :) Thank you, as always, for checking in and especially for your prayers.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Woo Hoo, It Has Begun!

After many months of planning, I have FINALLY begun the new children's program at the church. It is a weekday program that is set up very much like vacation Bible school. We are doing a three month trial, and if it goes well, hopefully it will continue as a nine-month program next year.

Though we had a few bumps here and there, tonight went very well. We had 29 kids show up out of the 35 we were expecting. Two had not pre-registered so overall we are very happy. The kids and volunteers seemed to really enjoy themselves, and although I am exhausted, I had a great time as well.

This weekend I will be headed out for a Spiritual Retreat. We are being separated into two groups, the adults and the youth. I will be heading up the youth, along with another volunteer. We have ten kids going, which is a great turnout for this kind of event. I am basing our weekend on the book, "The Ragamuffin Gospel", by Brennan Manning. He leads many spiritual retreats throughout the country, so I thought it appropriate to use this book.

The title of our retreat will be "The Furious Love of God." We will be talking about grace in regards to our past, present, and future. I have chosen a quote by a theologian for each of the five sessions, and am pairing them up with a scripture passage. We will be doing a lot of discussion, journaling, prayer, and meditation. I am really looking forward to this weekend and think I may get just as much out of it as the youth...maybe even more!

Alright, that is it for now. I'm pretty much flat on my back this evening and need to get some new ice for my back. Last weekend I was pretty stupid and lifted a box of four filled Communion wine jugs with my back instead of my legs. Not the most intelligent thing I have ever done and now I am paying the consequences with a sprained back. I was doing fairly well with it until today. I think I overdid it working a twelve hour day. Tomorrow will hopefully be better and hey, at least i'm no longer tossing my cookies! :)

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Tossing Cookies and Preaching

This has been a very interesting week. I've been trying to hide the fact from as many people as possible that I have had a nasty stomach flu. I hate telling people that I am sick as it makes me feel like a weeny. I really thought it was going away so it was no big deal. Today, nature proved me wrong!

I was having a wonderful morning, thinking I had recovered from the demon that invaded my body Tuesday night. I finished the final details for my sermon, drank some yummy green tea, and was ready to preach at our ecumenical lenten lunch-in. I even ate a bite of a snack bar, one of the first things I had tried in days.

Then, the demon rumbled and rumbled some more. Only an hour before I was to preach, it came back full force. I probably feel worse now than I have the entire sickness. Ick.

So, as most ministers understand, you can't really bail out on preaching. It doesn't matter if they have to drag you in on a stretcher, IV pole, foley and all...the show must go on.

Amazingly, I made it through the sermon. The Pastor's helped out by reading the scripture and doing the benediction. I almost was ready for the benediction, but could not stand up after the sermon and prayers. The beast held on during the 9 minutes or so I was up there. Had I been up there one more minute, or even thirty seconds, I probably would've lost it. From what I understand I looked like something out of a horror flick, but at least I was there. One of the Pastor's says it was a good thing for an intern to experience. I will reexamine that thought when my head isn't hung over a toilet every few hours....

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Ash Wednesday Sermon

“Where Our Treasures Are”

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” This short verse became one of my favorites when I first began reading the Bible. I was about 14 at the time, and had justlost one of my best friends.

We had only known each other for about 6 months, becoming fast friends when I moved to Petersburg, Alaska. On my first day of school, Iza was one of the first people to come up to me and introduce herself. She had grown up in Poland and knew what it was like to be the new kid in school. Soon, her, myself, and about 4 other girls became a close-knit group who did everything together.
Although she wasn’t the best influence on me, she smoked and knew how to cause trouble, she was someone I could confide in. I cherished our friendship and she made me feel secure in a place that was so unfamiliar. I was so grateful to have people in my life I felt I could lean on and speak to openly.

That all changed one February morning. On the bus to school, an ambulance drove by, an unusual site for our small town. I did not think too much of it, and just let it drift from my mind. When I arrived at school, however, I knew something was not quite right. As it turned out, our dear friend Iza collapsed on her way to the bus and instantly died. We would find out later she had a heart condition that had never been diagnosed.

Although I had experienced the early death of a classmate a few years back, this loss was so different. She had become one of my closest friends. The loss devastated me and I think forever changed who I was. The grief felt unyielding and my other friends and I tried to work through the emotions that came in waves and the questions that naturally flowed with them.
This single experience I believe had the greatest influence on my relationship with God. I became angry, questioning how a loving God could take away someone so young, yet I also clung to my faith finding comfort in the presence of Christ that I felt so strongly. It was a time of uncertainty and growth for me. It was also a time where I came to have a greater understanding of what Jesus meant when he said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasure on earth, where moth and rust consume.” I realized that nothing on earth is permanent and no matter how hard I try, I cannot control the world around me.
Iza’s death was not the first upset I had experienced during that period in my life. We had just left the only home I ever knew back in Seattle. My life long friends were all back there. My parents had only separated about a year and a half prior, and my father and new stepmother were back in Seattle. How much more could I really take? My parents marriage was gone, my home in Seattle was gone, my friend Iza was gone. Nothing in my life could remain stable, other than Christ’s presence in my life.
Today, Ash Wednesday, is a day when we are reminded of our own mortality. As the ashes are smudged on our foreheads, we are faced with the realization that we are frail, imperfect, and solely dependent upon our Lord and Savior. The treasures that surround us in this world will perish, the only thing that will remain steadfast is our God.
The loss of my friend was the first time I really reflected on how everything in our lives can be lost in an instant. In our world, we strive to gain control of our finances, of our health, of our actions. We create laws as a way of controlling our society, and put locks on our doors in order to prevent chaos. When our health fails, we find every specialist in the country to help us prevent what will ultimately be an inevitable death. We crave the ability to prevent anything from occurring in our lives that would upset the stability we have strived to build.
It is during those times when everything falls apart around us that we are reminded of that simple yet complex phrase, “you are dust, and to dust you shall return”. When we feel the ashes upon us, when we look around at each other at the end of this service, we are reminded of the reality that we have no control. We cannot control the fact that we will die, no matter how much we want to. At some point, treatments will fail. Whether this is in weeks, months, or 20 years down the road, our bodies will give out.
We cannot control the fact that time and time again our peers will fail us. Classmates will betray us, saying things behind our backs. Secrets will be spilled in the uncontrollable need to gossip. At work, someone will want to get a promotion badly enough that they will go around us in order to get ahead. We cannot control the fact that at times, our laws will not be able to prevent us from being harmed. Bad people will still lurk in corners, selling drugs to our children, mugging the innocent, finding a way to break into our homes. 14 year old girls will still die. Parents will divorce. We will still be uprooted from places that make us feel secure. Our world is broken and full of broken people.
This is why Jesus tells us to store up treasures in heaven. We are not to depend upon a broken and fallen world, we are to depend upon a perfect and loving God. A God who has given us the greatest gift to ever be offered, the gift we will celebrate at the end of this 40 day journey. It is the gift in knowing that we do not have to strive for control, because the control is in his hands. It is the gift that although we mourn now, soon that mourning will be turned into joy. It is the gift of knowing that we are forgiven, time and time again, because we are given the gift of grace through the suffering of a loving God.
As we take this 40 day journey of Lent, we are reminded of our brokenness and dependence upon Christ. This is a time to deepen our spiritual lives, to look beyond our own brokenness and need to control our world, and look to the one who is ultimately in control. We cannot always prevent bad things from happening in our lives, but we can use these situations to look deeper into what it means to be dependent upon Christ.
When my friend died, I was compelled to go deeper in my journey of faith. Her death occurred right around this time of year, and it was my first introduction to Ash Wednesday. As I had the ashes smudged on my forehead and for the first time heard the words “you are dust and to dust you shall return”, I took time to really reflect on what those words meant. I was able look beyond the darkness of my grief, and looked towards the cross that was now marked on my forehead. I realized that even though we are so imperfect and our world is broken, that the ultimate gift is found on the cross. As we go through the dark times in our lives, as we make this journey called Lent, it leads us out of the darkness and into a new creation. A creation that is full of life, hope, and grace.
Although we are mere mortals, full of sin and frailities, we are gifted in knowing that the greatest treasures of our lives lie not in this world but in Christ our Savior. In the ashes we receive today, we are given a sign to remind us of our mortality and are need for repentance, yet we are also reminded of the grace that God gives us in the gift of eternal life. That is where our treasure lies. For all of these things in our world that we depend on will eventually pass away, but we can be sure that no matter what, Christ will always remain. Amen

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Snow and Sermon

Well, we finally have winter! Since yesterday, I would estimate we have had over a foot of snowfall, and it is still coming down. It is so beautiful and although I was looking forward to an early spring, I am glad we got a taste of a real winter snow. The only downfall was trying to shovel out my car this morning so they could plow the road. Man, did I feel how badly I need to start working out!
As you can see in the picture, my glasses are officially gone! Thanks to the generosity of an eye doctor in our congregation, I was able to get my eyes checked after seven years of not going
in. Unfortunately, our seminary insurance does not cover dental or vision, so both of these areas have gone unchecked. My vision was bad enough to where I could not see most street signs. So, now I can see beautifully! He convinced me to get contacts along with new glasses. Although hesitant to try sticking my finger in my eye, I tried the contacts and am learning to love them. It is so freeing to be able to see clearly, with a new prescription and no scratches, superglue, and other icky things on the lenses. I think I am going to stick with contacts from now on. Just one more person in our congregation who is a true blessing! It is my hope that he knows how
much his gift means to me. What a great example of what it means to live a life of service to Christ.
Things are going very well with the Pastors out of the country. So far there have been no major crisis' and I hope it stays that way! I am learning to take more authority which is one of the things we have been trying to working on.
My meeting for the new children's program went really well. I have 26 volunteers for the program and I think they are all very excited to get started. So far we have 17 kids signed up, so I really need to work on that. Hopefully we will have a great turnout and the congregation will want to continue the program on next year.
I did the worship services last week by myself. It was a wonderful experience and it was very humbling to hear all the kind comments. I must say it really gave me a much needed boost and demonstrated to me that I am truly competent to lead services alone. This next weekend I will have a supply preacher for the services, as it is a Communion Sunday. I cannot preside over Communion until I am ordained, so we needed someone in anyways. This will be nice for me as it will give me more time to focus on my Sunday school lesson, rather than trying to balance that with a sermon. My adult teaching skills aren't the greatest, so I need to put more energy into these lessons.
Alright, so I am going to go start dinner. Enjoy the sermon below; it is not my greatest, but I thought I would share it anyways. I have moved the Asher's friends list to it's own site if you are looking for it. There are many updates on it, so please go to: and pray for all these kids.

"Blessed to be a Blessing"
Sermon- 6th Sunday after Epiphany

Many Sunday mornings, as I am getting ready for church, half asleep with a cup of hot tea in hand and typically my grapenuts with peaches, I sit and flip through my basic cable channels, trying to find something to watch in order to help myself wake up, if only just enough so I can function at the 8:15 service.

As most of you are probably aware, there is nothing good on television at 7am on a Sunday, unless you are a small child who enjoys power rangers. So, as I muddle though the channels, I typically land on one of the paid ½ hour advertisements. Many times, this is either advertising for one of those really cool magic bullet things that can make anything from a smoothie to cream of broccoli soup, or the advertisement is for something of more substance. It is to raise money for St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, in order to help families who cannot afford their child’s medical treatment. Or it is for impoverished children suffering the effects of AIDS or years of drought. The pictures flash on the screen of little children with their ribs sticking out of their chests, their bellies distended from disease, flies eating at their skin. As hard as it is to watch their suffering, ultimately it is difficult to change the channel. The extent of their poverty and illness is unfathomable. It is unlike anything we see here in our community, and the suffering seems so far separated from us. In remembering these pictures, it is much easier to picture what Jesus is talking about when he says “blessed are the poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.”

When discussing Jesus’ love for the poor, liberation theologian Gustavo Gutierrez describes the reason his love is so strong is because they are living in an inhuman situation that is contrary to God’s will. I find this description of the poor to be applicable to more than those suffering the kind of devastating hardship the children on the paid TV advertisement are experiencing. This description of God’s love moves throughout all whom he calls blessed. It is contrary to God’s will that we suffer in any way. God does not desire for us to weep, to be hated, to hunger. When we see the children suffering through treatment for life threatening illness’ on the St Jude commercial, does God will that? I honestly do not think so. Yet then we go on to hear Jesus say, “woe to you” who are rich, who are laughing, who are spoken well of. Is it not God’s will that we be happy and live lives that are comfortable?

These are the questions and thoughts that filled my mind this week as I pondered our text for this Sunday. It is a text that many struggle over, including me, because upon first reading, it sounds as though the way we are living is not pleasing to God. It sounds as though we should rid ourselves of all possessions and live a life of poverty. The extreme side of me would even take it to mean having the clothes on my back is wrong. But, in reality, I really don’t think this is how Jesus expects us to interpret the text.

To me, this sermon is not a call to throw away all we own. It is not a call to inflict suffering upon ourselves so we can be blessed in the eyes of God. And it is certainly not a call to seek out persecution for the sake of Christ. Rather, I take this sermon as more of a call to a life of discipleship. Just prior to the sermon, Jesus had called his twelve disciples and they were just beginning their ministry together. The twelve had just left their homes and their possessions, and were devoting their lives to ministry. These drastic changes they had just experienced I am sure were overwhelming. They had gone from lives that were comfortable to lives full of service, poverty, and persecution for the sake of Christ.

The words of Jesus in this message were not necessarily words to praise people for being poor or to condemn those who were fed, but to call the people together in a life of service to one another in the name of Christ. It is a call for the disciples to not worry so much about what they had given up, but to focus on what they are gaining; fellowship in the Christian community.

The two extremes Jesus offers us in this sermon, of people suffering and others living in the lap of luxury, is contrary to God’s will. Why should others suffer while we live comfortably with more than enough to spare? We all have something to offer others, we are told this time and time again throughout scripture, that God has blessed us all with gifts in ministry. Here, in this sermon, is our call to use these gifts, to demonstrate God’s love to all our brothers and sisters through a life of discipleship. It is not a call to rid ourselves completely of what we have, but to share our gifts with each other. It is a call to bring a balance within our world. To offer others what we have so that all our needs are met.

We are reminded in Jesus’ sermon that we will all suffer. If we are laughing now, we will weep later. If we are filled now, someday we will be hungry. And if people are speaking well of us today, another day they will not. Some of our suffering may more inhuman than others, but we will all suffer nonetheless.

About four years ago, I was meeting with a counselor that I saw for about two years. During one of our sessions, we were talking about the divorce of my parents back when I was a child and the impact that it had on me throughout the years. At one point, I mentioned that it was no big deal, as so many others had suffered such greater heartaches than I had. Who was I to complain? His response to me was that there will always be another suffering a greater heartache than me, but that does not make the hurt any less painful.

Someone will always be in greater pain than ourselves. It seems there is always someone in our world whose pain is worse than what we are experiencing. The children we see on television, living in third world countries, are suffering greatly with hunger and disease. Their pain is evident in their faces as they live each day with the fear that they will be cold, hungry, and abandoned. Here, in our church today, many of us are suffering greatly as well. It may not be with empty bellies, it may not be with the threat of no where to sleep. But pain is there nonetheless, with empty pocket books, empty homes, empty hearts. Each pain that we face is contrary to God’s will. I do not believe it was ever in God’s great plan for us to suffer, but just as sin entered the world, so did suffering. The call God gives us now is for us to serve each other in the name of Christ, in the hope of alleviating each others pain.

The call for us today is to live lives of discipleship. In our baptisms, we joined this family of disciples. We took on the call to share the good news of Jesus Christ in word and deed, even if it meant suffering for his sake. Our baptismal call is a call to be a support to one another, the children oversees, the single mother down the street, the person sitting next to you in the pew. Jesus is calling for us to bring a balance to our world; to offer our riches to those with nothing. These are the riches of monetary wealth, of a listening ear, of our skills, and of our prayers. We each have so much to offer each other, so that all may be blessed through the gifts that Christ gives us. God has given to us so that we can give to others.

In college, one of my professors use to say we are “blessed to be a blessing.” God has given us the tools to turn our woes into blessings for others. Our riches can be used to bless those who have nothing. If we are now laughing, we can be blessed to bless others who are weeping, by offering a listening ear and a comforting presence. If we are being spoke well of, we can bless others by advocating for them when they are being persecuted. God has blessed us with the gift of discipleship, to come together to bring love and healing to our neighbors, so that all may come to know him through our actions. Reflecting on her words now, it is so evident that she is right. We are all blessed to be a blessing. Amen

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

A REAL Update!

I know, it has been quite a while since I posted a real update. So, I will take a few moments now to recap you on all of my exciting adventures this last month!
As most of you know, I went to visit cute little Asher and his family in Oklahoma in mid-January! Even with all the flight delays related to the ice storm and then later a mechanical, it was a wonderful visit and I am so glad I was able to do it.
Over the last couple of months, I have been planning a mid-week children's program called "Faithweaver Friends", created by Group Publishing. We are doing a trial run March-May at the church to see how it goes. It is the hope of the Pastors and I that it will be able to continue next year. This could only be done if it was solely run by the congregation. So, I am trying to make it so I have a very small role in it during the program so they get comfortable enough to continue it later. Please pray it goes well. It has been a lot of work getting it together, but I think it is such an amazing program that would be so good for the kids and adults. So far I have about 20 volunteers. Registration begins this Sunday for the kids.
Next week I am taking some High School kids to the seminary in Gettysburg for a campus visit. Although seminary is a graduate program, if the kids are truly interested in seminary, they can begin preparing now by entering a college track that prepares them for seminary. This would be a major step up for them and would make seminary a lot less scary! My undergraduate in Christian Education was so helpful in my seminary education and is even more helpful now in the parish. All of the kids I am taking are amazing and it is so evident God is calling them into some form of parish ministry.
So, other than that things are pretty normal around here. My cats and I have been enjoying the snowfall we are finally getting. I'm telling you, it was really beginning to feel like Spring! Now it is much more normal with temperatures averaging in the teens and snow on the forecast for each day. We love it!
Please be in prayer as the Pastors are going out of the country for two weeks. Please pray for their safe travels and for me and the congregation. I'm both nervous and excited about being on my own. This will be great preparation for when they go sabbatical for a month.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

My Latest Epiphany Sermon

“They have no wine” exclaimed the mother of Jesus. The jars were empty. The jars that were moments ago full are now barely wet from what once satisfied the dry mouths of many. The celebration that was carrying on in honor of the newly married couple is beginning to die down as their mouths crave the sweet taste of wine. What will they do now? Should the celebration just end and everyone go home to where there may be something to quench their thirst? Should they continue on dancing and put their dry mouths out of their minds? What will become of the celebration that had barely just begun?

Just as the party was at risk for dying down completely, Jesus calmly, seemingly unnoticed, gave directions to fill the jars with water and suddenly, out came wine. The first person to taste it, who mistakingly gave credit to the bridegroom whose wedding was being celebrated, exclaimed, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.”

The emptiness that was ready to overtake the party was now filled with the greatest source of joy and fulfillment. The mouths that were once dry were now wet. The bellies that were at risk for becoming empty were now filled to completeness. And the laughter and dancing that was at risk for disappearing was at its peak.

As I ponder the wedding at Cana and its significance to our lives, I find that it lies simply in the six stone jars the held the wine. These jars probably sat empty in a corner for an undesignated amount of time, gathering cobwebs and dust. They were unused, unnoticed, uncared for until someone needed them. They were empty, they were alone, they were forgotten.

How often have we felt like that? Those times in our lives where we merely go through the motions, trying to get through life as quickly as possible. Staring down a job that doesn’t have much significance to us, other than the fact it pays the bills, feeling like you are just another set of hands that gets the tedious work done. We may live alone, in an assisted living facility or an apartment down the street. We show up occasionally to a church event or go out to a meal or the movies with someone. Yet each day, we go home, to an empty room. At one point we loved the independence, but year after year the solidarity we craved brought with it a feeling of abandonment. No one really cares, no one seems to notice our existence. We feel empty and alone.

This empty void that can overtake us can feel unbearable. We try and find something, anything, that can bring us out of the darkness, out of that corner, and into the light. We fill ourselves with anything we can, just like the jars that were filled at the beginning of the party with the cheap, store brand style wine. Our intention is to bring ourselves some hope, some excitement, anything to get us out and moving. We search for anything that can help. We shop for things at the store that may bring some light, filling that void with material possessions. We hold parties at our homes in order to be social again. We drown our sorrows through alcohol or relationships with someone we don’t really care about, just to have the companionship. We try and try and try to bring ourselves out of the despair, only to find the wine wasn’t that good anyways and that we are standing there, empty again.

Just when everything seemed hopeless, the jars are empty and almost ignored, Christ fills them. He fills them not only with wine but the best of wine. To the surprise of all, suddenly these jars that were once alone in a corner, gathering dust, are now holding the best gift possible to keep the celebration going. The credit for this great gift is mistakingly given to the bridegroom, yet came from the most unexpected person, that of Jesus.

This story captures the great gift that Jesus has come to offer. That emptiness that overtook the jars now disappeared and they were overflowing with the greatest of wines. The emptiness that filled the world would no longer rule as Jesus brought it hope, love, and grace. That emptiness that can at times consume our lives is not ignored by the one who came with a superabundance of gifts. Christ has come to fill us with his grace.

Jesus has given to us the good wine. The best wine. The wine that inaugurates God’s new age, where we have the hope of eternal life, and love that has no end. This simple act that Jesus performed at the wedding holds with it a sign that points directly to Jesus’ glory. He would, a short time from the wedding, sacrifice his life for our sake.

We live lives that are so fast paced, that it is so easy to be overcome with emptiness and despair. Although the good wine has already been given and we have the gift of grace through Jesus Christ, this knowledge can easily be left in the dark corners of our lives. Time and time again, we can get consumed by the little things in our lives that eventually become too much to handle. We feel empty, alone, and forgotten. The troubles of this world encompass our every movement, our every thought, our every prayer. Although we know there is a God, we feel abandoned.

And yet the good wine has been given. God’s glory has been manifested through Jesus Christ, and grace has been offered. We are not alone even when it seems we are. We are loved even when it seems impossible. We are filled with the Holy Spirit even when our hearts and minds feel empty.

We witness these great provisions each week in worship. In our baptisms, we became members of Christ’s body, as we witness this weekend in the baptism of Aiden. We become a part of a community that is there to support us, to love us, and to demonstrate God’s grace. During those Sundays when we receive Holy Communion, we eat the Body of Christ and drink the good wine of Christ’s blood. We have fellowship with the community of the Body of Christ who witness to us that we are not abandoned and the love of Christ surrounds us. The fellowship with our brothers and sisters in Christ extend even beyond the sacraments and into the singing of the hymns, the prayers we offer up for one another, the sharing of the peace, and the coffee we drink together afterwards.

We worship together and have fellowship with one another on retreats, in planning meetings, in Sunday school, in Bible study. Through stitch and sew, in making quilts for those who need, each stitch brings with it love and prayers for the unknown person the quilt will go to. Through that blanket which is meant to provide physical comfort, it comforts the heart as well. The good wine is given by filling that person with hope and love, letting them know they are not forgotten. We also have fellowship with one another by visiting those who are unable to attend church anymore on Sundays. We demonstrate to them that Christ has not abandoned them. God’s love is still extended, and they can have fellowship with the Body of Christ.

We, as a community, share the news of the good wine with each other. Jesus Christ offers us a body that helps us to know that we are not left in the dark corners. We are loved beyond measure and together we can help each other move beyond the feelings of abandonment, fear, and loneliness, and into a fellowship among our brothers and sisters. This is a part of the grace God gives us. It is a gift. It is the good wine that is overflowing through us. We are loved, we are forgiven, and we are given each other. Amen.