God Provided!

I am linking up for the Five Minute Friday. The FMF is hosted by Kate Motaung over at our Five Minute Friday website. Today’s word prompt is “provide” We would love to have you join us.

God provides!

This week God provided so much.

God provided….

–Friends to mourn together.

–An incredible cloud of witnesses who stood together to commend our friend to God’s care.

–Amtrak who got me safely to my destination.

–Gracious hosts who went above and beyond the call of duty

–Bagpipes played for our friend.

–That silly Wartburg Seminary shield packed full of so many memories.

–Hymns sung loudly

–Hugs, hugs and more hugs!

–A local brewery who opened just for us so we could celebrate and send our friend out the way he would want; through Beer and Hymns.

–My friends two year old daughter asleep on her mom’s shoulder throughout the service….waking up during the Words of Institution.

–Memories that capture our friends joy and zest for life.

–An incredible community to support and walk alongside one another.

–Holy holy tears!

Through all of life’s journey, through the ups and downs, God provides! And I’m so thankful for the ways God provided for my friends and I this week.

A Road Weary Traveler

I am a road weary traveler.

Throughout these days of Lent, this particular road of Lent seems so very long. I feel like I am traveling along, but have made no progress. I am stuck between the limbo of life and death. My favorite high school teacher lost her battle with cancer in November. In addition, since October, two seminary classmates/friends have died. I still feel like we are standing on the road bearing the reality of death in the midst of the chaos and brokenness of our broken world.

Not that long ago, the ashen cross was marked on our foreheads with the words “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” This Lent, it feels like that cross is still wet upon my forehead. Yet it was over three weeks ago when those words were said and the cross marked on my forehead. This week, the reality of death set before our very eyes once again. A beloved pastor and servant of Christ taken way too soon.

On this weary road of Lent, I have found myself saying frequently “This sucks!” Words that embody the reality of the theology of the cross. The theology of the cross calls a thing what it is. Death is all around us, but sometimes death occurs way too often. I am weary from the grief so many of us are carrying. I am trying to stay strong in the midst of yet another loss. Yet my heart hurts still and I just want to collapse on this Lenten weary road.

So often, in this world, we want to skip over Good Friday straight to the cross. We would much rather stay up on the mountain on Transfiguration Sunday. But we must come down. So this Lent, I will come to the cross. But then I will be more than ready to come to the tomb on Easter Sunday to find it empty; to know that death never ever has the final word! For only God has the power to overcome death and the grave. “Easter says you can put death in the grave, but it won’t stay there.” (Clarence W. Hall)

This Lenten weary traveler is ready to see and hear the Easter promises triumphantly declared. “Alleluia. Christ is risen. He is risen indeed! Alleluia!” And I know that this Lent especially I am not on this road alone. There are many others who are standing on this weary Lenten road waiting for the Easter promises to be revealed. We are deeply yearning and looking to see Jesus standing there next to us.

Photo Credit: Jacob Sorenson 2018

On Tuesday, as we stood around our dear dear friend’s lego urn, approximately 70 plus of us linked with Ben, Mara and Elizabeth; interwoven as an incredibly tangible sign of the body of Christ; I couldn’t help but begin to see that perhaps the Lenten weary road we are standing on isn’t so long after all. For around that urn, a tangible symbol of God’s love and the love of our friend was embodied in that time and place. A reminder once again that God’s love ultimately wins.

And so I will continue to meander and trudge my way down this Lenten weary road ready to come to the cross on Easter and proclaim with all the saints that Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. Alleluia! However, this Lent, I may be more weary and worn from the journey to that empty tomb!

An Incredible Cloud of Witnesses (For our friend Ben)

Today, I sat in a sanctuary with many others who knew and loved our friend Ben. Tears fell from my face as I grieved this friend, but also as I saw the faces of the many he loved so deeply. Voices lifted loudly in honor of this dear child of God. Then it came time for the commendation and I along with 60+ other rostered leaders stood around Ben’s urn as we commended him to God’s care.

Voices of all shapes and sizes declaring in these words, “Let us commend Ben to the mercy of God, our maker and redeemer. O merciful Savior, we commend your servant Ben. Acknowledge, we humbly beseech, a sheep of your own fold, a lamb of your own flock, a sinner of your own redeeming. Receive him into the arms of your own mercy, into the blessed rest of everlasting peace, and into the glorious company of the saints in light.”

That image will forever be engrained in my heart and soul as this cloud of witnesses gathered with Ben’s wife Mara, their daughter Elizabeth and so many others. Each hand extended to the person in front of or beside them. But I also know that this cloud of witnesses was extended far beyond those sanctuary walls as so many from the Wartburg Seminary community rally oranged for Ben and joined us from around the world.

Today was indeed a celebration of Ben’s life. As Nate said, Ben loved us and we loved Ben. Today embodied that love in so many ways. A love that was grounded in Ben’s faith and the claim that he is a beloved child of God. Ben was really good at reminding us of that. My heart aches and will for awhile because this friendship was a gift to me and to so many others.

It can at times be hard to capture friendship in single words or phrases, but for my friendship with Ben, it is easy. Ben was one who had a huge heart and loved big. As Bryant shared, Ben taught me that there is always room in our hearts for more. As I looked around the room this afternoon, as we toasted and sang in Ben’s honor, my heart ached because my heart is full of so much love and it still aches for another loss; taken way too soon. But I’m going to try my best to let my heart expand that love because Ben taught me that too. He always made you feel loved and welcomed…without question.

In the midst of death, this Lent seems so very long and we are more than ready for the Easter promises of resurrection hope. And as we stood around Ben’s lego urn, I believe we saw a glimpse into that Easter morning. A cloud of witnesses proclaiming that death never has the final word. Thanks be to God!

Sunday Blessings 205

(1) Ben and Jerrys Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream

(2) A Snow Day!!

(3) Reminiscing and Remembering as I look through seminary photos

(4) Talking to Grandma and Grandpa on the phone.

(5) Messaging with my friend CA

(6) Community especially Wartburg Theological Seminary.

(7) Texts from IS and STM

(8) An unexpected call from MK

(9) Haircut and Color Day

(10) My neighbor offering to take my garbage out so I didn’t have to walk all the way.

(11) Texting with my fave

(12) Twinings Lemon and Ginger tea

(13) A blessed Sunday morning.

(14) Parishioners offering to take me to the train station.

(15) Lots of “safe travel” comments at church today.

(16) A sweet prayer from my friend NM

(17) A beautiful PLN

(18) Thirty degrees above zero weather

(19) Train only being about 20 minutes late

(20) Friends!

Weary with Grief

I am linking up for the Five Minute Friday. The FMF is hosted by Kate Motaung over at our Five Minute Friday website. Today’s word prompt is “tired” We would love to have you join us.

Weary grief laden eyes; eyes that have shed tears. Tears that echo a lost friendship. A friendship taken way too soon by the ugliness of cancer. Tears that tell of a love and laughter that is lost. Tears that cry for Bens wife Mara, their daughter Elizabeth and all who know and love Ben.

My heart and grief are heavy! I am tired and weary as yet another young leader has been taken way too soon. Too many of our friends are no longer here. Sometimes I wonder if friendship is worth it when we have to say goodbye so suddenly. Yet I know that this friendship is every bit worth it.

Grief is a funny thing, isn’t it? We all grieve differently! Yet the same tiredness comes over all of us in the midst of our grief. I’ve been so uplifted by an amazing community this week; a community that holds us and reminds us of God’s promises when we cannot do that for ourselves. A community that is also weary from the grief we carry. But even in the midst of it all, we have found ways to remember and also laugh.

Sunday night I’ll hop on a train so I can be there next Tuesday as we celebrate Ben’s life. I’ll be tired from traveling but it will be totally worth it to celebrate and say goodbye together. A collective grief carried together; a collective grief that we will lay at the foot of the cross and a collective grief that will open to joy as we cling to the promises of resurrection hope.

The Worth of Friendship

The words to Point of Grace’s song “Circle of Friends” popped into my head this morning as I was getting ready for work. And I cannot shake them today. Friendship is hard work. It takes effort but it is so worth it! Yet when have to say goodbye much sooner than we would like, it is easy to think it isn’t worth it. But what I have learned over the years is that it is every bet worth it. These friendships are the notes that create a beautiful tapestry of lyrics.

“We were made to love and be loved, but the price this world demands will cost far too much.” My friend/our friend Ben was the best at showing love to others. He had this way of making you feel accepted, loved and welcomed into a community. It was never forced; one hundred percent genuine. And when Ben found the love of his life Mara, that love only multiplied. It was one of the most joyous weddings I have ever attended. And then when his daughter Elizabeth was born, that love multiplied yet again. This love is the kind of genuine love that will live on through those who knew and loved Ben.

My heart is heavy and weary with grief. I am sad that it has been awhile since I have seen Ben or Mara. I am sad that Ben won’t get to watch Elizabeth grow up. I am sad for my friends who have lost one of their best friends. In the midst of the pain and grief, I want to take it all away. But what I have learned throughout this grieving process is there is a community; the community of Wartburg Theological Seminary that holds you up when you cannot hold yourself up.

I love what my friend Ali shared on her FB page last night, “But because we belong to this community we get people who love you and lift you up and remind you of God’s promises when you need them the most. And we know we are never alone and for today…that is enough.”

Indeed that is enough! And today I am so incredibly thankful for that. Sunday night, I will hop on a train so I can be at Ben’s funeral next Tuesday morning. I need to be with these dear souls who hold a big piece of my heart. Grief is so hard and again there are days we wonder if it is worth it.

Ben, it was totally worth it. It was worth it to hear you laugh with that big robust laugh of yours. It was worth it to hear you sing to your heart’s content. It was worth it to watch you be a husband and a dad. It was worth it to lose to you during those game nights and it was worth it when we got to beat you at those board games even if those wins were few and far between. It was worth it to be your friend and for you to be mine! I don’t regret that for a second.

But this loss hurts! It hurts so deeply to lose a friend because we are bonded together. We were and are bonded because of Wartburg Theological Seminary. In the words of Jean Vanier, “In any case, community is not about perfect people. It is about people who are bonded to each other, each of whom is a mixture of good and bad, darkness and light, love and hate.”

More often than not, you my friends, have shown me good rather than bad, light rather than darkness, love rather than hate. And today, that good, that light, and that love are much dimmer because we lost one of the best people I know. But my heart and soul know that this friendship, and every friendship in my life, is 100 percent worth it! Thank You for being a part of my circle of friends!

Looking for God

“Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

Just a few short weeks ago, we heard these words as we were gathered for Ash Wednesday worship. An ashen cross placed on our foreheads. That same day, families were mourning in Parkland Florida after another school shooting. The reality is death is all around us and can happen at any given moment. And today, that reality hit again. A dear friend and colleague was taken by cancer.

My first reaction was that I wanted to curse God. How could God take our friend away from his beloved wife and daughter? How could God take our friend away from his parents and siblings? How could God take our friend away from us? I’m numb…and angry….and heartbroken. Another servant of God taken way too soon.

Ben and my paths crossed at Wartburg Theological Seminary. Ben’s first year was the year the class I started with was on internship. I hung out with Ben’s class a lot. Some of my fave memories are with Ben, Bryant, Jon and Paul (PJ). I don’t think this group of boys (now men) knew it then but they honestly got me through that year. In a lot of ways, they were the little brothers I never had.

My friend Carrie and I road-tripped to Wisconsin for Ben and Mara’s wedding.   It was such a joy to share in that day. The joy and love between them was immediately evident the first time I met Mara. And then when Ben became a dad, the love only multiplied. A love that was grounded in God’s love for Ben and all of us.

I haven’t been able to see Ben as much in the last few years. But last year, in the midst of DAPL and Standing Rock, Ben and I shared a holy conversation over Facebook messenger. It honestly felt like we were gathered once again in the refectory over a glass of beer and having theological discussions. Ben traveled to North Dakota along with our other friend Ben to see Standing Rock for themselves. Ben’s actions are a reminder to me of how faithfully he lived his life and embodied the words of Micah 6:8.

Tonight, as I remember all the memories we shared, I know myself and many of Ben’s family and friends are standing in the Lenten wilderness looking for God. We are crying out  asking, “Why?”

However, in the midst of this barren wilderness, I know that Ben is claimed in the waters of Baptism. Yet the Lenten journey seems much darker tonight. To be honest, it might take me awhile to not feel like I’m standing in the wilderness. God and I and many others might not be on speaking terms for a little while. This pain; this death is way too real right now.

Sunday Blessings 203 and 204

(1) Lunch with my sissy before she went home.

(2) Coffee and Convo with some of my church youth.

(3) A nap!

(4) Chex Mix

(5) HR helping me get silent auction baskets ready for Saturday.

(6) Texting with my sissy

(7) Watching the Olympics

(8) Chatting with CN on the phone

(9) Texting with my faves

(10) Praying for my friends

(11) Catching up on my shows

(12) Awesome Silent Auction fundraiser

(13) Roadtripping with some of my faves

(14) Awesome Region 3 Deacons Retreat

(15) Getting to see KA

(16) Playing Unpredictable with KH and many others.

(17) Carlos Creek Winery fun

(18) Safe travels

(19) Peppermint Chip Ice Cream

(20) My bed

(21) Almost 40 degree weather

(22) Ladies who helped me clean up my coffee after I spilled it at the coffee shop.

(23) Korean Chicken Tacos from Blue Apron

(24) Catching up on Nashville

(25) First Communion Class

(26) Reeses Pieces

(27) An epic PLN

Words Left Unspoken

I am linking up for the Five Minute Friday. The FMF is hosted by Kate Motaung over at our Five Minute Friday website. Today’s word prompt is “regret” We would love to have you join us.

Regret=”to mourn the loss or death of,to miss very much, to be very sorry for regrets his mistakes” (Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary)

It hangs on your tongue. It’s the words you want to say but so often are afraid to say them. Its the experiences you wish you participated in. Or the experiences you wish never happened. So often it’s the things we wish we had said or did but didn’t do.

Regret hangs in the air. Regret is not saying “I love you.” Regret is wishing we had said “I’m sorry.” Regret is holding onto hope without truly investing in it. Regret is grieving “the what should have been.” Regret is choosing one door when I feel that I should have chosen the other door. Regret is not an easy thing to say. In fact, at all costs, we like to deny our regrets. But regret is a part of life. As vulnerable humans, we all face things we regret, but are we willing to share those regrets?

I regret the times I’ve forgotten to tell my mom I love her. I regret not sharing my thoughts with someone I care about. I regret the words that I’ve often left unspoken. I regret not telling my dad about my book until after he accidentally found out about it. I regret not telling teachers I appreciated them until it was too late. There is so much I regret leaving unsaid.*

But there are things I don’t regret too. I don’t regret choosing to go to seminary to become a deacon. I don’t regret finally telling my family’s story of mental illness. I dont regret the times I’ve spoken the truth in love. Because if I didn’t say how I was feeling, I would gave regretted it. I would have wondered what if. In other words, regret is words left unsaid; bitterness that could blossom to sweetness if we chose to speak them.

What are those regrets and are you willing to speak them, to admit that we all hold regrets? It’s a part of the realities of life. Are we willing to acknowledge that? Because in acknowledging our hearts and sharing our thoughts, I truly believe that there is a peace that comes over us when we share our regrets with one another. There is power in knowing we are not alone.

*where my five minutes ended!