“How beautiful are the voices; how beautiful are the hands; How beautiful are the feet of those who bring Good News to the world!” These words caught me off guard tonight! I closed my sermon with them and found myself fighting back tears! I think it was all the faces looking back at me! I try to be a servant but Im also human! I don’t always think the best or nicest or act that way towards my neighbor ! I’m a sinner too but that’s the beauty Jesus doesn’t pass over anyone! He washes everyone’s feet! Tonight instead of a foot washing we did a blessing of our hands! So cool as I washed! Then one of my fave people saw me, grabbed my hands and washed them! I had to fight back the tears! Then I looked up and she was drying one hand while one of our elderly ladies was drying the other hand! A simple reminder to me and all of us!
It seems hard to believe that it’s only been two years since the Haiti earthquake happened. I remember exactly where I was and who I was with when the events of that day and week unfolded. I was a small group leader at the Diaconal Ministry Formation Event in Gettysburg PA. We began that morning talking about prayer (if I’m remembering correctly) and one of the girls in my small group shared one of Ben and Jon Larson’s songs. Little did we know that hours later the earthquake would hit in Haiti. And then only two days later would we learn that Ben was gone! And as I think back to that week, I am fully aware of the Holy Spirit’s presence in the midst of this tragedy.
Today Ben’s wife/my friend Renee and Ben’s cousin Jon are in Haiti; walking with the people of Haiti, that still two years later is trying to rebuild. I began my morning this morning listening to Ben’s version of Psalm 30. Even after his death, Ben still sings! Ben’s words are still heard! Today has been a busy day; conference meeting, conference call, etc, I find myself FINALLY just taking a moment to reflect and remember Ben and the other 300,000 people that lost their lives that day. I cant help but think of Ben’s words, “God’s peace to us we pray.”
May God’s peace be granted to all of us! May God’s light shine during this season of Epiphany!
“We are not that far apart, God can see us both!” These words were written on a friend’s carepage last week and they have been running through my head a lot especially today. Do you ever feel like you are alone? in life? in your vocation? in ministry? in the world? If you are like me you probably answered yes to this question and it probably feels like such a daunting feeling. How else are you suppose to feel when you see these words; solitary, lonesome, forlorn, and desolate under the definition of alone in Webster’s dictionary?
When I graduated from seminary in 2005, I knew that I had made the right decision. God truly was calling me into the ministry of Word and Service; Diaconal Ministry. There has been and continues to be no doubt in my mind! Yet at times, it feels like such a lonely call. So many don’t understand my call to Diaconal Ministry. Heck; they probably dont even know what a Diaconal Minister does or is! (Now don’t get me wrong; this isn’t the case for everyone!) But the reality is that the roster is such a new (compared to the other two rosters in the ELCA) roster that there is so much to educate and for the world to learn about us! My call calls me to “home and family ministry” yet so many see it as a call to “youth ministry.”
Today I am having one of those days where the joy seems to be outweighed by the loneliness. In other words, today I’m feel quite a lone. I am currently the entire DM roster in my synod! Boy who would have thought that I would be a pioneer??!?! And in the midst of the loneliness, I am reminded of those who have seen my gifts to this ministry. I think of my seminary advisor who reminded me that it would have been so much easier to walk out that door and quit and never look back. I am reminded of the many who bring such joy into my life when they “get” Diaconal Ministry or even approach the question with me! I am reminded of the gift and blessing of my DM brothers and sisters in the ELCA and around the world. I am also reminded that not everyone of us has the same gifts; “There is a variety of gifts, but the same call.” Jesus himself took a risk when he washed the feet of his disciples. It was completely out of the norm and wasn’t at all what people expected! Yet Jesus did it anyways!! I have to remember that even when I feel lonely etc.
The truth of the matter is that I (we) are never alone! God walks with us at all times. And it is especially in the times when we are feeling lonely and afraid and like God isnt even here when God says, NO WAY! LOOK! LISTEN! HERE AM I!!!! Or in the words of my friend on her carepage post, We truly arent that far apart. God can see us both.” In other words, WE ARE NEVER ALONE!(even when that is the only feeling we can seem to comprehend)
I’ve been thinking a lot about why I am an ELCA Lutheran especially this past week as I have watched (via the Internet live feed) our national church gather in Orlando. When I first started watching the live feed, I found myself confessing to my friends that I truly am a church geek but then I thought to myself, “Why in the world am I a church geek and when did I become one?” And to be honest, I can’t pinpoint exactly when it happened but what I can pinpoint is when I truly heard my call to serve God in this larger church known as the ELCA!
You see like most people seminary was NEVER in the books for me. It was the last thing I saw myself doing but little did I know that the Holy Spirit would show me differently. As a high school senior, living in small town ND, I was working at our local theatre a couple nights a week. But as I prepared to go off to college, I found myself looking for something that would pay me a little more substantially and that I would enjoy. My uncle suggested I go work at a local ELCA bible camp. I thought what the heck and decided to apply. The interview was the WORST interview of my life……I seriously dont think I looked at the interviewer once but rather looked the whole time at the table. However he decided to give me a chance and I went to work at that Bible camp less than 24 hours after I graduated high school. During the course of the summer, I found myself truly opening up about my mom’s struggle with a mental illness! (She had a nervous breakdown right after my sister was born when I was about three years old) After that summer, I went to college and then that next summer came to work at camp again. In the middle of the summer, we were doing mid-summer evals and the camp director told me he didnt think that I would make it last summer but he hired me thinking he would take me as long as he could take me. Then he proceeded to tell me that he couldnt get rid of me! I worked at that camp for approximately 7 summers!
After college, I always thought I would be a journalist but working at camp changed that for me. I went with a friend to tour a seminary. When I got there and stepped foot onto WTS’s campus, I felt God calling me there. I knew I wasnt called to be a pastor but felt called to be a part of this wider church and wasnt sure how that would unfold. After starting seminary, I found myself reading a book titled, “From Word to Sacrament.” As I read that book, certain phrases jumped off the page at me, “bridging church and world” “word and service” etc. Suddenly I knew that God was calling me to this new roster that I was reading about: Diaconal Ministry! Through the power of the Holy Spirit, God was calling me to wash the feet of all God’s people including people like my own mother who daily struggle with this illness!
This past April I celebrated the 5th anniversary of my consecration as a Diaconal Minister! And that my friends is when I think I truly became a church nerd! It is when I finally saw myself not just as one person but a person who truly could and can make a difference not just in the church building but outside the church walls as well.
I find myself continuing to watch the online feed because I feel it is important for me to listen and ponder what the future of this church looks like. Like Reformer Martin Luther, I find myself wondering how we can reform this church in the midst of this world and context. I find myself continuing to watch because these issues are important to me and to those I care about.
I find myself watching because it makes me feel like I am a part of this national church even though I am not a delegate to the gathering in Orlando!
But most importantly, I find myself watching because we all have been freed in Christ to Serve! Praise be to God! (Sorry for the long length of this blog entry.)
My mind is full of a scattering of thoughts today!
Thankful for those who were elected to be voting delegates at this year’s ELCA Churchwide Assembly but also wishing I was there too! I never realized how much my life has become about technology. I’ve considered myself a pretty technically savy person but as of late, I’ve realized how much more I am becoming ingrained in this technology. Internet, Twitter, Facebook, a Kindle, Blogging and the list goes on and on. Last night I found myself tweeting while watching the live stream of the ELCA churchwide assembly. Today I got up early (way early for me) to watch the live stream. Then this afternoon as I worked on stuff in my office, I found myself once again follow along on the Tweeter feed and following along/participating in the Bible Study as well. (I really should have been working on/finishing my sermon for Sunday!)It amazes me how much technology is playing into our world. No wonder this generation is so ingrained by technology. I still am not sure how I feel about technology in general; is it good or is it bad? But what I have come to realize is that it can be helpful. I am excited that even though Im not at the CWA11 I can tweet and follow along with those that are there and those that are also following on the Twitter feed. Makes me feel like a little part of me is part of what is happening in Orlando as well.
“Sometimes you just have to be a pebble in the shoe of the church!” This statement is a statement a friend shared awhile back and it makes me smile because I think it encompasses my call to “diakonia.” Sometimes, ok most of the time, I feel like Im such a stickler, pain in the butt, etc but what I’ve come to realize is that if Im not going to stand up for myself, other rostered leaders and the lay leaders of this church, who will? I understand that when guiding documents were created etc they were created with certain things in mind but like our culture, I believe the culture of the church has changed as well. Therefore I believe it is time to change the language. So for all my dear friends and colleagues in Christ who understand where Im coming from, Im sticking to my guns, “Sometimes you just have to be the pebble in the shoe of the church!”
What does it mean to “Live Lutheran?” I love that the assembly has been showing videos answering this question. They all have been fantastic and make me smile! It also has gotten me thinking about what it means for me to “Live Lutheran?” For me, Living Lutheran is living out my call to diakonia; my call to wash the feet of all God’s people. Living Lutheran is telling all to come to the living water. Living Lutheran is helping all God’s people see what it means to share his love with the world and to see how beautiful are the feet of those who bring Good News. Living Lutheran is about grace, faith, hope, and the promise of the Resurrection. For in the words of WND Synod Bishop Mark Narum, We are an Easter People or in the words of Haitian Pastor Josephus Livenson Lauvanus, “We will not be defined by rubble, because we are a people of the Restoration.” In the words of the ELCA CWA11 theme, Living Lutheran is about being “Freed in Christ to Serve”; freed in Christ to serve the neighbor!!
“How beautiful are the feet of those who bring Good News!”
Awhile back, I blogged about this and today it hit me again. Recently many of my Diaconal Ministry friends and I have been having a conversation about how we would like to help educate churches, bishops, etc better about who we are etc.
I think this quote popped into my head again because as DMs we are called to pick up our basins and towels to serve all God’s people. As you my faithful readers know, I felt a strong call to Diaconal Ministry because I saw how others treated my mom because she lives with a mental illnesss. God truly calls me/us to reach out to all God’s people. We can wash anyone’s feet whether it be in a prison cell, at a nursing home, at church, on a mission trip, etc etc etc!
For me, “Living Lutheran” means that I am called to show God’s love, grace, and acceptance as a Diaconal Minister by bridging the gap between the church and the world. “Living Lutheran” for me means that I am also called to bring the needs of the world before all God’s people. Also “Living Lutheran” means that I am called forth from Word and Sacrament to be freed in Christ to Serve. “Living Lutheran” means that it is important for me to live out my identity through “diakonia.”
How else do you see DM “Living Lutheran”?
I can’t believe I am still up! The crazy thing though is that today marks an anniversary for me! 5 years ago today I was consecrated as a Diaconal Minister in the ELCA. It is hard to believe it has been 5 years already! The funny thing is that at this time 5 years ago I was waiting for two very dear friends to arrive from Iowa for the day. I’m so glad they came and was blessed to have them as a part of my service! I will never forget standing out in the street at about 1 am as they handed me a special gift. It hangs on the office in my wall and reads “Diakonia.” The letters are filled with pictures of our time together at seminary. I love it because, not only, does it remind me of my call to “Diakonia,” but it causes people to ask what it means etc! Such a special day in my life! I am so thankful and blessed for the Diaconal Community of the ELCA! And those that understand, see, and know that God truly has called me into this ministry!
Our lives are made up of moments….moments that are forever captured in time. Sometimes those moments are happy moments, Sometimes those moments are sad moments, sometimes those moments are joyful moments etc. I remember the moment I was consecrated as a Diaconal Minister in the ELCA. There are the moments that I treasure spending with my friends and family. And then there are those moments that I can’t seem to forgot about, no matter how I try. I think of Representative Gabrielle Giffords as she and many others were shot yesterday in Arizona. But the one moment that I think of is last January and the Haiti earthquake, realizing I had friends there. As we remember the Haiti earthquake this week, may we remember all those who lost their lives there…the Haitian people, my friend Ben Larson, and so many others. This Wednesday Jan 12th, the one year anniversary of the earthquake, take time to tell those you love how much you love them. And in the words of Ben Larson,” God’s Peace to us We pray.”
Earlier this last week, I found myself in Des Plaines, IL for the Diaconal Ministry Gathering of the ELCA. So good to be with beloved diaconal sisters and brothers. It was definetely a holy time in a holy place with holy people! Who would have ever thought that a year ago when the planning team planned the dates it would be during the time the ELCA would have to do major restructuring. I was reading my friend Mark’s blog the other day and he had some great thoughts about this situation. The darkness will not overcome. Christ will help us through this difficult time.
Being a Diaconal Minister in the ELCA hasn’t always been the easiest thing. However it seems to me we have made some huge strides. As I listened to some of our speakers this past week, I definetely came away feeling hopeful. I hope others came away feeling the same way!
I am thankful for the community of diaconal brothers and sisters! My life is so much richer for having each of you in my life. You each bring gifts that the body of Christ is enriched by! Thank you for simply being you and fulfilling the mission that Christ has placed upon your hearts and minds; your heart’s passion!