Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Communication’ Category

The Beckoning

I am currently into my second week of my chaplaincy internship at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Hospital in New Hampshire.  Today, for about the millionth time since I began I found myself asking, why am I here?

Practically, I know why I’m here.  All ELCA candidates for ordination (that is a person training to be a pastor) must complete something called a clinical pastoral education unit (CPE).  Chaplaincy internships at a hospital are the most traditional avenues of completing a CPE requirement.  I am here because I have to be.

I am also here because I want to be.  I chose this site for a variety of reasons – I had never lived in New England, I really connected with the supervisor when I interviewed, it is the only neonatal clinic in this region of the country, it is a Trauma 1 center (which means a lot of complicated cases) and this site uniquely offers a stipend.

But today, as I was completing my rounds, I was overwhelmed with a frustrating sense that what I am doing is very foreign to the makeup of the culture here, and a type of ministry very much foreign to me.

New England is one of the most secular areas of the United States.  Organized religion is not only hard to find here, but often frowned upon.  Just this weekend, as I was shopping for my dad’s Father’s Day present, a sales rep heard my Midwestern accent and asked me what brought me to the upper valley.  I explained that I was a chaplain intern at the hospital, and very quickly she told me that she felt my role was unwelcome.  “We don’t like people telling us what to believe, especially when it comes from one of you ‘flat-landers’ (meaning non-New Englander).”  It was a surprising reaction mostly because I didn’t say anything else than, “I’m a chaplain intern”.

Even more so, this reaction is counter to what I’m doing here.  The role of the chaplain is not to evangelize but rather to accompany.   A large part of my training is to learn how to recognize my own cultural and religious perspective, and set that perspective aside so that I can hear what the patient and their loved one is trying to express about their own faith.  My role is not to tell them what to believe, but be with them as they uncover what they believe in the most trying of times.  Of course, it was clear this sales clerk was not invested in learning about my profession.  Instead, she was telling me something very clear about her own faith journey, and that deserved my respect even if I didn’t love the avenue which she expressed herself.  Part of this experience is being open to read between the lines even when those lines are as sharp as razors.  While I felt confident that I had navigated that experience in away that was respectful to her beliefs and my own, I couldn’t help but think, what am I doing here?

All chaplains and chaplain interns must answer to calls in all areas of the hospital when we are on call, but we are also assigned a primary unit.  My units are the Birthing Pavilion, Infant ICU, and the Emergency Department.  Today, I was supposed to be in seminars all day today, but one of my sessions got cancelled and I decided to make some rounds on my units while I waited for the next session to begin.

As I traveled to the Incant ICU, I learned that some of the patients I had been working with had a rough weekend, and that there is a high possibility that we may lose one or more of them throughout this week.  Finding out this news was hard, and after I scrubbed in and entered the unit, I was surprised to find it devoid of parents.  I have never been on that floor when there were no parents, and I felt overwhelmed in knowing what to do.  I had been operating under a philosophy of when in doubt, look to the parents as a guide of what was needed.  With no parents, I felt lost on knowing how to interpret what my role was.

I spent some time with the staff, and prayed with the babies I knew were struggling.  As I left the floor though, I couldn’t help but feel an emptiness that my time on the unit was futile.  I can pray with these children, pray with their caregivers, but is it enough?

I have now spent over four years working in parishes, and there have been many times when I have wondered if what I was doing was enough, or why God chose me to be with God’s people.  In that time, though, I have found ways to find validate my purpose even at those moments when I am frustrated or feeling overwhelmed.  There is a consistency to parish ministry that is not available in a hospital setting, and the avenues in which the Spirit speaks to me in a parish are not the same here.

How do you gauge that enough is enough when the person from whom you are providing care can’t speak to you?  How do you know enough is enough when you can’t lay a hand on the person you are praying with because they are in a simulated womb?  How do you know when enough is enough when the smell of fear is as strong as the sanitizer you scrubbed on your hands?

Recognizing that perhaps I was a bit too hard on myself, I decided to treat myself to a soda from the cafeteria.  As I stood in line, ruminating over my thoughts, suddenly the woman at the cafeteria register spoke to me. “Chaplain?  Since you have some extra pull with the big guy upstairs, can you please pray for my son?  He is having a hard time.”

Suddenly, cafeteria air became very sacred space.  The Spirit who I felt distant from on my rounds settled around us and time slowed.  I told the woman I would pray for her son, and told her I would pray for thanksgiving that he had a mother who would reach out on his behalf when he was struggling.  We exchanged names, and have now taken steps into a relationship together in faith.  The whole exchange lasted but a few moments in time, but it was a lifetime of reminding me why I am here.

We never know when we will be open to experiencing the Spirit.  I have no doubt the Spirit was with me while I prayed with the children and talked to their caregivers.  But I cannot ignore that the Spirit beckoned me into a relationship I least expected, and in that beckoning, confirmed my call.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

There are times when I feel when my biggest obstacle with my vocation is my health.  Today is one of those times.

I am a lupus patient who has nerve involved complications.  I have a major organ system that has been going in and out of failure for the past four years, and last night I discovered a mass that indicates that this system is back in failure.  I am extremely disgruntled because I just received documentation less than a month ago that this system failure was in remission.  Having that letter facing me on my refrigerator is not only emotionally taxing, but it also bears witness with the new fight that I will have with my insurance company.  Because lupus is the great masquerader and always manifests itself in ways that do not look lupus-like, like for me endomitrial cysts on my chest wall or damaged nerves that need to be removed, my experience has been that that there is a struggle to get insurance companies to cover necessary procedures because they feel it’s elective.

As much as my soul wishes that my vocation was my top priority, my health truly has to be.  So this morning, I spent several hours trying to figure out why I could not book an appointment at my doctors because of an outstanding bill that I never received.  I spent those several hours on the phone instead of in class, and of course it had to be on a day that a major paper is due in another course and half my class was missing because they were finishing their work.  It doesn’t matter that I emailed my professor explaining what is going on, the coincidence to these two things lining up could easily give anyone the impression that I was using my condition as a reason to excuse why I wasn’t there.

It is a hard truth to recognize the limitations of my condition.  I share my story because I hope to create awareness for lupus patients and to create awareness for what it means to be a person in ministry who has a chronic condition or disability.  Next year I have been assigned to work with a pastor who has a disability, and on a day like today I clearly see God’s hand in that placement.  I want to learn how to best tell my story in a way that is transparent and still uplifting, and it will be helpful to learn from a pastor who has journeyed this path. Despite my frustrations, my worries, my anxieties, and my overall fear of what my body is doing to itself, I know that part of the reason I have been called into a life of service is because of my condition.

I know that God rides the wave of this roller-coaster with me, is with me as I argue with insurance companies, and is my source of relief when I have surgeries without pain medication because of allergies.  I know that God will show me the way of strength that will carry me towards my next phase of remission, and will help me readjust my lifestyle to accommodate the permanent damage that has come from my periods of failure.  This steadfast devotion is radical good news, and in order to share how good it is at times it must be contrasted with the stories that are not always easy to share.  Tending and being vocal about my health is a part of my vocation, and it is by God’s grace that I have been given the opportunity to tend to both myself and the church.

Read Full Post »

The following article was originally written for the community of Divinity Lutheran Church of Parma Heights, OH

You never really know when the things you learn in second grade will end up helping you as an adult.

This semester I am taking a class called “Jesus and the Gospels,” where we are studying the differences between each group of authors for each canonical (found in our Bible) Gospel.  Each Gospel represents Jesus, the disciples and the communities in different ways, and has a very distinct style to it.  For example, did you realize that the Gospel of Mark has a sense of urgency to it?  We are right now in the year of Mark in our lectionary, and I urge you to be on the lookout for how often we see Mark use the word “immediately.”  Immediately Jesus rises, immediately spirits depart, immediately characters go forth and share the news of what Jesus has done.  There is no waiting.  For Mark, things need to happen right away, and we as scholars need to think about what that urgency means in our understanding of Jesus’ ministry.

My professor for this class is the noted Revelations scholar, Dr. Barbara Rossing.  Some of you may remember her as the person who wrote the book for the Revelations study group not too long ago, others of you may recognize her as being one of the editors of the Lutheran Study Bible.  It seems that Dr. Rossing is a bit like the authors of Mark, because she too wants things to happen immediately.  We constantly have to flip back and forth between the Old and New Testaments, and if you can’t remember the books in order, Dr. Rossing’s urgency catches up to you.

In fact, one day Dr. Rossing told us that as pastors it was our responsibility to get the books of the Bible memorized in sequential order, and to learn it fast.  She mentioned that she had learned a song for memorizing the books of the New Testament, and asked if anyone had any tricks for learning the Old Testament.  I tentatively raised my hand and told her that when I was in second grade my Sunday School teacher taught us songs for both the Old and New Testament.  My friend Angie, who is also from the North-Eastern Ohio Synod, also knew the tunes and we were commissioned to teach our class how to sing the books of the Bible.  As embarrassing as it is to be 27 years old and singing a tune I grew up with in a graduate class, I was never so grateful to have been a student of Terry Revelock as I was that day.  I think it’s ironic that the Ohio girls were the only one in a class of 31 people who had a jingle for both the Old and New Testament.

We never really know when the roots of our faith are going to prove to be helpful for our lives.  On that day, it was a tune I learned from my second grade Sunday school teacher.  Right now, as we continue to recover from the devastating effect of the Chardon High School shooting, the memories of our faith may be one of the few things that bring us hope in a challenging time.  We never know when one moment will impact a bunch of future moments, and because of not knowing we need to continue to take opportunities that will enrich our faith.

My life is a great example of this.  I was raised in a church, have worked for churches, been involved in church my whole life and for the first time am recognizing that the Gospel of Mark says immediately over and over again.  I don’t exactly know what that will mean for the larger formation of my faith, just like I didn’t know in the second grade that a simple song would help me connect to my classmates in seminary.   But it is really special to know that our faith continues to grow and expand, and that there is always a surprise right around the corner.

Wishing you God’s Peace and Blessings,

Rev. Sem. Tina Heise

P.S. Thanks, Mrs. Revelock, and all my Sunday School Teachers, for helping my journey down this road.  It means more than I can ever say.

Read Full Post »

“And this ‘real’ / It’s impossible if possible / At who’s blind word /So clear but so unheard” – Silversun Pickups, Lazy Eye

There are moments when it is hard to have blind faith.

I am at a point in my life where I can recognize that my spiritual faith is not blind.  It may not be built on something that I can always see and hold, but it is built on something solid.  It is becoming increasingly easier as I grow in my faith to hold on hope.  So I tend to get a bit blown over when my blind faith in people who I had an expectation of trust with falls short.

In my not-too-distant past I made what I thought was a deep and meaningful connection to someone.  The connection felt very real, and the despite the warnings and suggestions of friends, I believed that the impossible was possible and that I found a person to whom I could connect with on the deepest of levels.  I approached that relationship with blind faith, believing the the atmosphere of trust that I was experiencing, allowing myself to reach into recesses of my soul in human ways that I had not dared to explore in years, if ever.  Unfortunately, while that connection seemed concrete to me, I was missing the clearness that was unheard – that this person was indeed unsafe, and my heat was broken.

I had thought I had moved on.  After a series of truly unrelated events this weekend I discovered I had not.

One of these events was a realization that arose while riding home from church with a friend.  She mentioned that in any relationship it is ultimately up to the person who holds the authority in the relationship (be it romantic, familial, or professional) to be the person who does not violate the trust.  With authority comes responsibility.  Later that same evening, a different friend stated that the person who had the most control over the relationship was the person who cared the least.   When we care more, we have more to lose, and ultimately we have less power within that relationship.

Reflecting back on the relationship I thought was clear which proved to be rather murky, I believe both friends were right.  I took the bigger risk by being the most present in that relationship, and in doing so, relinquished my power/authority.  The person who cared the least, the person with the authority in our relationship, was the person who ultimately violated the trust.

This recognition is a challenging place for me to sit in at the moment because one of the most infinitely beautiful things about being in relationship with God is that the impossible is possible.  God loves me the most, more than I could ever think to love God.  If this theory were true and to play out, someone would have to loose.  Yet neither looses.  In my relationship with God, I am never let down.  My trust is never violated.  I am never manipulated, taken advantage of, disrespected, dismissed, ignored, cast aside, or will have to live in a state in which any of those things could happen.  The impossible is not only possible but it just is.

It is such a sacred relationship, and I recognize that for myself there is a part of me that wishes I could duplicate that sense of trust in even the smallest of levels here on earth.  I can clearly feel God’s love for me, I can see it, even if I’ve never heard some divine manifestation say, “I love you, Tina.”  The impossible is possible, and there is safety in intimacy.

I believe and will continue to believe that this impossible love will find its way to meet each and everyone of us in some form of a human relationship throughout the course of our lives.  I will continue to hold on hope.  I believe that God will continue to make the impossible possible with us to God, but also with us to one another.

Read Full Post »

I never knew how much I loved my family until I moved to Chicago.

It would be an understatement to say that my family works hard on being a family.  We have literally gone to hell and back together more than once, I have seen any one of those trips cripple other families in similar situations enough to realize that the connection we have to one another is sacred.  That is not to say it is easy.  We work really, really hard.  Over the years, we have learned to be honest with each other, which is hard.  We have learned to be transparent with each other, which is hard.  We have learned that when we say “we’re sorry” to actually mean it and that saying “you’re forgiven” is not about forgetting the past but a step in working towards being reconciled with one another.  It has been a process, one that still causes us to stumble at times, but we keep on keeping on because our love for one another is based on more than blood ties.  I know that this is not possible for all families. I even know that this is not always possible for some members in my extended family, particularly on one side which is so fragmented that more people don’t speak to each other than the ones that do.

Coming to Chicago has been an awakening to me for all of these things.  Last night was the last night my mom was in town, and while we were at dinner, I asked her a lot of family system type questions, both about our immediate family and her years growing up.  In hind sight, I now realize what a bizarre conversation that was.  Over the years I learned that learning about your family helps you learn about yourself, but I never quite felt safe enough to ask them because I didn’t want to come across as a gossip.  Something has shifted, mostly in my trust level, and I know I can ask my mother about her mother without fear that she will think that my intention to be the paparazzi of my family.

Maybe it’s because I’m older and theoretically wiser.  Maybe it’s because I’ve healed wounds of my past.  Maybe it’s because being in seminary allows one to study human nature in a way that is based on trust, forgiveness, and perpetual new starts.  I don’t know why the shift happened, but I do know that I long for my family constantly and with each fleeting moment we have together I recognize how much they mean to me.

It makes moving forward hard.

Valentine from my niece, Phoebe

Over the past few days I have really struggled with where I should do my CPE (clinical pastoral education) field work this summer.  It came down to two choices, one site in Cleveland near my family and one in a different state.  There will be few opportunities over the next several decades that I will have a strong choice in where I will live.  The call process to pastor a parish is more often than not a process not based on individual choice.  When I have been practicing ministry for 15 years or so, then possibly, but even that is no guarantee.  So the notion that I can choose to be near my family and not take that choice is a really hard decision to make.  My niece and nephew will only be little kids for so long, and I miss spending time with my parents and sister.  Eleven weeks are not long when you’re studying, but it is forever when you are missing people you love.  How could I not choose them, even if I felt that I would learn more from another program?  I have already made such huge transitions on behalf of my sense of vocation, but when will the time come when the decisions will be more clear?

With my mom at my side and my friend on the other, this morning I accepted a position at one of those two sites – and it was the one away from my family.  My heart feels settled that I have made the choice.  In the midst of excitement of what this will mean I am also experiencing the small tinge of grief that comes with knowing I am missing out on more time with people who I love so dearly.  I am so excited about the summer and know this was the right decision, but I also realize that this decision came at a cost.  This joy is not without sacrifice, and even as I move forward into an exciting future I am still leaving a part of myself behind.

Once again, though, my dear four-year-old niece Phoebe saved me from my melancholy.  This afternoon when I checked my mail, I received a valentine from her.  She drew me a picture of me in my bed (thanks to my sister, Tricia, who wrote captions!).  Phoebe may have drawn that picture she knows that Aunt Tina needs a lot of sleep to be healthy against lupus.  Maybe she just learned how to draw beds.  But I’d like to think she drew that picture because when she comes to visit me we snuggle together in my bed.  I’d like to think she remembers how we used to read books together while lying underneath the covers.  I’d like to think she drew that bed because she knows that even though I’m not with her most of the time, she will always have a welcome place in my home – wherever that may be.

Tonight I give thanks for my family, and the hope that they know that even when I can’t hold them in my arms I hold them in my heart.

Read Full Post »

I’m sure by this point anyone who has a Facebook page has seen the video “Why I Hate Religion but Love Jesus” and has also seen the non-stop viral dialogue that has been occurring since then.  I am a proud to call myself a member of the ELCA and am in seminary in hopes of becoming qualified to one day be a pastor for the church.  I’m not going to pretend for a second that don’t have an opinion on this topic.  I do – I love Jesus and religion.

I also recognize that my audience who is reading this post probably already has their mind made up on where they stand on this issue.  I certainly did before I clicked the “play” button on the video.  We may hope that we are engaging in an open discussion for or against this topic, but I have a hunch that most of the people on Facebook who are re-posting articles are really trying to encourage people to see their perspective on where they stand.

I know where I stand in loving my God and my church, and I will continue to read posts about where other people stand.  Whether we want to admit it or not, sharing our philosophies on religion is really what the church is about anyways.  I find it ironic that people who “hate religion” are participating in one of its fundamental cornerstones – communicating their faith to other believers.

My purpose today is not to try to sell you on why you should like both Jesus and religion.  Yes, I do hope the words I write may inspire someone to build trust that the church’s goal is to promote love above all else, but telling you to believe that won’t make it happen.  I think what made that video so powerful is that it was one persons honest testimony, and as such I recognize that the only message that will reign true at a time like this is the power of my own testimony.

I am a woman who has always been strong-willed, opinionated, and self-sufficient.  Long before I heard my call to ministry I was determined to be the perfect balance of active feminist and romantic housewife.  I was content enough in my career, and was fairly successful within my field right from the start of entering the workforce.

My world shifted when the career I thought was my life force proved to be a passing moment in time.  I began working for a church, and in my service to people outside of myself inside the mission of religious based organizations, I started to see that my former life was only a fraction of the joy and happiness that it could be.  I had always loved Jesus and always attended church but not overly active in it.  It was only in immersing myself in a religious institution that I discovered who I really am and how I could make my ideals a reality.

That process was not easy.  Working in a church was not easy.  Seeing the challenges of living your individual understanding of God’s call in the context of a community was not easy.  None of it was easy – but it was all a blessing.  It was through the conflict, the errors, at the projects that fell flat and in the good intentions gone wrong where I witnessed what unconditional love was all about.  There is something pretty remarkable about a group of people who have no other connection to each other but their love of God.  It is even more powerful to witness them use that love to build relationships and learn how to communicate with each other.  It is hard work, often times with prickly edges, but a gift that means more to me then I could ever imagine.

Now I am in seminar, and have claimed an even more public position of my love for experiencing God’s grace through religion.  This present reality that I am in is also not easy.  There are many people who hate religion, hate pastors, hate everything that comes with being active in the church.  My studies now, who I hope to become, represents bad feelings for a lot of people, including some people who I love.  It is not easy to see friends that you have had for years walk out of your life because you embrace religion.  Yes, sometimes religion oppresses, but sometimes people who hate the oppressiveness of religion often wield the sword to which they claim to despise.

I struggle with finding a balance in this.  I recently was at a conference of other ministers and I had a war with myself as to whether or not I would wear my collar.  Wearing a collar makes a statement – I am a publicly active member of the body of Christ.  More than that, I am a publicly active woman of the body of Christ, and even within a ministry conference I knew that my presence would not always be welcome from the mere fact that I was a woman.

My bishop had mentioned once that we have a responsibility to dress as professionals now that we are in seminary.  We have a responsibility to our church to be leaders that will work towards changing the stigma for people who love Jesus but hate religion.  I have a responsibility as a woman to help represent that as baptized members of God’s family we are all called to a life of service.  As I was debating the responsibility versus the pressure, a friend told me that no matter where he goes, he wears his collar.  He admitted that sometimes associating himself with religion can be an ostracizing force, but more often than not it invites people who are having a hard time dealing with their faith alone remember that there is relief in fellowship.  It opens the door to a conversation that may in other contexts be closed.

It is with his advice that I wore my collar at that conference, and it is with that advice that I posted pictures of myself in my collar on my social network sites.  I extended the invitation through the silence of my clothing, and over the past few days I have had more emails, comments, and text messages about that collar then I ever could have anticipated.  One woman in particular, Rev. Peggy Howland (one of the first women ever ordained) commented after reading my blog that my words were inspiring and she rejoices in how far we have come in our work together as a church.

Sending the silent invitation allowed to see how we can stand alongside one another.  Thanks to that collar, that symbol of religion, people who I have never met are writing me, telling me how seeing that symbol has reminded them that God looks at women with the same amount of love that God looks at men.  People who I have never known intimately are now writing me, asking if I could recommend a good daily devotional so they can continue to grow their individual faith.  People are connecting to me in a way that they never have before merely because I wore a symbol that I am a part of the church.

Like Rev. Howland, I rejoice in how far we have come together.  I rejoice in the fact that I am a woman who is a part of one holy catholic and apostolic church.  I rejoice in the fact that we live in a nation where we can have debates about how to live out our faith through social media.  I rejoice in every leader who stands up and voices that while we still have a lot of work to do, we can be proud of the fact that we are working together in our faith to make the world a better place for our children, and our children’s children.  As long as we keep talking to each other, inviting each other into dialogue, we’ll continue to move closer to   the intentions of Jesus.

So let the videos post, and the rebuttals be written.  Let some of us put on our collars while other people tell us why they think we shouldn’t wear them.  We need to know where we all stand.  It is through sharing with one another that we will really be aware on how we can move forward together, living out the message of Jesus that is not only found in religion but inside the core of our hearts.

Read Full Post »

“Next to money and guns, the third largest North American export is the U.S. idealist.” – Ivan Illich

In the past six months, I have been privileged to travel quite a bit.  Not only did I move from Cleveland to Chicago, but I have spent time studying in Louisville, Atlanta, and New Orleans.  In a matter of days, my studies will once again pack my bags and take me to El Salvador in Latin America.

I work and study in the business of public ministry – inside a theological mindset where I feel called to spread the good news of Jesus Christ and the grace of God to anyone who has ears to hear.  I come from a place of privilege, growing up as a U.S. citizen in a suburban community while being a part of mainline Protestant denomination.  I, probably more than many other people, am in a position to make change.  And as I prepare for yet another experience where I will be in an environment that is very different from my own, the one truth of making change that I keep hearing is to be invited.

My experience in New Orleans where I met survivors of Hurricane Katrina showed me that sometimes the best intentions can cause the most damage.  It is all well and good to help those in need, but help should be defined as doing work that the community collectively voiced as an area for growth instead of forcing ideals that will surely fail when you pack your bags and go home.  Yes, I did service work in New Orleans, helping to clear the Lower 9th Ward, but I was invited by an organization who was in conversation with people from the community.  I followed their lead.  Instead of doing work that would have been more up my alley and match more of my ideals, I spent hours in the blazing sun clearing brush and debris because that was what the community said that they needed.

I read an interesting article by Ivan Illich entitled “To Hell with Good Intentions.”  He pointed out that the Peace Corps spends on average about $10,000 preparing each corps member how to deal with the culture shock of working in a different part of the world.  Illich then pointed out the irony that there is no money spent on helping the community adjust to the culture shock of a corps members work.

As Christians, we are called to action, we are called to help people reform.  However it is vital that in the process we are doing what is actually needed to help that community at that time and place, not what we as people who have only known a state of privilege think is needed. 

I have several friends in seminary who have worked in various parts of the world for the church.  I am loath to use the word “missionary” because the work they did does not meet the societal implication of that word.  They didn’t rush in, tell people to change, and then leave.  They didn’t go in without being asked, build a well, and then leave.  Instead they were invited, spending months or sometimes years in dialogue with the community.  They listened to the communities testimony of faith, sharing their own, and in the process truly discovered how two groups from different parts of the world can grow together.

These friends also mentioned that historically, missionaries have gone to where they are not invited and did work that didn’t always need to be done.  One mentioned that there is a country in Africa who continually has mission groups come wanting to fix-up schools with paint and nails.  What these schools really need is books and shoes, but the mission groups ideal is to fix a building so they only come with paint and nails.  Each year, the same schools continue to be repainted even when they don’t need it, and the true need is over looked.  The community is grateful for the ideal of help, and use the profit that is earned in housing these missionaries to buy the books and shoes that they need.  But think of how much more the students would be helped if the missionaries would have thought to ask what was needed instead of assuming.  The money they spent on paint and nails could have gone directly towards books and shoes years ago, and the tourist money raised could help take the mission of the community to the next level.

Over the years, the ELCA has changed the look of its missionary movement.  Now, instead of going to places where there are no Christians thus creating a sense of culture shock, they go to communities where Lutheran denominations have already been established.  Through mutual invitation and mutual conversation, they work with the churches that already exist to grow and expand.  They do so with the goal of the community in mind, not the ideal.

For myself, it is important for me to see how God’s grace plays out in the world.  At this point in my life I need to go to New Orleans, Louisville, and El Salvador and see how other communities to which I have no connection experience the love of a God to whom I am intimately connected.  In truth, I am a bit of an idealist.  I want everyone in the world to experience all the blessing I have experienced and to feel as loved and valued as I do.  My intentions are good, but they need to be based in reality  What I may think is a blessing may merely be unnecessary paint and nails, preventing me from listening to how God is speaking to the heart of that community at that time.

We shouldn’t give up on being an idealist.  We shouldn’t give up on our calling to bring good news, love and support to all people.  We just need to know when to wait and be invited, listening to the truth in the words of all of our brothers and sisters as they speak them, not how we assume them to be.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »