Holy MOLY!

Thankful Thanksgiving

The Spiritual Life staff prides itself on meaningful low-budget programs, and two years ago Anne Gibbons was inspired to start Thankful Thursdays. We have a banner and some note cards that get set up by different people and organizations on Thursdays, and we offer the community an opportunity to simply say thank you to someone who has helped them or who deserves a pat on the back. We offer both on-campus mailing of thank-yous as well as posting of off-campus notes. Thankful Thursday has been so successful that last year it challenged the Spiritual Life postage budget! The community has even written notes to student center donors and the crews that have done the construction.

Next week is Thanksgiving and since there is no Thanksgiving Eve service this year, you are invited to participate in Super-Thankful Thursday and see if we can’t break records of the number of notes we collect. Please travel safely!

Prayer of Gratitude
O God, when I have food,
help me to remember the hungry;
when I have work,
help me to remember the jobless;
when I have a home,
help me to remember those who have no home at all;
when I am without pain,
help me to remember those who suffer.
And remembering,
help me to destroy my complacency,
bestir my compassion,
and be concerned enough to help,
by word and deed, those who cry
out for what we take for granted.

Native American Prayer
Give thanks
for unknown blessings
already on their way.

Child’s Prayer
Thank you for the world so sweet.
Thank you for the things we eat.
Thank you for the birds that sing.
Thank you, God, for everything.

Blessings, Stephanie

Posted in Stephanie

Living Creativity

You may have noticed the image at the top of the Chaplain’s Corner representing the Center for Spiritual Life at Lynchburg College. When I was asked to describe or explain my process for creating this painting, I realized how difficult it would be to explain. So much of my process is spiritual in nature. I oftentimes go to a place that is within me, a place that is meditative and unexplainable.

I began by thinking of ways I can create an image that represents the interfaith and ecumenical nature of our mission on campus for an upcoming Christmas card last year. I was given a picture of different symbols of different faith traditions. Each symbol was painted inside a white circle including a circle that was left blank to leave room for faith traditions not yet discovered.

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Posted in Kay

Rituals, Not Remedies

“Once a Hornet, always a Hornet.” Our LC Hornet family grieves deeply this week with the reality that two of our best and brightest are no longer with us. Brogan Franklin ’13 and Chelsea Meager ’14 both died in the past week as the result of unrelated car accidents. It is a painful and difficult time in the life of our community. Unfortunately we have been down this road before and mourned the untimely and tragic deaths of other students with other stories.

As a chaplain I often have the privilege of being involved a bit more directly and personally with those most affected by death. Yet I still find myself often at a loss with what to say and how best to respond. I’ve been to countless workshops on grief and I have read many books and articles on death, dying, and loss. However, sharing in the intimate and vulnerable moments of those who are grieving is still difficult. Read more ›

Posted in Anne

Date To Ask

The responses were varied. A few said none, but more said three or more. I am reading eight. True, a few of them I am reading through the lens “I wonder if this might help _____ understand _______”, but many more are just for me.

I developed a love for reading as a youngster. Once I figured out that lines and shapes were letters, and then discovered forming the letters into patterns meant words, my world exploded. Words sparked my imagination and my dreams. I had this innate ability to enter stories in a host of roles and explore worlds unbridled by modern decorum. It also meant I questioned reality.

I would be wealthy…I mean name-on-a-building or endow-a-scholarship kind of wealthy, if I had a nickel for every time I have asked why or why not. My vivid and seemingly limitless imagination has awarded me more spankings (physical and verbal) and more letters (formal and informal) of exclusion than the average human. It has also birthed many things.

I bring my audacity to question into my spiritual life, and consequently into my life at Lynchburg College. Questions such as:
• A culturally diverse community with intentionally diverse worship leadership? Why not?
• Implementing a fusion of Protestant worship cultures? Why not?
• Using only one translation of scripture? Why?
• Excluding pop culture references from worship? Why?
• Worship must occur in one format. Why? Using technology in Sunday’s services? Why not?

If I cannot determine the theological why, I am not doing it, saying it, playing it or leading it. But once I become rooted in the why, orthodoxy and convention are mere obstacles to hurdle if they stand in opposition to the theological why (I told you I would be wealthy).

Vision and asking “why not” birthed the InFaith services held on campus. Led by students, the InFaith Community gathers on Sundays at 3 p.m. for a time of creative and intentionally designed worship which reflects a fusion of protestant church cultures. The venue moves from Sydnor to the Chapel reminding us that long before buildings people gathered in tents for times of worship.

I invite you to join us. Come and explore what it means to worship with a diverse community. Come and be amazed at how different a service can look, yet God still is present and the Spirit moves. Come and be reminded of our call as Christ followers to discipleship. Come and be reminded of our connection with one another as world citizens.

Come and dare to ask why…or why not.
Be blessed,

Reverend Katrina Stipe Brooks, campus pastor
InFaith Community, senior pastor

Posted in Katrina

Do a Hopeful Thing

A recent post on Facebook from a high school friend decried all the bad news happening around the world. She wondered what folks were doing in the face of so much seemingly hopeless tragedies such as ISIS, Ebola, the death of college co-eds, etc. As I thought about her question, I was reminded of a quote by a priest and peace activist, Daniel Berrigan. When asked how he was able to remain a person of hope in the midst of so much violence and war, he answered simply, “I stay hopeful by doing hopeful things.”

Emotions take energy. Always feeling overwhelmed and even paralyzed by bad news both near and far can be draining, exhausting, and ultimately even numbing. Choosing to channel that energy into hopefulness by doing hopeful things can be energizing and life-giving. Recently I’ve been very fortunate to have many opportunities to practice hopeful things. I cannot stop wars raging around the world but I’ve been able to befriend students from Afghanistan and other countries whose lives have been turned upside down by violent upheaval. Friendships with people who have known such suffering up close and personal helps ground me as I learn from them courage and resilience. I cannot stop multi-national corporations from taking over small businesses all over the world. But I can listen to the success stories of small communities who have banded together. In places like Nicaragua, communities have created their own cooperatives and fair trade factories as they work together to improve the lives of their village. A woman from such an organization, Julia Vallejos, shared her story at LC this week. Go to this link to read more about her organization.

I cannot wave a magic wand and improve the conditions of people living in Haiti, one of the poorest countries of the world. However, I can contribute to the efforts of those who live each day on that island as they work tirelessly to better themselves through education, agriculture, and other positive development. One way to share in this hopeful venture is through the 14th annual Hike with Haiti as we walk along the Black Water Creek Trail. We reflect on the miles walked by our Haitian brothers and sisters every day as they traverse great distances to get water at the spring, to buy charcoal at the market, and hopefully to go to school for the fortunate few who have access to education.

In my visits to Haiti over the years, I never cease to be amazed by the creative energy of the people from Matenwa whose community learning center we support.

This past summer I participated in a local summer camp where children learned everything from basic science, to playing guitar, to weaving purses from recycled gum wrappers, to building stools, to growing vegetables. Lacking certain basic skills myself, I simply offered to play games with the campers using cards, dice, puzzles, and balls that didn’t require a shared spoken language. We spoke laughter instead.

Those interested in “doing a hopeful thing” for and with Haiti are invited to walk with us on Sunday afternoon. (Meet at Chapel 12:30 p.m. Van shuttle to bike trail. Return by 4 p.m.) Hikers are asked to contribute $10 to support the community learning center as well as “House of Love” an orphanage founded by Ancito Etienne, an LC sophomore from Haiti. If you can’t join us on Sunday, you can still be a person of hope by sending a contribution through campus mail to the Chaplain’s Office. Checks can be made out to LC with “Haiti” in the memo line. If you prefer online donations please go to this link.

Yours in Hope,
Anne

Posted in Anne

Prayer for a Rainy Day

Holy One,
On this grey day I celebrate the nurture of the rain.
I grow tired of dampness and mud puddles.
I am chilled to the bone.
I am weary of wet shoes.
I am tired of plastic slickers.
My umbrella is almost too soaked to protect me.

I celebrate that the earth and your people need water.
I need to drink and wash.
The food I eat depends on the rain.
I confess that I would change my environment today.
I am so tired of wet that I doubt the holiness of nature and balance.
I confess that grey weather greys my spirit.
I crave the joy of never-ending sunshine even though I know it is not sustainable.
I confess that I want the rain to stop even though there are those who know drought.

Help me to remember today, right now, that rain is a blessing.
Warm my heart.
Cheer my soul.
There are so many blessings that come in disguise,
so many blessings that I fail to recognize,
so many blessings in my life that others with less yearn for.

Holy God of rain and sun, of cold and warmth, of grey days and brightness,
I am here amidst the puddles waiting to understand, open to looking beyond my own immediate needs, willing to serve. Rain Your blessings upon me.
Blessed Be and Amen.

Posted in Stephanie

Aging Well

This fall break I will be visiting my 85-year-old mother in Wyoming as she continues to recover from a broken leg. Her injury was sustained as she rode her beloved moped around the neighborhood. Last Friday night I had the privilege of attending a dinner honoring a 92-year-old parishioner from my husband’s church for his lifetime achievement in the glass industry. The thin glass we all take for granted on cell phones, lap tops and flat screen TVs was this man’s invention. Earlier in the week we had dinner at Westminster Canterbury where our hosts, all in their late 80s and early 90s, regaled us with tales of their life adventures. One visited Central America in the volatile 60s, another traveled all over the world as an agronomist setting up projects for the World Bank, and another keeps up with the latest political and religious happenings, locally and around the globe.

As someone who spends most of her waking hours working with young adults, I found this past week to be enlightening and inspiring. The wise elders that surrounded me had so much still to offer. While their physical bodies may be beginning to diminish, their spirits were lively and energizing. I was reminded of the theory of Episcopal priest and theologian, Matthew Fox:

Fox wants to retire the word retirement (there is a hint of tiredness in the term itself) and substitute refirement.” For him that means tapping into the fire in the belly, the passion that spurs creativity and compassion, the zeal that makes every day an adventure.*

This fall break many students will be returning home to visit family members, including grandparents and other older relatives. I hope that time will be made in busy schedules to literally sit at the feet of these wise ones. To listen well to their stories, to recognize the richness of their life experiences, and to thank them for their many contributions to family and community life. And as I visit with my mom, I will pray for patience, recognizing that aging also carries with it special challenges that I can’t begin to understand, but that I can at least attempt to appreciate. For should I live a long life myself, I will one day be an elder surrounded by the young. May I live my life now in such a way that when re-tirement becomes an option, I will choose instead to be re-fired up about those issues I hold dear and those relationships I treasure.

*From SpiritualityandPractice.com

Posted in Anne

Breast Cancer Awareness Month

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and when I think about the lives on this campus that have been touched by breast cancer, the numbers are hard to bear. One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer; even more have a scare with a lump or a follow up mammogram. Think of how many children and families, how many friends are touched. Take a moment to consider the women in your life who have died, who have battled, and those who have survived.

Get educated. Help those who are in treatment. Love those who are surviving.

Here are some prayers that I have on hand that I wanted to share.

Freedom from Suffering

May all beings everywhere plagued with sufferings of body and mind quickly be freed from their illnesses. May those frightened cease to be afraid, and may those bound be free. May the powerless find power, and may people think of befriending one another.
The Buddha

Blessing When Receiving Chemotherapy

Blessed are You,
Compassionate One,
For giving me
these droplets of
(name of chemotherapy drug),
Like refreshing dew
and healing rain,
may they save my life.

Diann L. Neu

For Cancer Sufferers

O God, mighty giver of life
You are able to sustain what you have created:
we ask you to heal the ills of those who suffer from the threat of cancer.
we ask you to restore the physical body
and also to cleanse the minds of the ill of worry, fear and despair,
that both health of body and joy of soul may unite
to undergird and uplift those who suffer,
and so place them within the range of your healing power;
through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Please get your mammograms and encourage the women in your life to get their mammograms. AMEN

Blessings, Stephanie

Posted in Stephanie

The Path to True Happiness

My oldest son, Bob, has been in Thailand for almost a year, teaching English to a classroom of middle school girls. Having never lived abroad before, he was ready to embrace the culture and take advantage of all the beauty and richness the country has to offer. What I, as his mother, didn’t realize was that this journey would take him to new spiritual realms and explorations.

I jokingly asked him the first month of his tenure had he been to Mass yet? Knowing Catholicism was not exactly rampant in Thailand, he laughed and said, “Oh yeah, Mom. I go every Sunday.” I knew this was not the case but I wondered if he would miss his Christian connection to the parish or others.

Over the course of the year Bob shared some of his experiences visiting Buddhist temples and learning to meditate. As an anthropology major, Bob has always been fascinated with learning about man and his culture. This seemed to be a natural extension of this passion. What I didn’t realize was that Bob was stretching himself by asking questions about God, his relationship with God, the world, and where he fits in. I became interested in knowing more about Thailand and Buddhism.

I’m embarrassed to admit that I knew and still know very little about Buddhism but I have tried to read about it while Bob has been there. Catholicism has always been my faith life. As a Christian, I struggle with the notion that Buddhism isn’t a religion per se, but more of a philosophy, a way of life and that there is no God. What about God? What about Jesus? To whom do we worship? For whom may I be Christ in helping? How could Bob find this new philosophy appealing?

In reading about Buddhism, I found that while Christianity is not at all like Buddhism, I could find elements that I respect and do incorporate into my life as a Christian. One website summed up Buddhism as “leading a moral life, being mindful and aware of thoughts and actions, and developing wisdom and understanding.” In my summation, Buddhism can lead individuals to a way of life that leads to true happiness. Being Buddhist depends more on understanding than faith. Buddhism teaches that solutions to our problems are within us, not outside. The Buddha asked his followers not to take his word as true, but rather to test the teachings for themselves by following their Noble Truths. ln this way, each person decides for him or herself and takes responsibility for their own actions and understanding. Buddhists are also very concerned with sharing compassion with others and learning from others to better understand themselves.

I can certainly respect and live with that! Who would not want a life of true happiness based on living a moral life, seeking wisdom, understanding others and being compassionate? Bob has certainly reiterated how kind and hospitable the Thai people have been to him. Perhaps this Christian writer can learn a few things from her son and from those tenets of truth that he has come to embrace.

Posted in Kaky

A Mother’s Musings on Marriage

Musings On MarriageThis past Saturday I experienced one of the most profound events of my life – the first of my three children’s marriage. Zachary, our second son, wed Molly, the love of his life. As a chaplain I probably officiate at almost a dozen weddings a year, but none have come close to the celebration of one of my own. I was overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and the sense of joy that permeated each moment of the weekend. While not every member of Zach and Molly’s extended families could attend, those that did traveled at great sacrifice of time and resources and did so willingly and wholeheartedly. Friends from as far away as Seattle made the trek in support of the newlyweds, and memories were shared even as new friendships were formed as everyone gathered together.

When the time for the mother and son dance arrived during the reception, I found myself even more emotional and sentimental than I had imagined. As the words to “Forever Young” serenaded our movements, I thanked Zach for the man he had become and the new daughter he had brought into our lives. In welcoming Molly into our family, we were gifted with a new community of her loved ones as well. Love shared is multiplied a hundred times over at a wedding.

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Posted in Anne