Holy MOLY!

Reflections on the Assembly, the Faith, and the College

As I write this installment of the newsletter I am sitting in the business session of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). The business sessions are not all that lively . . . until they suddenly get very heated. We are currently receiving a report on immigration and undocumented people in our congregations. Next, we will consider protection of children in Palestine. Tomorrow we will talk about the continued efforts of our church in antiracism and pro-reconciliation. We will spend hours over the week talking about living out faith in our community.

On campus most of the community has some understanding that Lynchburg is a church-related school, but few recognize how truly “Disciples” our university is. Rev. Jose Morales’ sermon Sunday night reminded the congregation of about 4,000 that Disciples were founded on the pursuit of unit . . . the hard kind of unity that involves deep discussion and the sometimes-painful pursuit of living together with diverse views. He reminded us that Disciples thrive when we are working for justice for all people. Rev. William Barber spoke prophetically during the Monday business session, reminding us that welcoming immigrants is important, but we must also learn to welcome brown immigrants.

The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) is a relatively small denomination which boasts sixteen colleges and universities and a strong commitment to higher education. As the “original frontier religion,” the first denomination founded on American soil, Disciples have a root in American individualism. Disciples congregations make decisions for themselves, and each member is responsible for their own study, prayer and life of service This individual Responsibility prompts the need to be educated and therefore higher education is vital. The emphasis on justice means that both the communion table and our educational institutions are open to anyone and everyone.

At Lynchburg, this means that we teach religious studies classes that shape the individual’s ability to interpret scripture. It also means that as a Christian school we welcome and allow space for students of all faiths. It means that we encourage dialogue. I also think this undergirds the campus commitment to service and justice. One of the distinctions of LC is our commitment to service and we feature our students’ 70,000+ community service hours each year. We boast about our connection to our community. Our relationship to the church includes some annual funding and significant contributions to our endowment funding.

The Disciples biennial family gathering, which we sometimes call our Assembly, concludes today with a celebration of our new General Minister and President. Twelve years ago Disciples were the first to call a woman as our head of communion; this week we have called our first woman of color, Rev. Terri Hord Owens.

So, the next time someone asks you if LC is a church-related school, you can proudly declare that LC is a Disciples of Christ school and add that that this is the reason why we welcome everyone, why we are committed to dialogue between those of different cultures, and the reason we are such a good neighbor to the Lynchburg community.

Blessings from Indianapolis, Stephanie

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Summer Peace Prayer

Although most of our staff at Lynchburg College works through the summer, the slightly slower pace does allow for a somewhat saner rhythm to each day and a bit more time for reflection. In the midst of completing annual reports and planning for the new year, I’ve been able to muse a bit about where I am spiritually as we transition from one academic year to another. I find myself trying to balance a realistic appraisal of the pain and struggle I see in the world around me and a still hopeful appreciation and gratitude for the joy and beauty that is also present in people and places all over the planet. A helpful and instructional guide, as I navigate these seeming disparate realities, is the Peace Prayer, commonly attributed to St. Francis, though actually from a still anonymous source.

I offer this spiritual resource once again with brief commentary that seems relevant for our current times.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.  If I pray for peace, I must be willing to take responsibility for being an agent of peace in my own life and in my own corner of the world.

Where there is hatred, let me sow love.  When my heart feels broken by hateful words or actions either towards others or me, I can choose to share loving words and actions in my own relationships

Where there is injury, pardon.  Forgiveness is a journey that ultimately will be healing for my own heart. I can take one baby step towards being more forgiving towards myself as well as those that have harmed me, if and when my heart is ready to do so.

Where there is doubt, faith.I can try to embrace the mystery of all life even when so much around me seems to make no sense in the present moment.  I can trust the process of life unfolding.

Where there is despair, hope. In the midst of all the bad news that surrounds me I will spend at least equal time seeking out the good news and celebrating every small act of positivity and progress.

Where there is darkness, light. I will recognize that each of us have within us a sacred light if we choose to radiate it and that doing so actually makes a difference when all around us may feel dark and difficult

Where there is sadness, joy.  If joy is indeed the infallible sign of the presence of God, I can acknowledge the sorrow that may surround me while also expressing freely and openly a sense of glee and delight at the wonders of the Divine Creation which are also all around me.

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love. 
Help me to practice the platinum rule by treating others as THEY would want to be treated.  Help me to empathetically seek to understand what might be going on in their own lives and then respond accordingly.

For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
May I celebrate the irony of life that my attempts and efforts to be of service and care to others often results in my feeling served and cared for in return.
Amen.

As we begin this summer season, perhaps we can take even one aspect of the peace prayer to heart. A simple spiritual practice of referring frequently to a specific phrase throughout each day may bear unexpected fruit in our lives and in our world. Seems worth the effort to at least try. Will you join me in a collective effort to more and more become instruments of God’s peace today and in the days ahead? I hope so and I look forward to experiencing the positive results of our common striving for harmony and wholeness.

Shalom!  Anne

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Of Chain Saws and Quiet Hours

Yesterday as I was walking across the dell, groundskeepers were busy beautifying the campus for commencement activities and lumberjacks were pruning the trees. The air was literally abuzz with the sounds of the season including chain saws and leaf blowers. A student laughed and remarked: “So this is how we do reading day and quiet hours at LC!”

The student was correct. As I left the outdoors and entered Drysdale the building was eerily quiet even though there were students filling beanbag chairs, study carrels, and quiet coves around every corner. The loud din of the dell had been replaced by the somber silence of study. Somehow our community manages to hold seeming opposites together.

This week finds students, staff, and faculty alike in a frenzy of activities as we attempt to wrap up loose ends before the semester completely slips away. And yet most of us are also trying to squeeze in times of quiet and reflection, whether preparing for a final, grading an exam, or spending precious times with friends and colleagues before inevitable departures.

Our lives as individuals and as a campus are most often “both/and.” This time of year we are both anxious for the stress to subside and grateful for the opportunities presented to us.  We are both eager for the summer adventures we hope will unfold and a bit unsure and even nervous for the unknown that awaits us. We are both proud of personal and professional accomplishments we’ve achieved and disappointed that we didn’t meet all our goals or accomplish every task on our to-do lists.

The both/and realities of our lives offer a creative and healthy tension when we are able to accept and embrace the dualities of our days. I can accept that interruptions to my day can be both frustrating and offer an opportunity to be flexible and accepting. I can feel both disgruntled and appreciative when my spouse does a chore, just not the way I’d most prefer. I can continue to both grieve deeply the loss of a loved one and celebrate the fact that they were in my life to begin with. I can both lament the political strife that plagues our country and resolve to do my part to improve my own little corner of the world.

Living with creative tension is part and parcel of our spiritual journey.  Rather than imagining ourselves in a rigid lock-step procession through life, we can see ourselves as partners with the Spirit in a Divine Dance that is both challenging and exhilarating as we whirl from one step to the next. May the music of chainsaws and leaf-blowers be punctuated by quiet pauses for rest as the semester winds down, the summer begins, and the dance continues.

Peace, Anne

Posted in Anne

Don’t Miss Your Shot!

Lately I have been sort of “obsessed” with the Hamilton soundtrack. Whenever I hop in the car, I turn on the music… and find myself transported into the story. How lucky we are to be alive right now; it’s not a moment, it’s a movement; I am not going to miss my shot; immigrants, we get the job done; I want to be in the room where it happens; and a host of other phrases, have pierced me these past few months. Depending on the day, this soundtrack has moved me to tears, inspired me to greatness, or served as a muse for reflection.

Yes, I know the story is an artist’s imagined narrative. I do know words, phrases and illustrations were inserted intentionally into the soundtrack to spark imagination. I know the cadence, rhythms, and musical genre were chosen specifically to ignite the soul. I know characters are reimagined, with just enough historical accuracy woven in, to spark curiosity. I know the story is told through a particular lens. Regardless, I find the soundtrack powerful.

Always one moved by music, I find that the music and lyrics of this particular soundtrack speak to my revolutionary spirit. As a third-generation immigrant (Slavic Gypsy to be a bit more specific J), I am often struck by how lucky I am to be alive right now. The adventurer and dreamer in me soars in times of possibility. However, in times of status quo and decorum, I find myself determined to not “miss my shot” and to be “in the room where it happens.”

Yesterday, as I was listening to the soundtrack, it hit me. One of Hamilton’s tragic flaws was his obsession and determination not to miss his shot and being in the room where it happens. There is a fine line between drive and obsession. Drive provides incentive, gently pushing one outside the box in the quest to bring goals to fruition. Whereas an obsession paralyzes, rendering everything else insignificant. In Hamilton’s case, obsession led to his demise.

As the semester ends, it is easy to become obsessed. Deadlines are no longer months away. Projects, presentations and theses are due. Graduation is fast approaching, and it is easy for our minds to spiral into obsession, rendering everything else insignificant.

For a moment, just breathe. Allow the rhythm of your breathing to refresh. Stretch… and breathe again. Now grab some water. As the water flows down your throat, clear your thoughts. Count to ten and breathe again. Take advantage of all the events on campus. Star gaze with classmates. Take a date to the Movie on the Dell. Gather your friends and participate in Finals Blowout. Meet study partners in the dining hall for the Late Night Breakfast. Walk around campus. Fill up a water bottle, plop into a red chair and just sit in the Dell. Breathe.

Then… get back to it. Slay your assignments. Allow your drive to inspire greatness and bring your goals to fruition. Finish with excellence.

You got this!

Katrina

Posted in Katrina

Reflection on Faith and Reason

Once in awhile I actually get to sit in church and have a chance to worship. This Sunday I preached for the Westover Alumni in class reunion at 10 a.m. and then dashed over for most of the 11 a.m. service at First Christian on Rivermont. I wasn’t entirely settled during the sermon since there was a hitch in handing out the Earth Day buttons at the Children’s Sermon, but by Communion all was well and my mind was still. Phil Stump, retired LC History Professor was the elder and offered the prayer below.

Lord of love, Laudato Si – praised be you for the earth and its fullness are yours. We thank you that you formed us out of this earth, from dust that is the star-stuff forged in countless supernovas in the Big Bang. We thank you that you breathed your spirit into this dust of the earth. We thank you that you came to us, born of the same earth. We thank you that you gave us this bread and this wine which you taught us to make from the grain and the grape sprung from this earth. We thank you that they are the signs of your everlasting love for us, for your earth, and for all your creatures. In your precious name AMEN.

I heard in his words the careful balance between the miracle of creation and a scholar of science, an integration of the mystery of creation and the mystery of the Big Bang. In his words he alludes to the Pope’s most recent encyclical, Laudato Si, https://laudatosi.com/watch, devotion to simplicity and a commitment to ecojustice. If you know Phil, you are most likely impressed by his gentleness, wisdom and faith.

In this week between Earth Day and the Climate March we are all called to use both our faith and our reason to be part of the movement for the wholeness of the planet…and the wholeness of ourselves and our ways of living. Both faith and reason involve the pursuit of Truth and Beauty, which some choose to pursue only in the lab and others choose to pursue only in the scripture. But in my mind and heart while neither always make perfect sense I can hold true to both.

At a meeting of Disciples in Higher Education last week, someone asked how our institutions spoke to the denominational tradition of education, and I was able to say simply, we put our practice on our college seal. Our seal bears Snidow Chapel and Hopwood Hall. I have heard countless Enrollment tour guides (ESAs) explain to prospective students that the only straight sidewalk on campus lies between these two buildings. Students at both New Student Convocation and Commencement walk that sidewalk to bookend their studies at LC.

As you ponder Earth Day, the Science March last Saturday, or the Climate March this weekend; as you pursue Truth and Beauty in any discipline in your work this week; as you look toward the heavens for either the meteor shower or inspiration; please ponder, pursue, and look in the Lynchburg tradition, with both faith and reason.

Blessings, Stephanie

Posted in Stephanie

The Small Stuff – Sweating and Celebrating

Over the Easter holiday I had a lively conversation with one of my “bonus” daughters (married to one of my sons) about advice she had received at a bridal shower. She felt the most helpful wisdom regarding her upcoming marriage was, “Sweat the small stuff because small stuff can become big stuff.”

The traditional wisdom of “Don’t sweat the small stuff” seems to discourage paying too much attention to little irritations, and annoyances. However, if we really are bothered by seemingly minor frustrations and we never address them, the aggravations can build up over time, eventually creating a much larger and more volatile emotional eruption. Sweating the small stuff can mean paying attention in our relationships to times of discomfort. When we sense something may be amiss, figuring out what might be going on and then naming that for our self and for the other. Addressing potential problems on the front end is a way of taking care of ourselves and our partner in order to keep difficulties from escalating into insurmountable obstacles. Read more ›

Posted in Anne

Radical Compassion: A Reflection on Buddha’s Birthday

On April 8th, Buddhists across America took time to celebrate the birth of Buddha. Of course when Buddha’s birthday is celebrated (and how it is celebrated) depends on both the culture and the type of Buddhism. Many believe Buddha was born on April 8th; thus, that day is designated as the official celebration in America. Some adherents throw festivals, like the famous Flower Festival in San Francisco, and some opt for smaller celebrations like dinner parties. Others go to Buddhist temples or even spend the day at home in meditation and prayer. I spent last Saturday at my house in the woods, reflecting on compassion, which Buddha believed to be a crucial tool for those on the spiritual path. Read more ›

Posted in Jeremy

From the Aramaic . . .

As an undergraduate I studies Greek, so when I arrived at Divinity School I decided to take Hebrew.  While I worked as hard as I ever had at anything in my Hebrew class, I found it terrible difficult…and after three quarters I managed to get a B, but still had trouble with the letters.  (I got the B because I recognized the passage from Genesis 2 on the final exam!)  Basically, I learned that I was never going to be a linguist and that reading scripture in translation would have to be good enough for me.

This weekend I ran across a translation of the Lord’s Prayer from an Aramaic copy.  It’s quite different than most English translations used in American places of worship.  I thought for the reflection this week I would share some of the thoughts my reflection and meditation on the passage made me consider.

First, please do not get distracted by the opening language.  One of the things that everyone who reads scripture should realize is that EVERY translator has a lens which he or she works through…an agenda (and the publisher, and the writer and the buyer have agendas as well).  Clearly this translator wanted to reflect the gender-neutral language about God.

  • “Grant both bread and insight”—I often pray for daily provisions and give thanks for my abundance, but I probably need to pray for insight more often.
  • “Loose the cords of mistakes…free-us from what holds us back”—How many of us remember the mistakes of years ago? When we talk about faith and freedom our mental and emotional fetters are often harder to shake than physical hurdles.  I need to pray to be truly free from the burdens that haunt me and those that I could let go of.  I also want to pray more often to let others off the hook.  May I not hold grudges or let arguments fester.
  • “Don’t let surface things delude”—I bought a new car today. I am definite the beautiful new “mom car” is a surface thing.  May I daily consider my attachments to my stuff and how it distracts me.
  • “The song that beautifies all”—This reminds me of the spring. May I always take the time to reflect on the beauty around me.
  • “The ground from which all actions grow”—One of my friends says to her kids that there are things and there are people; people are always more important. May my values, my spirit and my actions always stem from my faith.

What speaks to you in these busy times?  What new things and opportunities to reflect do find in your daily living?  Do you take time to reflect and consider and pray?  My wish for you this week is that you too are always on a faith journey and always trying to be more faithful.  Amen.

Blessings, Stephanie

Posted in Stephanie

Bon Appetit!

This week a group of about 25 women met together as part of a program that would help all of us become more healthy. As someone who often lacks personal discipline, I find that being a part of a larger group helps me to be accountable and it also provides a sense of solidarity and mutual encouragement when the going gets tough. One of the commitments we made was to eat in healthier ways. I’m not a big fan of diets but I do like the idea of feeling better about my food choices, which in turn makes me feel better physically and psychologically as well. Read more ›

Posted in Anne

Our Journeys to Galilee

By now we are halfway through the Lenten season. So how are you doing? Have you kept your Lenten promises? For me, the discipline and sacrifice is a daily struggle. Some days are better than others. I guess that’s why it’s called sacrifice. Sacrifice leads us closer to God. Lent is a journey to the celebration of the Resurrection. It is movement not to the past, but forward to God’s divine plan for each of us. The past – the events of our suffering and our challenges –are part of this sojourn. We look to the Resurrection as our reason for living. Read more ›

Posted in Kaky