Holy MOLY!

Lent: A Season to Check Your Spiritual Fitbit

One of the latest fitness crazes that seems to be rising in popularity is the use of Fitbits. These bracelets are worn by young and old who desire to monitor more closely their lifestyle and personal habits related to health and wellness. While different models track different practices, three areas of concern seem to be most prominent: Daily steps you’ve taken…Calories you’ve burned….and even how you’re sleeping.

Throughout the day a person wearing a Fitbit can check their progress in these areas and more. The truly disciplined have daily targets and goals and plan their activities accordingly. While I don’t own such a device myself, I admire the discipline and perseverance of those who do.

As we begin the sacred season of Lent today, I wonder if we might challenge ourselves to have a spiritual Fitbit practice for the next 40 days leading to Easter. Perhaps in addition to the ashes many will receive today, we could wear or carry some tangible and physical reminder of the traditional spiritual disciplines of this holy time: Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving (charity or service to those in need). At the Ash Wednesday services today at noon and 10 p.m. in the chapel we will hand out our traditional red wristbands for people to wear. We’ll have more on hand at the Center for Spiritual Life as well. But any wristband or cross or other kind of accessory can be used as long as it helps remind us on a daily basis to be more spiritually mindful and disciplined.

As a regular Fitbit may track our sleeping patterns, a spiritual Fitbit can track our times of prayer, quiet contemplation, and resting in God. When we glance at the wristband throughout the day we can quiet ourselves, take a deep and cleansing breath, and simply be reflective and grateful. God loves our attention and our intention. We don’t need to have fancy words or elaborate rituals. Our prayerful presence is more than enough.

As the commercial Fitbit tracks our calorie intake, usually motivating us to eat less, a spiritual Fitbit can track our fasting. Each of us could benefit from downsizing in one or more areas of our lives. We might need to cut down on certain foods that aren’t good for us. We may want to decrease our intake of alcohol. We may want to be more mindful of how our food is produced and eat more locally. We may consume less and limit our purchases. Money saved can then be given to individuals and organizations that serve those in need. If we are multi-tasking and over stressed, we may choose to limit our commitments so that we are more focused and centered. Our wristband can be a visible reminder that “less is often more.”

And finally as a typical Fitbit tracks one’s steps throughout the day, a spiritual Fitbit can help monitor our actions. In Lent the practice of almsgiving often involves giving time, talent, and treasure in order to help those around us. Opportunities to become more active in charity abound. Community organizations and non-profits are always in need of financial support as well as volunteers to assist them in their mission. Closer to home, one need only look around those with whom we share daily life to find ways to serve. A classmate struggling with an assignment, a colleague stressed from dealing with loss or illness, a friend with a broken heart…. All we need to do is open our eyes, our ears, and our hearts and a need will present itself begging for our personal response.

I encourage each of us to find our own spiritual Fitbits to serve as reminders in these coming six weeks. Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving: Rest in God, Less is More, Care for Others. Set your own goals that are reasonable and attainable and trust the Spirit to coach and motivate you along the way. Ready, Set, Go!!

Peace, Anne

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Self-Care and the Mystery of the Sacred Divine

My spouse and I were talking about a job this morning. I audaciously proclaimed I would rock the available position in his department but his team could not handle our combined awesomeness. His response was, “No, you couldn’t. You have the skill set, but physically you could not handle the position.” I wanted to punch him.

The physical demands of a position matter. We can pretend they do not and declare a position to be a perfect fit, but the physical demands of a job can render us an unfit candidate. Does the position require long hours of standing? Does the position require us to be in an office or work in a cubical? Does the position demand we bend, lift or log multiple hours outdoors? Does the position require hours of driving or sitting at a desk? Is the position done in isolation or community? Can water and food be partaken of during work hours? What attire must be worn for safety reasons or to adhere to dress code? Does the position require detailed precision? For those of us with chronic illnesses or other limitations, these questions are even more important.

I often insert questions about physical self-care into my conversations with others, particularly students. I typically include questions like: Are you eating correctly? How much water do you drink? Are you walking/exercising? Are you taking your medicines and vitamins? How are you sleeping? The questions help me discern where to start. I can recommend a host of spiritual disciplines, but if there is a physical limitation I need to begin there. A well-hydrated body enhances the ability to practice disciplines. Being well rested enhances the ability to study the sacred text. Too many processed carbs or too much caffeine can lead to an attention deficit. Our body is this amazing and intricate instrument, and when it is “out of whack,” our souls have a hard time communing with the Sacred Divine.

We are fast approaching the liturgical season of Lent. Lent is ushered in by Ash Wednesday, a day punctuated by the imposition of ashes. The imposition of ashes is intentional; reminding us we are finite being. Fashioned and formed in dust, one day we will return to dust. Ash Wednesday is a day to consider our finitude and our limitations, whether they be spiritual or physical.

Wednesday, February 10th at noon and 10 p.m. the Center for Spiritual Life (CSL) will hold Ash Wednesday services in Snidow Chapel and will offer the imposition of ashes. Services are open to the entire LC Community regardless of faith tradition. Our staff is also available to impose ashes outside those times. Please contact the CSL for additional information.

May this intentional day of self-reflection invite us into better self-care of this wondrous body we have been given and may the journey towards health and wholeness awaken us to the mystery of the Sacred Divine.

Katrina

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Diversity Traffic

Since our nation celebrated the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday Monday, I have had several conversations on diversity, -isms, race, inequality, and justice this week.

One of the best descriptions of the real way to divide the population was not found in a religious text, political paper, or even public policy statement, but in a book about driving. Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What it Says About Us) was a book I picked up after hearing an interview on NPR. I don’t read many books on “design, technology and science,” but I was hooked. The author, Tom Vanderbilt, says early in the book that there are two kinds of people: early mergers and late mergers. The first set of drivers sees a sign announcing that the left lane will end and dutifully gets into the right lane. The late mergers stay in the ending lane until they reach the actual end of the lane and work in ahead of the line by any means possible.

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A New Year Pilgrimage

Every year students from the Bonner Leader Program begin the spring semester by going on a “pilgrimage” before classes start. As our group gathered in the Center for Spiritual Life before boarding college vans, I asked them what it meant to be a pilgrim. Several recalled the historic voyage of the pilgrims coming to the “New World” in 1620 on the Mayflower, and others recounted pilgrimages still made in Europe today by religious followers. Merriam-Webster simply defines pilgrimage as a journey to a holy place or a journey to a special or unusual place.

For the Bonner Leaders this year’s pilgrimage took us to Asheville, North Carolina for three days and three nights of explorations that qualified as holy, special, and unusual. One of the most obviously holy places we visited was Urban Dharma, a kind of store front Buddhist center where a teacher patiently took time to explain the various shrines and symbols and also talked us through a meditation experience, as we struggled a bit to quiet our minds and our bodies while sitting on floor cushions or nearby pews. Urban Dharma gave us a glimpse into the holy.

One of the special places we visited was the Blue Ridge Parkway Visitor Center and Folk Art Center. In addition to learning about the beauty of the land that surrounded us, we were given the opportunity to hike a bit through a mountain pathway and share a picnic lunch as the weather had cooperated well with our visit. According to a video we watched, the Blue Ridge Mountains are among the oldest in the world, making this place on the planet truly special.

Asheville also qualifies as an unusual place by being a rather liberal oasis in an otherwise fairly conservative state. Local stores, restaurants, and breweries dominate the downtown area and merchants pride themselves as “unchained” Asheville. Big box stores were nowhere to be found, and one could easily sense a very particular culture and vibe to the area as students discovered museums, artist studios, pubs, and coffee shops. Mementos and souvenirs were purchased to help remember that Asheville truly is an unusual community.

We returned to campus with memories, reflections, and stories of our pilgrimage to a site that offered the holy, the special, and the unusual. Now the task of the New Year is to understand that we can always be pilgrims. We don’t have to take to the open road or travel distant lands. With open hearts we can feel that the holy and sacred is all around us and within us. With open eyes and ears we can recognize that there is a special quality to the community in which we live and the campus of which we are a part. And with an open spirit we can celebrate the unusual and the diverse whenever we encounter someone who looks, acts, or believes differently than we do.

May 2016 be a year of pilgrimage for all of us who choose to embrace the holy, the special, and the unusual that surrounds us each and every day of the coming semester and beyond.

Peace, Anne

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A Light in the Darkness

This past weekend my husband Chris and I went to the movies, one of our favorite date night activities. We had narrowed our choices to “Letters” about Mother Theresa’s struggles as she sought to follow God’s call among the poorest of the poor and “Spotlight.” We opted for the latter and spent the evening trying to comprehend the atrocities of the priest sex abuse scandal that rocked the Roman Catholic Church and which continues to have repercussions even today. By the end of the film, Chris was stunned into silence and I wept.

I have been thinking of the sins of my own church these days as people like Donald Trump vilify all Muslims based on the violent and deadly actions of those who commit horrible atrocities in the name of Islam. Surely no major world religion or denomination could claim to have a perfect record. There have been and will likely always be those who misuse sacred writings to achieve their own ends and who justify destructive actions by manipulating religious traditions and teachings. However, to judge and condemn an entire religious body based on the action of a minority of its adherents is reprehensible.

Closer to home, I am still reeling from comments made by Jerry Falwell, Jr. in which he advocated that Liberty University students carry concealed weapons to protect themselves from Muslims. “I’ve always thought that if more good people had concealed-carry permits, then we could end those Muslims before they walked in,” he said, the rest of his sentence drowned out by loud applause while he added, “and killed them.”

I have had the honor and privilege of hosting young Muslim men and women in my home. One young teenage girl lived with us for a year and was an inspiring example of faithful devotion and service. She even accompanied a group of us to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina to do relief work during Ramadan. She fasted, prayed, and helped to rebuild a Lutheran church in Waveland, Mississippi. A young man lived with us for two years and worked hard to get an education to better his himself and to help support his family.

I am a better Christian for having had the example of my Muslim friends. Their courage, resilience, faithfulness, and devotion have inspired me on many an occasions. I would trust them with my life and I believe they would feel the same about me. They are shocked and disgusted by the actions of militant terrorists in the same way that I am appalled and repulsed by the actions of sexual predator clergy who have destroyed countless lives and damaged the trust and confidence of the faithful.

In this season of winter solstice, Hanukkah, Advent, and Kwanzaa the shared symbol of light piercing the darkness unites us all. May each of us be beacons of light, hope, and peace within our own families and communities of faith. May we reach across divisions and differences and seek to find common bonds that will strengthen our resolve to live together as members of the same human community. Indeed, let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with each one of us.

Peace, Anne

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Is It Christmas Yet?

I find myself very conflicted this week about Advent and Christmas. Every year at the Lessons and Carols Service, I make a statement about my personal conflict of juggling the season of preparation with the season of celebration. The formal liturgical “PASTOR” side of me wants to be an Advent purist. Advent is about waiting; churches are bedecked in purple and blue. The singing of Christmas hymns is forbidden in favor of Advent hymns in darker minor keys (Isaiah the Prophet Has Written of Old and All the Earth Is Waiting are my favorites). I wish my young children would let me wait to put up the Christmas tree and just have the Advent calendar and the Advent wreath out.

The “COLLEGE” side of me knows that we celebrate Christmas on campus in the week between Thanksgiving break and finals. Music and Spiritual Life work to fit all of the concerts and events in the ten days we have. Spiritual Life offered Carols by Candlelight and the Tree Lighting over the last few days, and the Gospel program Night of Worship is Saturday night. Students go home after finals, campus parking improves, and we rush to close out the semester and the calendar year.

The “CHAPLAIN” side of me wants to make sure any student can celebrate his or her holiday. LC Hillel is having the Hanukkah party on Friday. We will get the dreidels out and hang the star of David in the window at Spiritual Life alongside the little tree. I keep asking students if anyone wants to lead a Kwanzaa celebration.

The “MOMMY” side of me wants to make the season fun for the kids, wrap packages, bake cookies, and incorporate as many traditions as we can. I get entrapped by the secular trimmings. Santa is really fun with little ones…or with Mr. and Mrs. Eccles-Claus. I haven’t gone “Elf on the Shelf,” but you can play the social media seek and find the Elf at Drysdale (#FoundDale15).

As I sit a bit chilled in my office looking out at our third straight day of gray-ness, I just want some hot chocolate and a bit of blue sky. But my Christmas/Holiday Wishes for our community as College Chaplain are that we all travel safely, we all celebrate with loved ones, that we all get rested and that that we all experience great joy. Whatever your journey between semesters and wherever you travel (good luck to our classes going abroad over J-term), my prayer is that you are safe, that you know love and that you pray for peace.

Please pray that I get my wishes and I will pray for yours as well.

Blessings, Stephanie

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An Attitude of Gratitude

As we approach the Thanksgiving break, it seems a good time to reflect a bit on the place of gratitude in our lives. This time of year I’ve noticed many folks on Facebook practicing a 30-day thankfulness challenge. Each day the person acknowledges something or someone in their lives for which they are grateful and appreciative. Sometimes the references include a member of their family, the security of a good job, the beauty of autumn, etc. Yet other times people acknowledge that even challenges and seeming setbacks can teach important life lessons. I’m especially touched by others’ ability to reflect on difficult circumstances such as loss or illness with a thankful spirit. Finding the proverbial silver lining within the cloud is a skill I have yet to master, but I’m working on it!

Like any other skill, the more we practice being grateful, the more able and adept we become in feeling thankful regardless of the situation in front of us. One of my daily spiritual practices is to read a very brief meditation from the website: www.Gratefulness.org. I have found that beginning my morning with a positive reminder of goodness and blessing helps infuse my spirit for the rest of the day.

While there is benefit in looking for specific moments to be especially thankful, cultivating an ongoing attitude of gratitude helps us view life with a more positive perspective no matter what life presents us. As the website reminds us:

“Gratefulness surfaces whenever we remember that life itself is a precious gift that is irrefutably impermanent; this paradox allows the vulnerability and potency of gratefulness to become the lens through which we experience the fullness of our lives. Gratefulness is a distinct state of being that encourages and allows us to more consistently hold a sense of wonder, and to see the poignancy of opportunity in every moment. These are the hallmarks of grateful living— seeing wonder and opportunity within every moment, and recognizing the possibility of learning from everything that happens.”

As I write these words I’m keenly aware that many of us are dealing with incredibly difficult challenges right now personally and interpersonally. I also know that so many of us continue to reel in horror as violence and terrorism rages around the globe. How to be grateful in the midst of tragedy in our own lives and also far away? Perhaps we can hold the sorrow and grief, the anger and the despair, the confusion and the uncertainty in gentle ways. Maybe we can give ourselves permission to sit with all that feels negative and destructive and honor those feelings by acknowledging them, validating them, trusting that those emotions too may have lessons to teach us. May we look for and lean into loved ones who can help us to bear our burdens, even as we seek ways to help others carry their heavy loads also. In doing so, we deepen our sense of gratitude for all that life holds and for the people who surround us, in good times and in bad.

May this Thanksgiving find us aware and grateful that both blessings and burdens have lessons to help us navigate the river of life with grateful hearts and open spirits.

Peace, Anne

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Reflection on Veterans’ Day

When my dad was 17, my grandmother signed papers permitting him to join the Marine Corps. Dad’s first unit was used to test the effects of Agent Orange and radiation. After my dad died, my grandmother told me what it was like to talk with her 20-year-old son as he wrestled with being a soldier and the horror of seeing his buddies “glow.”

My dad’s assignment in the Vietnam War (yes, I used the term war intentionally) was at headquarters receiving messages from units in the field. He was the old guy in the unit…the Sarge…the one with children and a wife at home. Many times, he was on the line with a soldier who then was blown into bits mid sentence. At other times he volunteered for dangerous missions. When the war was over, my dad’s life stayed busy between raising four children and navigating the demands of a classified job. When I was an older teen, the horrors of Vietnam started creeping into our lives. The effects of earlier testing on his unit made dad’s body fragile and he drank to wash the terror and pain away. At 53 my dad was buried in New Bern National Cemetery. I was 28, the same age my father was in Vietnam.

Today is Veteran’s Day. Today is not the day we debate the horrors of war. Today is not the day we arrogantly insist the wars we, as a country, enter are just. Today is not a day to demonize the politicians who provoke war or talk about the need to increase our defense budget. Today is a day to celebrate and remember the men and women who put their lives on the line for our nation.

My uncle died in WWII. My step dad was a WWII Vet. My dad was a Vet. My father-in- law was a Vet. My brother is a Vet. My best friend’s husband is a Vet. I have friends who are Vets. There are men and women I went to high school and middle school with who are Vets. My children have friends who are Vets. I have officiated funerals of Vets. I have said words at a graveside in a National Cemetery. I have visited with a man who was vicariously transported back to Pearl Harbor on 9/11. I have informed parents that their son was part of the military invasion. I have lived life with sole survivors of units and prayed without ceasing for sons, daughters, and grandchildren serving in harm’s way.

Today is Veterans’ Day and today we celebrate these veterans and many, many others. Today we celebrate selflessness. We celebrate courage. We celebrate determination and the audacity to follow orders. We celebrate what it means to lay down your life. We celebrate duty and honor and we gratefully remember lives given and lives lost.

May today’s celebration call us to remember and be thankful! Happy Veterans’ Day, Daddy!

Semper Fi (Oorah!),
Katrina

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Volunteer, Service, and Graduate Fair – Nov. 19, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

In just over a week, Career Services and the Spiritual Life Center are co-sponsoring the “VSG” – Volunteer, Service and Graduate Fair. This is an opportunity for the community to talk with representatives from several service year programs, seminaries and divinity schools. If you want to change the world, one of these opportunities may be for you.

If you are considering how faith will fit into your professional life, and what your faith might challenge you with your future, you should meet Ben, Nathan, and the other representatives. A few of you may be considering seminary, or divinity school. You may be considering ministry or another church vocation (Christian education, music, youth ministry). The seminary and divinity school representatives want to meet with you and let you ask as many questions as you can think of.

If you have thought about doing a year of service work after you graduate, or taking a year off to work in a non-profit agency, you will find great opportunities that provide housing and a living stipend while you discern your path and what your life work might be. Since I am a Disciples of Christ pastor serving at a Disciples of Christ College (yes, LC is church-affiliated), I know the most about the XPLOR program. Recent LC students with the XPLOR Program have worked with children’s programs, music activities, as well as human trafficking awareness. Another student served in Ferguson, MO, helping to heal racial wounds after the series of divisive events. In the past two years we have had four students enter the XPLOR program and one enter the Lutheran Volunteer Corps. LC has a strong tradition of graduates entering the Peace Corps.

No matter what age you are, a sense of vocation is vital to the professional life of faithful people. Having a vocation used to mean that you were a priest, pastor, or missionary, but I use this word in a much broader context. Vocation means finding the work you are passionate about – finding the life calling that your faith drives you to. Some are lucky that the way we earn wages at our day job coincides with our passion and service. Others’ daily work is unrelated, but that work allows them to pursue their passion at other times. Most adults spend as many waking hours in their places of employment as they do at home, so using your day job to transform your corner of the world is an amazing opportunity. If you are a student, ask your faculty about why they teach, and you will probably hear their passion for education in the response. Faithful living, helping people, and changing the world are noble aspirations, but you can actually do all three.

I invite you to the VSG Fair in the Drysdale Student Center on the 19th. If you want a chance to talk with a representative more individually, let me know – I am gathering a dinner list.

Blessings, Stephanie

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“The Way”

Last week I showed a wonderful DVD called The Way to my 11th graders at Holy Cross Catholic School. I chose to show the film in light of our faith’s upcoming Feast Day of All Saints. The Catholic belief is that we acknowledge the extraordinary lives lived by the Saints while here on earth. The Saints chose to live lives for Christ and their Church and they are recognized for their many sacrifices and good works for the benefit of others. Living a life worthy of one’s faith at any time in our world history has not been easy. I wanted to compare the lives deliberately chosen by the Saints with the main character in the film The Way. Do we deliberately chose our lives or do we just live them?

In the movie, Tom, an irritable doctor, comes to France to deal with the tragic loss of his son who died while on the pilgrimage. Rather than return home, Tom decides to go on the pilgrimage, “The Way of St. James”, to honor his son’s desire to finish the journey. What Tom doesn’t realize is the profound impact this trip will have on him. He unfortunately comes to understand his son’s life through his death and along the road finds himself as well. In “The Way,” Tom discovers the difference between “the life we live and the life we choose.”

This question of finding oneself is a matter of acceptance and choice. Given the circumstances of our lives, how do we understand ourselves, our family and our friends, and the choices we make? Do we blindly go through life unaware of our actions and how they affect not only ourselves but others, as well? What role does our community, friendships and faith play in our decisions? My eleventh graders were asked these questions. They were also asked how they believed Saints would have answered them and did the Saints choose their lives rather than just live them. It made for very fruitful conversation.

The Camino de Santiago or the Way of St. James is a spiritual journey that pilgrims of all faiths and backgrounds have traversed for over a thousand years. This Camino route covers 500+ miles through northern Spain. One can walk 12-15 miles a day to reach the Cathedral de Santiago in 6 to 8 weeks. Pilgrims walk the Camino for various reasons, from penance to enlightenment to a sense of adventure. They all walk toward the Cathedral in Santiago where the remains of the apostle St. James lie. Whatever the reason for the walk, the Camino offers the perfect landscape in which to contemplate. Pilgrims follow the path as did millions before them.

The Camino is a metaphor for life. A path may be the guide, but we are confronted with the questions that most of our busy everyday lives prevent us from sometimes recognizing. The journey of life is life along whichever road, path, Camino, or Way we find ourselves on. How we see and treat ourselves and others, both in our pasts and in our futures is what defines us. Take the journey of life.

Buen Camino!

Kaky

(Some info taken from The Way website – http://www.theway-themovie.com/)

Posted in Kaky