Holy MOLY!

Hate Crime

This is the list I’m reflecting on:

  • A seminary friend posted on Facebook that his friend lost two family members – a cousin and grandson – in the Kansas City shootings.
  • A text from our Hillel director came in that there had been shootings at a Jewish community Center on the eve of Passover.
  • Kansas City investigators announced that the shooter will be charged with a federal hate crime, while I sat in a diversely crowded doctor’s office waiting room with a two-year-old.
  • The Southern Poverty Law Center’s website has a bio on the shooter, and from there I navigated to the list of hate groups in Virginia.

I cannot believe we live in a world where we are still so consumed with hate and self-centeredness that we judge other humans by the color of their skin, their faith or non-faith tradition. I cannot believe that killing a Methodist boy at a Jewish Community Center furthers anyone’s agenda, even that of an “Anti-Semite.”

Read more ›

Posted in Stephanie

Shout Out to LC

Although a Christmas carol proclaims that “It’s the most wonderful time of the year…” I have to disagree. At Lynchburg College I’m quite sure that April is the most wonderful time of the year, and to prove my point I’ve come up with my “My Top Ten Reasons to Give a Shout Out to LC in April.”

10. The campus is extraordinarily beautiful, thanks in large part to Mother Nature and the Physical Plant grounds crew working in concert with each other (with apologies to allergy sufferers for whom April brings on all manner of congestion and sinus irritation).

9.  Students raise thousands of dollars, don outrageous costumes, sell creative wares, and walk all night long to heighten awareness of cancer and to fight the disease at the annual Relay for Life. Read more ›

Posted in Anne

Prayer in a 21st Century Worldview

When some folks talk about religious vocation, they are speaking of going into church work as a pastor. In the Roman Catholic Church, the traditional understanding is that there are three “vocations”— marriage, single life (virginity) or consecration to a religious life (celibacy). So I understand when people (and particularly students) get worried when I mention vocation. A more contemporary understanding of vocation is defining one’s professional path, whether that is religious or not. Although you might guess that the Chaplain understands anyone’s choice of professional path as a spiritual discipline. I believe that our life of faith is intertwined with our life’s work and that faith and our spiritual path defines all that we do.

One of my goals at Lynchburg College is to help students, and occasionally staff and faculty, discern about their vocation. Particularly for young adults under economic pressure to earn a “good living,” it is increasingly difficult to hear the spirit as you choose lifework.  The Jennie Cutler Shumate Lecture was endowed for precisely this reason; providing the opportunity to talk about faith and work is something that needed to happen on our campus.

Next Monday evening the community is invited to gather at 7:30 in Snidow Chapel for the Jennie Cutler Shumate Lecture on Christian Ministry. Michael Morwood, author and theologian-in-residence at Kirkridge Retreat Center in Bangor, Pennsylvania, will be the speaker. Michael was a member of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart for 38 years, 29 years as a Catholic priest. He has an MA in Pastoral Ministry from Boston College, and he married Maria Kelly in March 2000. His particular interest is in helping adult Christians examine what they believe, and why they believe it. The title of his lecture is “Windows to the Divine: Prayer in a 21st Century Worldview.” An additional lecture named for the late Lynchburg College professor John Turner will be held at First Christian Church on Sunday, April 6, 2014 at 4 p.m.

Mr. Morwood’s books include: Tomorrow’s Catholic: Understanding God and Jesus in a New Millennium; Is Jesus God? Finding Our Faith; Praying a New Story; From Sand to Solid Ground: Questions of Faith for Modern Christians; Children Praying a New Story: A Resource for Parents, Grandparents and Teachers; Faith, Hope and a Bird Called George: A Spiritual Fable; and It’s Time: Challenges to the Doctrine of the Faith.

A native of Australia, Morwood has more than 40 years of experience in retreat, education, parish and adult faith development ministries. In the past 10 years Morwood has worked with progressive Christian groups in 30 states, in most provinces in Canada, and in Ireland and England.

Blessings, Stephanie

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“Aint No Mountain High”

I’m sure most of you reading this will know Marvin Gaye’s hit below. I share it with you as it reflects some experiences I had while on spring break in Atlanta.

Ain’t no mountain high.
Ain’t no valley low.
Ain’t no river wide enough baby.

If you need me, call me
No matter where you are
No matter how far,
don’t worry baby

Just call my name
I’ll be there in a hurry
You don’t have to worry
cause baby,

There aint no mountain high enough…

Remember the day
I set you free
I told you you could always count on me darling.

From that day on, I made a vow
I’ll be there when you want me
Someway, somehow…

When our LC group went to Atlanta over spring break, we experienced glimpses of God working all around us. We saw firsthand through the preservation and maintenance of the Martin Luther King historic district, the story of racial tension and inequities our country faced then and now and how we might best move beyond it. We shared bunk rooms with students from other schools learning about homelessness and housing inequities and how the hands of God were used in all those who serve and feed the needy. Some of our group climbed neighboring Stone Mountain and came back from a climbing “high” singing the song above. As it’s one of my favorite songs of all time, I kept singing it much to the students’ chagrin.

What I didn’t realize at the time was the speech I read the next day, “I’ve been to the Mountaintop” by MLK, reinforced the lyrics in the song. It confirmed my belief of God’s infinite and unconditional love for each of us and how God is with us through our struggles.  Dr. King, speaking in support of the Sanitation Workers’ Strike in Memphis, gave his forever famous and prophet speech: “We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life…but I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you…I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.” Dr. King knew God was there with him at that moment and that his salvation would be with his Creator. God sent us his son to die for us, and MLK was willing to risk his own life to further the Kingdom for love and justice of each person’s human dignity.

While I read this speech, the song was still in my brain and it clicked…God was telling me that I can and should do more with God’s help to further Dr. King’s fight. The lyrics “ain’t no mountain high or valley low, or river wide” meant that nothing keep God from being present to you and me.  Jesus asked that I “remember the day, I set you free, I told you you could always count on me.” For MLK, the mountain was surmountable in his fight for racial equality because God was there. For me, my hope is to continue Dr. King’s fight for dignity among all humanity knowing no barrier is too great with God’s presence beside me.

Posted in Kaky

Spring Has Sprung – NOT!

Walking to work, carefully avoiding icy patches, it is hard to believe that Spring officially begins on Thursday at 12:57 p.m. As my husband likes to say, “We’re not experiencing global warming, we’re experiencing global weirdness!” It has been an unusual few weeks, and now we find ourselves scurrying to catch up with the frenzy that marks the second half of spring semester.

However, before I get completely caught up in the busyness of this time of year, I want to pause and look back for a moment on the spring break that just occurred. Thirteen students, two staff colleagues, and I traveled to Atlanta for an urban immersion Alternative Spring Break. Unlike some ASB trips, we focused less on direct service projects and instead invested time and energy learning about issues related to race and reconciliation and housing insecurity through the lens of those who live in the Atlanta area. Here are some both serious and silly “take-aways” that marked our time in this urban community:

  • The Varsity is the world’s largest drive-in restaurant and a must-see dining experience no matter what your tastes. French fries or onion rings? Why yes, thank-you, I’ll have both.
  • The history of slavery and racism continues to haunt us. We learned about the horrible riot of 1906 in Atlanta in which African Americans were falsely accused of heinous crimes. “Officially, 25 blacks and one white died. Unofficially, over 100 may have died.”
  • We visited the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church where its most famous member, Martin Luther King, Jr., was baptized as a child, ordained as a minister and became a co-pastor with his father, “Daddy” King. Sadly, we also learned that Martin’s mother, Alberta Williams King, was killed on June 30, 1974 inside that church by a deranged gunman, as she played the organ at a Sunday service.
  • Housing Insecurity affects thousands in Atlanta and elsewhere, even those who are employed but cannot afford the rising cost of rent, food, and other necessities. Many different agencies and support services are needed to assist the housing insecure as they navigate the journey away from homelessness. Each of us was challenged to discover opportunities to help them find safe and secure homes, which is something that most of us take for granted.
  • Living in close quarters with friends and strangers builds community: sharing two showers stalls with 60 other people, negotiating and compromising about daily details of life – where to eat, when to get up in the morning, and when to shut up at night so others can sleep, etc.
  • Last lesson I learned is that Lynchburg College still has the best students and staff colleagues a person could ask for. I was so proud of the way in which our students represented our campus. They asked thoughtful questions, shared in all the work and tasks that needed to be completed, and knew how to have fun every step of the way and every mile of the long van ride back and home.

This spring break I caught a glimpse of the “beloved community” described by Martin Luther King, Jr. himself: “It is this type of spirit and this type of love that can transform opposers into friends. It is this type of understanding goodwill that will transform the deep gloom of the old age into the exuberant gladness of the new age. It is this love which will bring about miracles in the hearts of men.”

Peace, Anne

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The Blessedness of Others

I have been meditating on a quote this week:

“In this world, when you are chosen, you know that somebody else is not chosen. When you are the best, you know that somebody else is not the best. When you win and receive a prize, you know there is somebody who lost. But this is not so in the heart of God. If you are chosen in the heart of God, you have eyes to see the chosenness of others. If the love of God blesses you, you have eyes to see the blessedness of others.”

 –Henri Nouwen

In the Christian tradition Ash Wednesday is a day of repentance. As I have made one Ash Wednesday joke after another this week, I realized that Ash Wednesday and Lent have really got a bad name. According to the synoptic gospels, Jesus fasted for forty days in the desert being tempted. Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, a 40-day period of prayer and fasting or abstinence. (If you look at the calendar there are actually 46 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter but liturgically the 6 Sundays during Lent don’t count.)  Ash Wednesday is traditionally celebrated with the marking of foreheads with ashes as a reminder of our mortality, and as a sign of mourning and repentance to God. The discipline of “giving up” something for Lent is a traditional sign of repentance. So no wonder Lent has a bad name—who really wants to give up sweets and be reminded of their own sinfulness?

On the other hand, when we are reminded of our own mortality—of how precious and short life is—who does not want to live differently. Each time a young person dies or we lose a close friend to cancer, we know that life can be all too painfully short and that every day is a gift.  We remember to make each day count. Repent literally means to “turn around,” and I can think of a few aspects of my life that might need a U-turn, some of which I have control over and some of which I have less. Some of the disciplines I have the willpower to accomplish and others do seem possible at this time. But life is too short to accomplish all of the spiritual disciplines and modern life seems so busy it is even hard to slow down.

For me Ash Wednesday is also a day that I remember I am a child of God, and I remember that we all are children of God. We all struggle with the finitudes of human life and the ups and downs, the mountaintops and the valley of life, but what matters most is the way we treat each other and the way we honor the created-ness of others.

I hope this Lent that it is a journey for you no matter what your practice or lack thereof.  And I have already reminded one colleague today, Sundays don’t technically count, so we can all have dessert on Sundays!

Blessings, Stephanie

Posted in Stephanie

Dancing on Crutches

blog graphic Feb. 2014

A few weeks ago I sustained a very minor injury to my ankle while walking to an evening class on campus.  Since that time I have learned some valuable lessons:

  • Walking on crutches looks far easier than it really is. I only had to endure using these devices for a few days but it was long enough to realize I wouldn’t wish them on my worst enemy!
  • Mobility is a gift that should never be taken for granted. Getting from A to Z when you’re physically challenged can be as exhausting mentally as it is tiring on your body.
  • Finally, learning to ask for and receive assistance from others requires grace and humility, especially for those of us more accustomed to being on the helping end.

For me, the last lesson has been the most important. People in the helping professions are often the last ones to seek out assistance for themselves. And yet a willingness to be vulnerable and in need can be a virtue in itself for it allows others the opportunity to become providers of support and bearers of grace to us. When we recognize that all of us can be helpers some of the time even as all of us can be needy at other times, we realize that life is really a dance of mutuality and an exercise in shared empathy.

So here is a huge thank you to all who have ever assisted someone with similar challenges to me. Thanks for offering transportation when needed, for opening doors, for carrying coffee and book bags, for simply being compassionate and sympathetic as you’ve inquired about another’s recovery and recuperation. May those who deal with all manner of challenges accept assistance with heartfelt gratitude and then pay it forward in good deeds of kindness when similar support is asked of them down the road.

As Barbara Streisand used to sing “People, people who need people, are the luckiest people in the world!” And as Pope John Paul II would add: Nobody is so poor that he has nothing to give, and nobody is so rich that she has nothing to receive.

Nobody is so poor that he has nothing to give, and
nobody is so rich that she has nothing to receive.

Peace, Anne

Posted in Anne

Has It Really Been a Year?

Next week we will mark one of those anniversaries on campus which gives us pause. A year ago, February 24th, Nick Johnson died in his residence hall room from an existing medical condition. Just two weeks later, on March 10th, first year student, Melissa Smith, died in a single car accident. For those of you who never knew Nick and Melissa, they both left their imprints here on campus. It was devastating to lose two students in such quick succession. Many friends, and hundreds of members of our community, gathered on campus to tell stories, light candles and tell stories just as we did last month as we mourned the death of Kristie Kitts.

Often the anniversary of a death will reawaken grief—both of the specific loss marked by the anniversary AND any other grief in our lives. Emotions are funny that way; they can catch us by surprise. Every year more than 150 members of our community experience the death of a family member or loved one. A few students lose a parent, even more lose grandparents. Many of these deaths hit hard.  Everyone grieves differently and at a different pace, and grief can often resurface.

Delayed grief is grief that has been postponed. You can put loss aside for a time, but it will find its way to the surface. There are many reasons grief gets postponed, like the business of spring semester or needing to take care of others. Those of us who shepherd others in times of crisis often find ourselves struggling at odd times or weeks after an event.

So how will you know if you experience delayed grief? If you are like me, you will realize that you are just a bit more irritable that usual, more short with friends and family, and a bit quicker to be emotional. You may get angrier than normal or weepy. You may need more alone time or want to look through old pictures or need to tell stories about a deceased loved one. You may be less motivated than usual or need more sleep. Grief can manifest itself physically as in unexplained headaches, ulcers, etc.

SO this is a prayer to take care of yourself and to watch others around you. February is a gray month – particularly this February with the snow and now slush. If you knew Nick or Melissa or Kristie, please pay special attention to your emotions. If you are struggling, speak up to a trusted friend, colleague, RA, or counselor. If you see a friend, in need please speak up. Take them to the Counseling Center or the Spiritual Life Center.

God of grace, fill my heart with warmth. In times of gray, and times of grief, help me to feel the embrace of friends and the support of my community. Guide me through darkness safely, seeking growth and options rather than feeling trapped and hopeless. Bless me with the hope that just as winter turns to spring, so will the bleakness of the soul turn to a spark of joy. Amen

Blessings, Stephanie

Posted in Stephanie

The Meaning of Love

Valentine’s Day is a time when we celebrate love.  Nothing to me really explains the meaning of love as comprehensively as the scripture from:

1 Corinthians 13:1-8

If I speak in human and angelic tongues, but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing symbol. And if I have the gift of prophecy, and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind, love is not jealous, love is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.

Valentine’s Day is an opportunity to celebrate love and its presence in our lives. I am thankful every day that my God is a God of love; one that celebrates with me the love that I share in relationship with my husband, the love I have for my children and grandchildren, my siblings and my Mother, and the love I share with friends and those to whom I am called to minister. I am not saying that loving someone is an easy task. I believe it is challenging, especially the “patient, not jealous, endures all things” kind. I am challenged when someone hurts me, I am challenged by those who are on death row, terrorists, people I perceive as rude, those who commit crimes against others….the list goes on. I guess the part about love not brooding over injury speaks to that challenge. It is much easier to love those who love me back. If I am perfectly honest with myself, I have to admit that even those folks get on my nerves sometimes.

As Valentine’s Day approaches I thank God for the example of love that bears, believes, hopes and endures all things, the kind of love that is God. I pray that my heart will always be open to love as God loves, no matter what!

Posted in Kay

She Said Yes to the Dress!

This weekend I had the privilege of spending time with my future daughter-in-law Molly , her mother Patty from Texas, and my own daughter Addie. It was a rare opportunity for all of us to be together and we enjoyed the opportunity to cross off a few of the many items on the upcoming wedding “to do“ list.

One of the most special moments occurred in a bridal shop in Richmond as Molly was trying on several dresses.  After modeling many beautiful gowns, she found one last dress tucked away on a rack that seemed to speak to her. When she came out of the dressing room, her mother started to cry and I began to applaud. All agreed it was a match made in heaven.

But the match that we were really celebrating that day didn’t have anything to do with the clothes Molly would be wearing in seven short months. The bridal gown was simply symbolic of the love that all of us have experienced growing steadily and surely over the past four years. We have witnessed these two young adults who have slowly and deliberately, thoughtfully and prayerfully, discovered what it means to be committed to another person.

Molly and Zach aren’t simply crossing off items related to what they will wear, the cake they will cut, or the honeymoon they are planning. Most importantly they are investing themselves fully, meeting with a minister who is skilled in pre-marriage counseling. She guides them through important conversations about both the strengths and challenges of marriage in general and their relationship in particular. Together they are planning a ceremony with readings, music, and rituals that represent their shared values, hopes, and dreams for the future. I couldn’t be more excited or proud.

As a minister myself I meet often with couples like Zach and Molly and find the experience to be among the most rewarding of my chaplaincy. But this time around I get to be the Mom and watch from the privileged position of one who has watched a child grow from infancy through adolescence into responsible young adulthood. And as much as I have cherished the life our family of five has created over the years, I treasure even more all the promise and possibilities of two families coming together.   The adage that “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts” is never truer than in the case of marriage.

As we approach the season of Valentine’s Day I pray for all committed couples and for the adventures and journeys that lay ahead. And should you one day have the opportunity and inclination to marry your beloved, remember the wise words of Victor Hugo from Les Miserables:

 For love is everlasting
and remember

the truth that once was spoken
to love another person

is to see the face of God.

Peace, Anne

Posted in Anne