Holy MOLY!

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

Posted in Anne

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!),

Posted in Katrina

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

Posted in Stephanie

“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!


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

Posted in Kaky

Hike With a Purpose

Seventeen years ago, three Lynchburg College students visited Haiti over spring break and returned to campus transformed by the experience. One of them, Rachael Tanner ‘02, wanted to do something to raise awareness about the community she had visited. Rachael was struck by the fact that in Haiti almost everyone walks everywhere: to fetch water from a spring, to get produce from the open air market, to carry charcoal for the cooking fire, to trudge over rocky terrain sometimes more than an hour to go to school, etc.

Rachael wanted her peers on campus to walk in solidarity with Haitians. She believed the hike could help Lynchburg College learn more about the people she had come to love and raise funds for them to continue educating themselves, grow food for themselves, build homes for themselves, etc. And so the Hike With Haiti was born. After graduation from LC, Rachael returned to Haiti and lived there for a year. She returns often to visit and has stayed in touch with many friends who are more like family to her by now.

I have been fortunate myself to visit our partnership community, the village of Matenwa, eight times now, including the past two summers. Haiti remains the only place outside of the U.S. that I ever want to visit. I have learned what it means to be resourceful, as teachers there have come up with innovative approaches to literacy. I have been inspired by the children who plant and nurture gardens to grow their own food for the school and who are trained in arts and crafts in order to create items for sale in the local market and for outside visitors. I have grown to appreciate the importance of real community as neighbors take time to visit with one another regularly and often and who bear each other’s burdens and lighten even the most difficult times with laughter and storytelling.

Each month I receive an update of the latest news from the community and I feel heartened by their continued resilience and creativity. (If you’d like to check out the latest news and photos please check this link: http://matenwaclc.org/)

Each time I visit Matenwa I see progress being made and hear about the people’s hope for the future. This past summer, the community was celebrating the presence of a nurse to serve the people on a part-time basis. I was especially happy to hear of this development as an 18-year-old had died the past year due to complications of a seizure disorder. Sophia was one of my dearest friends, and it broke my heart to know she might have been saved had she had easier access to health care and medication. In memory of Sophia, any money raised from this year’s Hike will go to support the small clinic and nurse in Matenwa.

If you’d like to join us for the Hike this year, please come to Sydnor Performance Hall Sunday at 12:30 p.m. Transportation will be provided to and from the Blackwater Creek Trail. We suggest a minimum donation of $10, but all our welcome regardless.The trail is paved, level, and in a lovely location and we walk about 4 ½ miles total. If you cannot join us but would like to support this most worthy cause, we would welcome your contribution. Checks may be made out to LC with “Hike With Haiti” in the memo line and sent to the Chaplain’s Office. In honor of Rachael and in memory of Sophia – we will hike with Haiti in our hearts.

Peace, Anne

Posted in Anne

Mid Semester Prayer

Lord, who embraces us in all times and all places; who guides us in beginnings, endings and the murky middles; who blesses us with opportunities of learning, searching and growth; who accompanies us on the journey–with all of its twists and turns.

At mid-semester we find ourselves without much inspiration, with so much to do, and a bit overwhelmed.

To You we lift petitions for patience. Help us to give ourselves time to think and process and grace to focus on one thing at a time. Help us to be gentle with each other.

We lift a petition for energy and motivation. At this point in the semester we need an extra boost, something to lift our spirits, a friend for support and maybe even a few extra hours in a day.

We lift a petition for inspiration. Lord, feed our spirits, refresh our creativity, harden our determination.

We lift petitions for perspective. Help us to remember what is truly important. Guide us in maintaining the values and covenants we hold dear. Help us to rely on solid foundations, faith and prayer to center ourselves in moments of doubt or fear or panic.

Lord, who embraces us at all times and in all places be with our community this second half of the semester. As the season cools, warm our hearts with inspiration and grant us moments of motivation and sacred sparks to push onward. Raise our consciousness around the many blessings in our lives, and fill our lips with thanksgiving when we begin to whine. Be present with us in the murky middle. AMEN.

Blessings, Stephanie

Posted in Stephanie

Opportunities for Prayer

Lynchburg College now offers two spaces for meditation, contemplation and prayerful reflection.

Spiritual Life has started the process of establishing a prayer space in the Drysdale student center. We have begun by placing our prayer wall. You can find it on the 2nd floor across from the entrance to the campus store.

Our prayer wall presents several options for expressing your prayer concerns. The background is black chalk paint and you may write on it directly with chalk. We will remember each intention in prayer and weekly wipe them clean as they are presented and released to the Creator.

In the upper left hand corner of the wall you will see a wire cage-like material with pieces of brown paper rolled and placed inside. These requests are more private, and we prayerfully remember them and will leave them until there is no more space. Below the wire cage you will find a map of the world. Please place a pin in the area you would like for us and the Lynchburg College campus community to remember in prayer.

The bottom of the center panel has a magnetic board with words you may creatively place to express a sentiment or concern.

The right panel has a wire tree with paper leaves of different colors. You may write a prayer intention on a leaf and attach it to the tree. We will remember these requests in prayer and remove them as the tree becomes full.

We also ask for your prayers. As you approach the prayer wall please remember in your prayers those who have expressed their concerns. Lynchburg College is a diverse community with many understandings of how and when to pray. It is the intention of the Center for Spiritual Life of LC to be respectful of all faith traditions and to provide a place of comfort and understanding to all. If you would like to personally meet with someone, please call us, and we will be honored to listen to your story or concerns in person.

The second second opportunity for prayer and reflection is the walking labyrinth in the woods behind McWane Hall. Walking a labyrinth is a meditative, prayerful experience. It is not a maze because there are no wrong turns but a path that is outlined to lead to the center and eventually back to the beginning. It is a journey that is very individual in its experience. To find the labyrinth, take the stairs to the right of the AC units behind McFrack parking lot. Follow the path to the labyrinth on the left. A perfect opportunity to experience the labyrinth will be on October 5th when a dedication ceremony will take place. The group will meet behind Turner gym at 4 p.m. and then walk through the woods to the labyrinth to begin the ceremony at 4:30 p.m.

Peace and Blessings to all!

Kay Higgins
Pastoral Associate

Posted in Kay

Anxiety and Depression: Ask for Help

From today’s Wall Street Journal:

About 14.3% of college students were diagnosed with or treated for anxiety problems during the past year, and 12% were diagnosed with or treated for depression, according to a spring 2014 survey of 79,266 college students by the American College Health Association. That is up from 10.4% for anxiety and 10.2% for depression in the fall 2008 survey. Anxiety and depression are the most common disorders, according to the survey.

If you do the math and consider that LC has about 2,200 undergraduate students, depression and anxiety are a serious issue on this, and every other, college campus. You also have to count faculty and staff who struggle. Here at LC, where there is a lot of safe space, I think we try to remove the stigma of asking for help. But in reality most of us do not realize when someone near us is suffering. So what keeps people from asking for help? Some say seeking help is a sign of weakness. Some say counseling is a waste of time. Some don’t know where to go. Some say they don’t know what to say. Some feel that even a friend or therapist or pastor or RA or professor will judge them if they speak up. I know it isn’t enough to say just don’t feel that way but let me give you a few thing to consider. Self-Care is not weak; in fact it takes a life-time of practice. If you don’t know what to say just say I need help and trust another to lead you. If anyone even gives a hint of judgmentalism move on to someone else who is helpful.

There is a quote about depression that I have seen in various places:

Having anxiety and depression is like being scared and tired at the same time. It’s the feat of failure but no urge to be productive. It’s wanting friends but hate socializing. It’s wanting to be alone but not wanting to be lonely. It’s caring about everything then caring about nothing. It’s feeling everything at once then feeling paralyzingly numb.

If this sounds like the way you feel, or if you worry about everything to the point that it affects your life, please ask for help. If this sounds like someone you know, please be gentle with them, be supportive and let someone know. On our campus, the Dean of Students’ Office handles mental health emergencies, so if it’s urgent call them or Security. Anyone can walk into the Counseling Center or take another in. If you go to the counseling center you don’t even have to ask out loud, but simply fill out the small form and you will be met by a smile. At Spiritual Life we aren’t trained counselors but are really good listeners and can help you take first steps.

And please say a prayer for our community and for the hundreds on this campus who are struggling with and living with mental illness.

Blessings, Stephanie

Posted in Stephanie

Live Life Intentionally

I have a friend who is a passionate, determined, fascinating, diligent patriot. He and I met years ago when our fathers worked together in Misawa, Japan. As a youth this friend was kind, gracious, hospitable, gentle and protective. He was my big brother in many ways and took the protection duties my dad charged him with very seriously. After high school graduation my friend served his country as a proud corpsman and member of an airborne unit. Today he is a part of a cath lab team and rides his motorcycle proudly in races which support military personnel and families. My friend is very passionate and vocal about his opinions with regard to our country, the military and politics. He posts blogs, essays and photos on Facebook which keep me on my toes.

The lens my friend sees life through is not the one I see life through, and often I find my opinions and beliefs juxtaposed to his. We do not always choose who we do life with and yet today, out of the blue, my friend sent me two photos and a blessing. The photos were spectacular photographs punctuating the breathtaking beauty which surrounds us as a creation. Coupled with the photographs was a blessing of hope and truth. I was blown away by his gift, and I felt honored that he not only remembered me, but he took the time to bless me.

Many people are not that fortunate. In our lives are people who desperately need words of hope and blessings. Seemingly small acts make or break someone’s day. Most of us have had at least 18 years of living this adventure called life and we know when people are hurting. We know when people are not themselves. We know when something is not right. We may not know what to do, but we know something needs to be done.

This month especially, I invite you to live life intentionally. See people, really see people. Smile. Offer compliments. Shower folks with blessings and hope. Be an advocate. Be a support. Be a friend. If you become aware of someone who is hurting, connect them with someone who can help. Walk with them to the Counseling Center, the Health Center or the Center for Spiritual Life. Help the individual talk to their RA. If it is an emergency such as a threat to self or others, call security.

We do not choose who we do life with but I am convinced that who we journey with in this life matters. May our life on this campus be lived intentionally and may our commitment to our fellow Hornets be more than words.

Blessings on us all,


Posted in Katrina

Pay It Forward

When I arrived in the summer of 1988 to begin work as the Catholic Campus Minister at Lynchburg College, John Eccles was one of the first people I met. John and AJ invited my husband, our two young sons, and I over to their home for a shared meal. It was the first of many such occasions and a hallmark of Eccles hospitality. Over the 30 years that John and AJ Eccles have been associated with Lynchburg College, hundreds if not thousands of members of the LC family have been warmly welcomed into their beautiful home to enjoy delicious home cooked food, great conversation, and an opportunity to see firsthand what community looks like – up close and personal.

As most of us know by now, John and AJ will be retiring in June of 2016. Many of us are still a bit stunned, shocked, and saddened to imagine this campus without seeing them on a daily basis. And yet we are also so very grateful to have had them involved in our lives for so long, and we feel it would be a bit selfish to deny them the opportunity to enjoy this next season of their marriage. John and AJ are project people: creative and skilled in crafting beauty inside their home as well out outside in gardens and landscapes. They have cultivated deep and abiding friendships near and far and will now have more opportunities to enjoy these relationships. And above all else, they will have more time and energy to savor special moments with their three married children, each of their spouses, and their three precious granddaughters.

In the months between now and June we will have many opportunities to thank John and AJ for all they have given to our campus. And in that same time frame we will have opportunities to prepare ourselves for the transition to new leadership. One of the greatest gifts we can offer to John and AJ is to “pay it forward” by offering to others what we have received so generously from them. Many of us have appreciated their humor, even in times of stress. Let us learn to take ourselves lightly in the days ahead, especially when the impending loss feels heavy and overwhelming. Others have come to appreciate the particular care and individualized attention that both John and AJ have offered to students who come to them for guidance and instruction. May we commit ourselves to being intentional in our own relationships with those in need, listening well and carefully to their stories, and responding with kindness and with compassion. And as John and AJ have shared their sense of family, literally and figuratively with our entire campus, may we prepare our hearts and minds to be warm, welcoming, and embracing of whoever is chosen to take their places among us.

May the gratitude for all that we have received far outweigh the grief for what we will be losing. May we honor their legacy by living out the very best of what they have taught us in word and in deed.

In the words of Dag Hammarskjöld: “For all that has been, Thank you. For all that is to come, Yes!”

Peace, Anne

Posted in Anne