It’s Good to Get Outside

I composed this song with my toddler, James, 23 months, on a little jaunt outside the house. It’s a simple ditty about a simple idea: “It’s Good to Get Outside in Spring.” I think, in these strange times, the simple things are worth singing about. And even as we practice “social distancing,” there’s nothing bad, but a lot good about getting outside, breathing fresh air, and communing with nature.

Your turn: what’s something simple yet good in your life right now? Please share with us in the comments below.

Creativity Beckons

Greetings, Dear Reader,

It has been literally years since I last wrote here and I’m feeling drawn back to this space. Back to writing. Back to my creative self.

Some things have changed and some have stayed the same. It would be difficult to summarize all that has happened with me, my life, my family, and…the world since I last wrote. So I won’t try to sum up all the things in their entirety in one neat little blog post.

I will tell you this: my mental health is better than ever, I have had some interesting starts and stops in my vocational journey as a minister and theologian, and I finally had that baby I had been praying for (he’ll be two years old next month). It’s quite likely that more about these matters will come out on the blog sooner or later. Time will tell.

And the world…well, I won’t elaborate on what you what you already know. These are strange times we are living in with a pandemic afoot.

What I do want to say here and now is that this is the fullness of time for my creativity. I want to go on record about this–just as I did in the beginning with my writing. I’m claiming this as my call.

I’ve been feeling the call for a while now to get back to the blog. And to get back to writing in general.

I’ve missed my creativity as I have felt somehow out of touch with it for some time now.

But especially as the world feels as if it has entered The Twilight Zone, my creativity is beckoning like never before. A writer has to write. I have to write. And I need to be creating to make sense of my experience and maybe…maybe to inspire a few people along the way too.

It’s good to be back to the blog and to respond to this prompting I feel as creativity beckons.

 

Your Turn: What’s calling to you in these strange times?

I Am A Lover

IAmALover

I am a lover.
This is who I am at my core.

My love is wide, so wide.
I care deeply even for people I’ve never met in person, maybe never will.

My heart is open, gaping open.
You can walk right into it.
Anyone could, but here you are.

You could work your way from my heart to my head and I wouldn’t be able to quit caring about you.
Not ever.

You would be a part of me.

There are so many of y’all here now.
Too many to count.
And I don’t know how y’all keep getting in.

Because even though my heart is open,
Sometimes my arms are closed,
Sometimes my eyes are closed,
Sometimes my ears are closed.

Sometimes I want to tune you out a while,
Turn off the steady flow of pilgrims to my heartland.

Sometimes it feels like I’ve had enough of y’all.
I’ve loved enough of y’all for one lifetime.

I am a lover, but how can I love well when more and more of you keep coming?

I still mourn those I have loved and lost, you know?
Part of my heart, part of me died when they departed.

And my heart,
Oh it has been hurt by some I have let in,
Some I have loved.
That ache interferes with my loving–makes it hard for my heart to go on.

My heart isn’t what it once was.
But still my heart is open, so wide open.

And I want to let you in.
I have let you in.
Because I am a lover.

Deciding to Go Back to School

I’ve decided to begin finally working toward my PhD. It is so time.

I think a lot of the angst I’ve been feeling in my life in recent years has been because of not working toward this goal that I’ve been delaying for 15 years.

15 years, people.

Now, in my defense, part of that was by choice with my decision to have a kid when I did and to stay home with him and all that jazz. I mean, I had my reasons for waiting.

But it’s been 15 years now.

15 freaking years.

And my life is reaching a point where I need to do this thing. Being at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago (LSTC) for #decolonize16 just lit that fire under me like, *yowzer.*

I’ve had my eye on that seminary since I was a student at Valpo. I’ve wanted to go to LSTC for over 15 years.

15 years.

I actually broke down and cried in the admissions office when I was talking with the Director of Admissions about my hopes and dreams for my PhD.

“I’ve just always wanted to go here,” I balled.

Oh, the tears. Oh, the longing of my heart.

But I need a Master’s degree first…so I’m looking at my options on that and praying and talking with my spouse about how we’re going to figure this out. We’re going to have to reshuffle some things. I don’t know what will have to give, but I’m tired of the thing that gives being my dreams.

I was so scared of coming home and talking about this. Like, I want to make this dream a reality, but I didn’t know if life and the universe and circumstances would let me. And y’all, I know my husband is a gentle man, a loving, supportive spouse, a man who celebrates me and wants me to shine, but I was scared of telling him about my sense of urgency for this. I was scared he would tell me no, not now.

But, I tell you, David, my David continues to amaze me. I mean, freaking amaze me.

He didn’t flinch. Not once.

And I feel silly about this as I so often do when I realize that the main thing holding me back is my own self.

I’m sorry, self. I will try to do better living authentic me-ness.

I’m sorry David, I will try to trust you better. You told me when we married that you knew I would grow and change and you were ready for it–that you were all in and braced for it and excited to ride that ride with me and you have stayed true to that–so true.

So, this PhD thing is getting in motion, friends. I’m going back to school.

What it Means to be Lutheran and Why I’m Part of the #decolonizeLutheranism Movement

Lately I’ve become involved with a movement within my Lutheran Christian world and I want to tell you about this movement and why it has captured my heart.

The movement is called #decolonizeLutheranism.

A fundamental question of the #decolonizeLutheranism movement is what does it mean to be Lutheran? And honestly, I didn’t know this answer on a theological level until I got my theology degree. But I experienced it to the bone in my home congregation in my youth without knowing that’s what was happening.

Now, there are a lot of cultural norms that come out of predominately white, European-decent Lutheran expressions in the US. But those are not the core of what it means to be Lutheran.

To me, what it means to be Lutheran is to be a people so intimately acquainted with the grace and goodness and love of God that we can’t help but live grace and goodness and love as we move about our lives.

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Art by Jennifer Clark Tinker

When I look back on my childhood congregation, that’s what I remember of the people who touched my life most profoundly.

Sondra Johnson

Marv Schmehl

Marie Renner

Ric Barnes

These are just a few of the people who lived and breathed grace to me in how they related to me as a child of Holy Redeemer Lutheran Church (HRLC) in Pickerington, Ohio.

As a mission congregation, started in the 1970s, HRLC drew a crowd of Christ-followers from various religious backgrounds. To my knowledge, we had folks who were raised Methodist, Catholic, Jewish, as well as those raised with little to know religious upbringing. We were not your typical, established, European-ethnically-Lutheran congregation. We were predominately white because of our location in a the suburbs, yet in many ways we were outside of a lot of Lutheran cultural norms.

My family didn’t even begin attending church at all until after I started school. We chose HRLC as our church home because of the grace and warmth we received there from the very beginning. This mission congregation, despite its position on the fringes of Lutheran culture, was right in the heart of Lutheran theology. And it spoke to each member of my family of origin. My mom had grown up Methodist, and my dad had grown up without a church, my brother and I were unsure of church coming into our lives in our childhood, but we all resonated with what the Spirt was doing in and through HRLC. My mother joined the church, eventually my brother was baptized, then I was baptized too at the age of 9. Finally, even my father was baptized at HRLC.

But as time went on, I grappled with the faith. I have never been one to accept easy answers to complex questions. And as a youngster who wasn’t a “cradle Lutheran,” I had a lot of questions. I mean, a lot, a lot. I don’t recall always being particularly tactful in asking them. Sometimes I was outright irritated about what I was being asked to believe about God and Jesus.

I know I can be argumentative. I know I can. In fact, in 8th grade, I had a teacher tell me I ought to be a defense attorney because I was one of the most argumentative people he had ever met.

I tell you, I can be difficult. If you don’t believe me, just ask the other students from my Sunday school and confirmation classes from the time.

In another time and place, in another congregation where people didn’t know grace so intimately as the folks at HRLC did, this may not have ended well for me. But the teachers and other adults graced me with their patience and forbearance. They gave me answers when they had them, but they didn’t make stuff up when my questions were too hard. Sometimes they just let me have my questions. They just sat in my questioning with me.

HRLC is closed now.

There is a Starbucks where my childhood congregation used to be.

But I carry the legacy of HRLC in my heart. The grace upon grace I experienced at HRLC in my youth is what it really means to be to be Lutheran. Anything that holds us back from doing and being this needs to be shed, laid at the cross.

We’re not great at diversity in my particular denomination of Lutheranism–the Evangelical Lutheran Church in American (ELCA), but we’re not just a white, European denomination. We do have people and congregations among us who are of other cultural backgrounds. It’s sad then that even people of color who have been born and raised in historically Lutheran congregations get asked, “When did you become Lutheran?”

Never in my white, Lutheran life have I ever been asked when I became Lutheran. When it comes to heritage, there are black Lutheran congregations that go back for generations! In fact, the oldest ELCA congregation is Frederick Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Virgin Islands; it is a black congregation that was established in 1666. They are more firmly rooted in Lutheranism than this questioning little soul from Methodist and unchurched parents. But no one questions whether I belong because I’m white?

Cultural presuppositions about Lutheranism are in the way of the Good News of Jesus Christ actually getting out. If an impertinent, back-talking girl like me can be permitted access to the grace of God, I want that grace flung far and wide. And where that grace is already abounding and shaking up our safe, cultural ideas, I want to see us learn from that and lean into that.

These are the kinds of things I see the #decolonizeLutheranism movement doing, and this is why this movement is so very close to my heart.

If this sounds like something you want to be part of too, join me at the first ever #decolonizeLutheranism gathering in Chicago on October 22 and/or donate to the cause.