Gratitude and Finding God in Strife

Written by Allison Cunningham

Gratitude has been tough for me lately. A little over a year ago, I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder that has made it hard to get out of bed in the morning, not to mention to be grateful for waking up. When days, weeks or months go by in a slow gray blur (especially in the winter in Minneapolis when the sun rarely even shows itself), with the added joys of midterms, papers and maintaining a good GPA, it can be really hard to pull your nose off the grindstone and take a look around. The truth is, though, hardship is what allows us to feel gratitude in the first place. If it weren’t for the daily struggles we all face, what would we have to hold up as a comparison to those things we love?

My anxiety, for example; sometimes it will worsen unexpectedly, and for a number of days it’s hard to feel happy about much, or to achieve a sensation of comfort or safety. But even on those days, regardless of how hard it is for me to see it, I am surrounded by people who love and care for me, no matter what. That’s a hard reality to accept when your mind is constantly telling you you’re alone. But eventually I am able to recognize the support that surrounds me, and even see God acting through those networks.

Whether we notice it in the moment or not, God is always beside us, behind us and within us. Especially when things get hard. Even as I’m writing this it’s hard for me to believe, but I know it’s true. God calls us to not just endure our daily hardships of midterms and freezing weather, but also to occasionally take a look around and see the people we are enduring those things with. I see God the most in the people around me who offer me unconditional support, regardless of whether or not I deserve it. And I am always grateful for it, both during and after those tough moments.

We can’t just be grateful for our loved ones when things are going well; it’s when things really, really suck that we see their true value. That’s when God really works through them. All of us know it takes a lot to always be there for someone. Take a moment and consider everyone who has done that for you and think of specific times that they have really come through. Express your gratitude for those times, whether it’s just by saying “thank you” or something more extravagant. Feeling and expressing gratitude, inside or outside the church, is its own kind of worship.

How to be Generous, Even When You Feel Empty

Written by Mara Bowman

“I’m just a broke college student.”

I think this a phrase that all college students have said or heard more times than we could count. All too often we are absorbed in the chaos of our own financial uncertainty. Money is the most tangible way we are encouraged to express generosity—but there are so many other ways to practice thankfulness in the form of giving.

Time (and lack of it) is another big part of the college experience. A couple weeks ago I was walking up the stairs into the sanctuary for Pause with a friend. When we reached the door to the sanctuary she expressed to me uncertainty if her busy schedule allowed the time to go to Pause. I think this hesitation is a sentiment we all have shared at some point.

“I can’t decide Mara. Should I stay or go? I have a lot to do.”

The physical representation of the decision was raw and real, as her glance shifted back and forth between the two doors: one to leave, one to stay.  I looked at her and I said, “Do you need to breathe?” (The theme at Pause that night was breathe coincidentally). She looked at me. I could tell she was still uncertain.

“Do you need to breathe?” I said again. Eventually her gaze shifted back towards the sanctuary and we ended up walking in together. When I asked her afterward, she said she did not regret her decision.

Generosity is being mindful not just about the ways in which we are giving, but also where and how we devote our time. Oftentimes we look at our schedules as hectic blocks strictly sectioned off in a Google calendar. For me, Pause is time spent but I do not see it as a “loss” or deficit of time. When we invest our time in things that restore us, we become re-centered in Christ’s call to live a life of gratitude and generosity. Think to yourself: why am I engaging in this event? Personally, I knew engaging my time in the LCM community was spiritually fulfilling for me. Don’t attend things mindlessly and make it a mundane task, but pursue it with intention. Reflect and remember why you sought out this community and why you continue to seek it. What energizes you about it? What renews and sustains you?

Although pausing to worship may not be seen as a form of generosity, I think it perfectly illustrates how our time can be the greatest form of generosity. I recently heard Bryan Stevenson—author of the bestselling novel Just Mercy and founder of the Equal Justice Initiative—speak at the University. One of his main points was reminding us to remain proximal to broken communities to bring about healing. Being generous with our time means wrapping ourselves around the issues, people and broken communities we care about. Bryan Stevenson has poured himself into his work, dedicating his entire life to radically change the criminal justice system and saving the lives of his clients. Time spent getting proximal to the communities we are trying to reach out to can be the greatest form of generosity.

Generosity also means intentionally looking at the gifts God has blessed us with and pushing ourselves to use them many ways in our lives. For Bryan Stevenson, this manifests in his eloquence, compassion and intellect; gifts which led him to devote a lifetime representing wrongly convicted people on death row and educating others about the painful racial divides which still remain in our country. For you, this looks different (because you aren’t Bryan Stevenson). Take a minute or two and reflect about how you give and have given your talents to the communities you are a part of.

It can be extremely easy to view our commitments as ways in which we are pulling from ourselves. Sometimes our perceived moments of “generosity” feels like we are pulling away pieces of ourselves. We get caught in a draining cycle of timed commitments. I’m familiar with the heavy feeling of knowing how many meetings, assignments or appointments I have in a day. When we feel surrounded by these obligations, it feels like we don’t have time to be generous. You may think, if I give up any more of my time, or myself, I’m going to dry up.

We should treat our spiritual lives differently—it shouldn’t be like a box we check off of our busy week. We shouldn’t approach service to others as a way of fulfilling our resumé of what we believe makes us “good” Christians. The Bible (unsurprisingly) has some wisdom for us on generosity. At first I was expecting to find a lot of “hey, if you’re generous and give to people, God will reward you later,” which I did find in quite a few places. However, a few of the verses I read reflected a more one-sided view of generosity: you give to other people because, well, you should.

And it makes sense really. God is the master of giving; creator of the universe, creator of the plants and animals which bring beauty and diversity to the earth, creator of humans whom God gave the earth to watch over. God even sent us the ultimate gift: Jesus, who died on the cross to bring grace, redemption and healing into a broken world. Jesus extended God’s generosity to a hurting and broken people, and Jesus showed compassion while growing proximal to the communities that were rejected by society. God continues to give and give and give to us complicated humans, even when we destroy, reject or return those gifts.

At the end of the day, maybe we are all just a bunch of broke college students. There are so many distractions and obligations and worries that make it so much easier to turn away. Yet, you are called to engage and give to those around you, even when it feels like you have nothing left to give. A verse I particularly liked from Proverbs paints a nice picture of the outcomes of generosity: “One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what they should give and only suffers want. Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will themselves be watered.” Generosity can in fact restore and renew us.

As we draw nearer to the holiday season, generosity tends to become more present on our minds. When we are celebrating the gifts of time spent with family, we might remember the people who are celebrating alone. When we sit down for our Thanksgiving meal, and lay on the couch with an uncomfortably full stomach, we are reminded of those who are wondering where their next meal is coming from. When the weather gets cold and we’re bundled up in our wind/water/ice/snow/you-name-it proof jackets, we’re reminded of the people who sleep outside in below freezing temperatures, or can’t afford a jacket. Remembering the many things we have to be grateful for; challenge us to seek ways to spread our gifts to others.

This Thanksgiving as you share your gratitude with loved ones, I encourage you to reflect on how you can transform your gratitude into generosity for other people and communities. God, the ultimate giver, reminds us that all are deserving, all are worthy, all are broken, and the gifts we possess are not intended to be kept to ourselves. Generosity enables us to actively show God’s unrelenting love, grace, and mercy in the world.

Being Real: Self Reflection

Written by Julia Breidenbach

As a volunteer for The Aurora Center, I am expected to attend monthly volunteer meetings. The meetings are supposed to bring us together, remind ourselves that we are a connected team, a working community. Last Saturday, we had a self-reflection exercise. Jerie, our volunteer coordinator, sat in front of the semi-filled classroom, grinning softly as we bumbled around finding seats, shoving the provided bagels in our sleepy morning mouths.

Today, Jerie alerted us we were going to do a self-reflection exercise.

I encourage you to do this exercise as well. It was a meaningful practice for me, even on a Saturday morning (when I should be in bed, thank you very much), and I am sure it could be an enriching experience for you.

  1. Get seven notecards.
  2. On each one, write down the prompt “I am…”
  3. Choose one or two words to follow this phrase. These words can be traits, duties, roles, whatever feels right for you.
  4. On the upper right hand corner of each notecard, rank (1-7) the words that you see yourself most often as.
  5. On the lower right hand corner, rank each card by how you most want to see yourself.
  6. On the upper left hand corner, rank each card by what you think others see in you most often.
  7. On the bottom left hand corner, rank each card by what you want others to see in you most.
  8. Reflect. Did most traits get the same score? Which ones differed? Which ones did not?

There isn’t necessarily a definable “good” or “bad” with having matched or mismatched scores. However, this exercise allows you to think critically about what parts of yourself you’re pushing down or allowing yourself and others to see.

This exercise reminded me a bit of the story of Moses. Being a Hebrew in a time when Hebrews were persecuted and enslaved most likely led for a complex self-identity. Had it not been for a stroke of seemingly random luck (the Pharaoh’s daughter finding and adopting him), he would not have survived even infanthood.

As an adult, Moses probably tried to push down the aspects of himself that made for a difficult childhood; the possible confusion about why he was chosen to survive when so many others did not, his disconcerting closeness to death as a child, and what his responsibility was in stopping violence against Hebrew slaves.  As Pastor Kate mentioned in her sermon two weeks ago, seeing his Hebrew brothers and sisters suffering while living in the house of their persecutor must have been extremely confusing and painful.

Years later, an adult was living a simple life as a farmer, drifting away from the confusing self-identity of his youth, when God showed him a burning bush and brought all the pain back. God let Moses see, once again, his bizarre position of growing up next to (and most likely learning from) successful leaders, but also having great sympathy for the enslaved Israelites. God showed Moses that the most painful, messy parts of his identity also gave him the most potential.  God called Moses to lead his people out of hell on Earth, and after a bit of complaining, Moses agreed.

I see this same paradox occurring with my least favorite notecard “I am insecure.”  While it was a trait I highly identified with, I least wanted others and me to see my insecurity.  Obviously, I have some work to do.

My insecurity, though problematic, has strengthened my ability to be an advocate for Aurora. I am able to meet a client where they are at, listen with an open heart, and not shove advice on a client; the understanding that I don’t know what is best for someone else feels very natural to me.  Also, I am willing to change my strategy if they need different things from me when they make a call; I am not so concrete in my style that I am resistant to change. Owning that I am insecure about what I am saying and how I am presenting myself allows me show my own vulnerability and awkwardness with the client. If I am not being my true self, how can I make space for a client to feel comfortable sharing the worst experience of their lives?

Whether you felt empowered by your chosen traits or disappointed by them, God created you with a purpose in mind. Good, bad, congruent, or mismatched, I believe all of us is formed with God’s knowing hands. Moses sees his speech impediment, God sees potential for an advocate and leader; I see my insecurity, and God sees my open-heartedness. If God were to write you a notecard, what would it say?

500 Years New

Written by Maddie Lindahl

During the season of Reformation, I think I matched the church. In this year, and more specifically during Reformation Week, we have entered a period of reflection and newness. Taking a step back, we have been asking: now that it has been 500 years, how has that reformation shaped us? Others? What joy, anguish, disturbance and peace has it brought? How did we get there, and where do we go from here? As we ask these questions in the church, I too ask them of myself.

Just over a year ago I was so new. I was so new that I felt like it was my freshman year all over again. But it wasn’t. I was a junior, adopting a new major and transferring here because of it. Even though I grew up close to the cities, and have spent some time on campus, I still felt out of place. No other juniors seemed as reformed as I felt. Classrooms were new, professors were new, peers were new, GPA was old (apparently some things you just can’t reform). I grasped for familiarity, and though it took a while, I found some pieces.

Last year I felt so new because I was reforming myself. For two years I struggled to fit myself into the mold of my major: chemical engineering. Engineering is a wonderful thing that we depend on daily, but it was something I could just never find my fit in. I could never envision what I would be doing a year or two after graduation. This lack of direction made it difficult to find passion for my classes. Without passion or direction, I struggled. My grades dipped embarrassingly. The identity I had made for myself as an overachieving student vanished overnight. No, literally, it took one day of three midterm exams at once to wipe away most of my self-confidence. This defeat shook me to my core and I stayed in that shivering state for longer than I like to admit. I tried to disconnect because it felt better than staying connected to all that shame and disappointment. It took me a whole year from that event to determine that I needed out. I needed to get away from something that felt like it could only ever strap me to the idea that I was not good or passionate enough. I finally decided to change majors as a result and that new decision brought one thing: the most powerful, immense peace I have ever felt. It was such an overwhelming peace that I laughed out loud by myself in the middle of a campus coffee shop. And since then, I have been reforming, restructuring how I think of myself, and how to understand my value now that I am not a perfect student. Reformation to me has never been about perfection; it’s about a better understanding.

Reformation is so real, and newness is so real to me. I have made very intentional changes in my life to find newness, but newness has also found me in unexpected places. I haven’t yet stopped reflecting on my experiences as a freshman/sophomore and transfer student.

Now I am a senior in college about to graduate this spring and yet I stand here still feeling so new. I just got here. I think understanding that reformation is a path of continual process is important. Has the church ever really been static? And have our lives ever really been static? For me, the answer is no! We are so dynamic and so is our world and our church. The newness that we find every day in our lives speaks to this. So I ask you to pause for a moment and reflect on all this new, both in your life and the church.

What is new and frustrating; what is old that should be new? How could the newness be affecting others, or yourself? It has been 500 years since Martin Luther started the reformation, but I think that things still feel new. So I ask God to guide us through the new, to learn from where we came from, and let these reflections guide us on our paths going onward.

The Reforming Ministry of LCM

Written by Jordan Kleist

“The best preachers preach with a Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other.” I’m not sure where I first heard that quote, but I’m inclined to agree, and I think Martin Luther was that preacher. Luther, like Jesus before him, could not turn a blind eye to the people around him. I think of Jesus overturning the tables of business people who were profiting from sales in the synagogue. I think of Jesus overturning ideas of a holiness by choosing to humble himself; he spends his time with lepers and tax collectors (people on the margins) and on Palm Sunday, he rides into Jerusalem on a donkey, not a war horse. In his death and resurrection, Jesus overturned death and re-formed the very relationship between God and humankind.

The church in Luther’s time serves as an important reminder that the reforming institutions of one generation sometimes become the rigid establishment of the next. Luther brought attention to the original message of Jesus: that we are to turn away from sin, toward God and love one another. Yes, I said turn. And turning implies movement. Institutions, like individuals, are in greatest need of reform when they sit with a closed mind and say “I’ve never done that. I’m not going to start now,” or “that’s just not what I do.” Luther’s reforming work had never been done before. He looked around himself and saw people who thought forgiveness was something you bought at church, and who could never read the Bible because it was written in a foreign language. So Luther sought ways to reform the world around him and renew God’s creation.

Today, LCM continues Luther’s work of reformation. LCM reforms me by making me examine my own life. What are the needs of the world around me? In what ways can I remind myself and others of Jesus’ reforming, resurrecting and redeeming grace.

Moreover, LCM reforms the world through the students it touches. Through LCM, I’ve been pushed to serve my neighbor in ways I wouldn’t have imagined myself doing. Students in LCM have engaged in multi-faith work, served refugees, learned about issues surrounding immigration and much more. By reforming the students it touches, LCM pushes for justice for the oppressed and marginalized. It teaches individuals about God’s redeeming love, and equips them to go out and reform the world. Thus, LCM helps us to be modern-day reformers. Let us be preachers with a Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other, for these are the reformers that the world needs.

We’re Going to Holden Village!

Holden Village Spring Break Info. Meetings
Wed., Oct. 25 | 8pm OR 10pm | Grace University Lutheran Church 

We’re so excited to announce that we’ve decided to go to Holden Village to serve, learn, play and pray together over Spring Break this year!

Through a journey of trains, boats and buses, we arrive at this former mining village turned retreat center and intentional Christian community in the heart of the Cascades, and just kilometers from the Pacific Crest Trail. We’ll be serving alongside community members in the work of the village that week, as well as learning from them about abundant hospitality. Though Holden is the heart of this trip, the journey there and back itself has produced an abundance of gifts for former participants.

We’ll take the train, and leave late on Friday March 9, and return early Sunday morning on March 18th. Cost to you will be between $300 and $400 dollars depending on the cost of the train ticket. The remaining amount will be covered by generous donors to Lutheran Campus Ministry-Twin Cities.

Info meetings will be held on October 25th at 8pm and 10pm, or you can email Pastor Kate if you have questions but can’t make those meetings. The opportunity to officially sign up and pay your deposit will happen soon thereafter.

Looking forward to journeying with you,
Pastor Kate

 

Actually existing in a world that encourages artificiality

Written by Mara Bowman

On move in day, I walked through the hallways of Territorial Hall—squeezing past piles of cardboard boxes and random futons parents had placed in the already narrow halls—and shoved moving carts back out to the front entrance. The influx of 700 new residents created a couple busy days for me and the other Community Advisors (CAs). It felt simultaneously like a decade and a minute since I had been moving into T-hall myself as a freshman only a year before, and here I was again at the start of another school year; except this time was different.

Once the parents said their long goodbyes, my residents were left to their own devices. Some emerged from their rooms and began talking to each other, asking surface level questions about majors and hometowns. Freshman would probably tell you that one of the biggest anxieties of starting college is finding friends. For many, this is the first time they’ve been thrown into an entirely new and uncharted territory. Last year, I came to the U where I only knew five people out of 30,000 and those five were high school classmates I wasn’t even close with. College can be an amazing time to meet truly genuine people and form life-long connections. However, the intense pressure we feel to establish a friend group can lead to us putting up facades in order to fit the mold of the first friend group we find in a desperation to feel belonging. Sometimes we transform into people we don’t recognize just to fit in.

As a CA it’s a huge part of my job to make impactful connections with my residents. We regularly talk about how to make meaningful connections in staff meetings, and my boss will have weekly check-ins to see how these are developing. I’m supposed to be someone they can come to with their roommate issues, questions about school or just feel comfortable talking openly with. From the comfortable distance of one year of college experience, and in my new role as a CA, I got to watch freshman interact in ways that were all too familiar. The fragility of the new connections prevents the presence of vulnerability in our relationships. Maybe it’s trying to hide the fact that you’re homesick, or that you regularly struggle with a mental illness, or that you don’t love college life as much as everyone said you would. Instead we have to appear perfectly put together. The absence of real spaces means these deep parts of ourselves are bottled up inside, weighing us down. We become too busy trying to cover up these very real conflicts in our lives, that we’re too afraid to be real.

Being honest and real about our beliefs and struggles is a conflict that has existed for, well, forever. Martin Luther was a guy who had some issues with the Catholic Church. In fact, he got so fired up about it he nailed a list of his grievances on a door, all 95 of them, a bold move that we’re celebrating the 500th anniversary of this year. His willingness to be open about his discomfort, and the dissonance he felt in his beliefs, led to a formation of an entirely new way of looking at God: through a lens of grace and forgiveness.

Luther’s new ideas weren’t exactly welcomed with open arms. The Catholic Church didn’t throw him a parade and toss roses at his feet, they were actually pretty unhappy with him. Being real sometimes means taking a risk that people won’t like who you are, or what you have to say—a step that can be intimidating and scary. Luther took the initiative to create a new space in which he could be real about his ideas, and find common ground with others who shared his frustrations. Participating in spaces where everything about ourselves is celebrated and accepted—even if we don’t all agree on it—is vital to our spiritual, emotional, and physical well-being.

God knows who you are. God loves and accepts the parts of us we have a difficult time admitting to others, or even ourselves. Immersing ourselves in real spaces permits us to see the infinite bounds of God’s love and God often manifests that reminder in people we find sitting next to us in these real spaces.

Real spaces surround us with people who celebrate the people God has made us to be and the people we are striving to become. LCM has been that source for me; it has challenged me to be honest about who I am, showed me the boundless acceptance of a community that strives to grow, and challenges our ideas of who we are and who God is in the world today.

Luther didn’t upset the Catholic Church so he could sit at the cool kids table. He relished in his own vulnerability and was real about his beliefs. Be real about who you are and find spaces that support you in moments of vulnerability. When we practice a life of authenticity, and surround ourselves with people who celebrate the people we are and the people we want to become, we’ll hopefully find a life of joy.

Real spaces combat a world that tells us we’ll never be enough. Real spaces are a celebration of the “city kids and country kids, introverts and extroverts….the Engineers and English majors, questioning and certain, poor and rich.” All are a part of the body of Christ. Actively seek out spaces where you are reminded of the boundless acceptance and love God has for you each and every day.

Curiosity and Vocation in Mexico

As children of God, we were created with complex minds, deep gifts and passions. We are made to question, to doubt, to wrestle with the issues around us, just like those in the stories of the Bible. Our story is no different than Jacob, who wrestled with God until daybreak and thereafter, received God’s blessing. This is the journey of the Christian life: that through our questions and curiosities, we are continually drawn closer and blessed by the Living God. One of these blessings is our calling or our vocation; where do your passions and gifts line up with the needs of the world? What is it that gives you life? Where do feel the Holy Spirit is nudging you? It is through this curious faith we are better able to understand our call and how God might use us in this crazy world.
Hear from Molly, where in a time of stress and uncertainty, she was given the space to be curious, to question the issues she saw in the world and from that experience, was better able to understand her calling from God.

Written by Molly Dunn

The winter of 2016 was a tough one. I had just come off of working at an urn factory (yes, an URN factory) all winter, I was taking way too many credits and I had basically lost all sense of direction when it came to my vocation. When you’re overstressed and in a constant state of anxiety, it’s really hard to remember that you have passion and a purpose. Some days, I could only focus on remembering to eat and getting my homework done. My mom could recognize that I was struggling, and she took it into her hands to find something for me to look forward to. I distinctly remember sitting on my couch while my mother showed me the website of a student group called Lutheran Campus Ministry (LCM). She told me that they were going on a service trip to Mexico to learn about immigration and those impacted by deportation, and for the first time in a long time, my interests were peaked. My mother must have seen the spark in my eyes because she said, “Honey, the registration deadline is in two days. Put your chin up, get your stuff together and let’s do this.” Without knowing anything else, I sent an email begging our previous Service & Social Justice Intern, Laura, to allow me to travel along with the group sight unseen. In typical LCM fashion, she welcomed me with open arms.

Little did I know, this service trip would be life changing. It prompted me to reach out to new individuals and forge new relationships with unexpected people. Whenever I felt low, the promise of a once-in-a-lifetime trip gave me hope. On a broader scale, it was an important lesson on vocation. The trip inspired me to research immigration and refugee policy, something that I am still passionate about to this day. More importantly, the trip ignited a fire in me that made me feel many overwhelming emotions: anger, compassion, frustration, joy, sorrow and everything in-between.

In my view, one’s vocation should make you feel these things on a daily basis. It is so easy to become caught up in your personal trials and forget why you’re doing the things you’re doing. Often, as a coping mechanism, it easier to turn off emotion to allow yourself to function more efficiently than cope with the emotional struggles pertaining to your call. I struggle with this to this day. But as I felt in the winter of 2016, living as an automaton is no way to live. Your call will require you to grapple and fight and struggle and question and hurt, but it is this tumultuous process of realization that makes you human. At the end of the day, you have to be able to look at yourself in the mirror and celebrate who you are and who you are becoming.

I am not promising everyone will find their vocation on an on-the-fly trip to Mexico (though I would highly recommend it if you get the chance). I feel like my call changes every other day, and I still face the struggles that plagued me that winter. It is during this time of doubt that I think you should walk into LCM. Surround yourself with people who allow you to question and wrestle. Allow yourself to be vulnerable. Remember the experiences that shaped you. Embrace the burning passions that give you hope. Take a breath and then try again.

Finding Connectedness in Community

Written by Julia Breidenbach

As a servant leader, I have been truly blessed with the opportunity to meet with students interested in Lutheran Campus Ministry (LCM). The conversations I have had with these folks have been truly enriching. My understanding of the world has grown upon hearing their stories, their challenges, their passions and what they want in a faith community.

Recently, I was able to talk with a fellow out-of-state student about the challenges facing us ‘transplants.’ It reminded me a lot of how I felt coming to the U last fall. A bumpkin kid from small-town North Dakota, I did not know anyone at the university. As an introvert, Welcome Week was hellish, and during the next few weeks on campus I felt drowned in the crowd of maroon and gold. For the first time in my life, I could go days without having a conversation with anyone. The idea of needing to try to make friends was pretty foreign to me; getting to know people was so much easier in my hometown.

I was able to meet people eventually, but it took effort. Going to different clubs and talking to strangers was not fun, and often I was left feeling like something was wrong with me. Why else was I not finding people I was really clicking with?

I soon realized that this feeling is not at all uncommon on campus. In several spaces, I was able to talk with other students about our communal feelings of isolation, wanting to connect and not really knowing how. It still amazes me that, although we are the most connected generation, we seem to be the loneliest.

When I came across LCM, I felt renewed by the sense of connectedness going to pause, our weekly worship, brings. The folks that attended pause remembered my name and they sat with me. They didn’t make me feel like an uncomfortable spectacle for being alone, like I had felt in many other spaces. Doing service projects with LCM specifically made me feel like I was needed and that I belonged to something important.

Meeting people who are interested in LCM and listening to their unique wisdom again reminds me that I need to continue to branch out (despite no longer feeling isolated). Pastor Kate’s first sermon stressed the importance of learning from one another as well as celebrating and supporting each other. I whole-heartedly agree. Perhaps this fall you are feeling isolated and need a listening ear and a place to pray. Perhaps you have questions about your faith, or are simply looking for a place to sing and smile and celebrate God. For any reason you’re curious about the community I love, I invite you with open arms.

Letter to My Fellow Gophers

Hello fellow gopher!

After months of preparation, you’ve finally made it to the University of Minnesota! These moments are likely going to be filled with anxiety, energy, and excitement, and it’s all completely normal. I’m sure by now you’ve walked the U of M campus many a time, gape-mouthed; enthralled—and slightly terrified—by the abundance of new people, buildings and sights around you. Take a second to appreciate the amazing views, enjoy the warm weather (while it lasts!) and contemplate the incredible opportunities such a diverse campus will offer you throughout the year.

It can be overwhelming thinking about the activity teeming on such a large campus to say the least. Amidst that, there are so many opportunities to be engaged in various club communities, and you might become bogged down in the process of finding your own niche. There are so many choices, and it can be easy to feel lost in a sea of people. Taking the extra step to become part of a smaller community can be critical in helping you feel connected on a large campus.

I initially sought out Lutheran Campus Ministry (or LCM for short) purely to maintain a piece of my home routine as a source of comfort, attending the weekly Wednesday services just as I had in high school. My mom first pointed out the brick church to me during move in, “Look, I bet you could go to church there!” I had probably shrugged, but I returned later, and I decided to check out what Grace University Lutheran Church had to offer. I had no idea what opportunities and friendships taking the first step of getting involved in LCM would lead me to. What had started as a search for familiarity quickly turned into an essential part of my school routine.

The welcoming faces and sounds of LCM were what kept me coming back. There is something relaxing about listening to the bluegrass worship style that our student musicians emulate so well. Comforting voices and smiling faces readily greet you, and compassionate people listen to relieve you of your stress or simply to laugh. The shared student experience bonds the community in a unique way, and creates a tight network of support when it is most needed.

LCM fulfilled many of the needs I often neglected as a busy student: moments of escape and serenity in weekly worship services, spiritual fulfillment through faith development, and physical nourishment through weekly Tuesday soup lunches. When stress distracts you from maintaining emotional and physical well-being, LCM reminds you to care for yourself—and especially others—in many ways. There are many opportunities in this ministry to extend your love to other people on campus, and use the gifts you have been given to actively live your faith in the world around you. I was continuously challenged to see how I can act out justice in the world around me, a gift I am so grateful to have received.

When classes become difficult, or life presents challenging circumstances, this faith community is a stable foundation of support when you are in need. College can be a whirlwind of obligations, studying and homework. LCM invites you to pause amidst the cacophony of daily life and recharge yourself spiritually, emotionally and physically in the presence of some truly wonderful people. Through this group I have found the courage to ask questions, act out justice and love others with no bounds.

I hope you too will find the joy and belonging which this group has brought me in your time at the U.

Peace and love,

Mara