Interfaith Work in LCM

Written by Mara Bowman

Although LCM really thrives in our work at Grace University Lutheran Church, we’ve also been engaging the campus community as a whole. Interfaith work has been a growing edge in the LCM community and this semester, LCM has specifically been working with Hillel, the Jewish student group on campus, and the Muslim Student Association (MSA), so here’s a little update on what we’ve been up to!

Most recently, in partnership with Grace, LCM & MSA co-hosted an interfaith dinner. We were happy to see more than 80 people come, where each table individually had their own faith conversations based on a series of prompts that were provided. Then just this last Sunday, MSA & LCM celebrated the end of our semester with an Earth Day event. In our shared mission of being caretakers of creation, our plan was to spend time together at Minnehaha Falls, cleaning up trash and just enjoying the outdoors with each other!

A couple weeks ago, LCM was invited to an Interfaith Shabbat hosted by Hillel. LCM students got to participate in a Shabbat service, as well as meet students from the nearly six other faith groups on campus that were represented at the event. Interfaith work also looks like taking a moment to sit and learn about a religious practice different from your own. Sometimes it looks like just showing up for other groups on campus when they host events.

So why do interfaith work? The concept of interfaith focuses on conversation and coming together amidst difference. But I think what we find amidst these conversations is that religions have a lot more in common than we realize. LCM is really grateful for the ways that other faith communities have engaged with us this school year and as we reach the end of the semester, it’s exciting to see the possibilities for interfaith work that are developing in the coming year.

Through these interfaith conversations, we’ve discerned that we, as faith communities, all feel called by God to seek peace in the world. When we unite amidst this common goal, we find that separate religions do not have to be a barrier, but a mechanism for change in the world. God can exist in many ways. By working with other religious groups, we can learn about the truths of other people, which don’t have to contradict or be in conflict with our own. Instead, we can be empowered together in that we each have found spiritual connection in our world, and we can use that common ground to create community.

Not Defined by our Demons.

Written by Julia Breidenbach

I went to my first church service at University Lutheran Church of Hope a couple Sundays ago; I was excited to hear Pastor Jen preach and I had heard a lot of good things about her from fellow students. When the sermon started, I was ready to sit back, relax and learn some new interesting points about faith.

That was not on Pastor Jen’s agenda.

She wanted us to interrupt her as she read the lesson with what we noticed or what we wondered about.

I was a little doubtful; didn’t she know most Minnesotan churchgoers grew up with a “keep to yourself and stay quiet” mantra?

image3However, her faith in her congregation was not misplaced. I went home with many insights from the sermon, and they were mostly points made by the congregation. The point I remember the most regarded Jesus’s interaction with the unclean spirit. They noticed that Jesus did not find fault in the man, but the unclean spirit inside of him.

We all have unclean, toxic parts of ourselves, and my personal demon, somewhat stereo-typically, came out in full force in middle school. For several reasons beyond my control, my steady friend group dissolved, leaving me very alone and very vulnerable.

image1I didn’t realize how important having these friends was in maintaining my positive self-esteem and identity. I began to believe that since I didn’t have friends, I was not worthy of friends. My whole life began to revolve around my insecurities, my shame and seemingly endless mistakes.

Depression quickly settled in and stuck, taking away the beauty in the world and replacing it with ingratitude, self-loathing and anger.

My relationship with God was pretty distant when I was depressed; I read comforting scripture most nights, but did not feel the warmth of God’s love. It wasn’t until I went to Pause student worship that I really began to understand what God’s love looks like.

God understands that it is not my fault for becoming depressed; my insecurity or the unclean spirit inside of me is the problem, not me.

This is so unbelievably freeing because it allows me to stop being guilty about being sad, chastising myself daily that I should be more grateful, more positive, more everything.
It means I’m lovable enough to talk to others about what’s bothering me and knowing that I’m not simply an annoying burden when I do so. I can take breaks when I need them because my worthiness does not hinge on what I do, but who I am.

Through therapy and the right medication, I am a lot better than I once was. However, I am still working on accepting my vulnerability to depression and taking steps every day to ensure I never feel that low again. The scripture today reminds me that I am not defined by my demons. With God’s love, I am so much more than that.

LCM Huddles: Showing Your Whole Heart

Written by Julia Breidenbach

Screen Shot 2018-02-04 at 7.15.09 PMAs a self-proclaimed perfectionist and chronic worrier, I frequently look at my life and give myself a lot of “shoulds.” I should be spending more time on self-care. I should exercise more. I should park my phone after 10:00 p.m. so I can actually sleep for once in my college existence.

As college students, we spend so much time in our heads. Right now, we live for theory, definitions, equations and complicated models. It’s so easy, at least for me, to forget that I am more than a vessel for learning and applying information. I am a human being, not a human doing, as Pastor Kate sometimes jokes. And yet every time I simply be, my shoulds and self-criticism pop up like the shark from Jaws.

As a student training in the mental health field, it is very easy to pathologize all this; not only am I a stressed-out, guilty wreck, I worry about being a stressed-out, guilty wreck. I remember finals last year, having so much to do and somehow sleeping the whole day despite the fact that I did not have time for sleep.

image4I felt like I was the worst college student, until I went to Pause and talked about my seemingly endless weaknesses with other Lutheran Campus Ministry members. When I shared, I was so relieved to hear others had a similar experience. “Don’t worry; we are all there.”

There is so much power in the conviction that we are not alone. I felt so much less pathological and existentially weak when I realized that a lot of people were going through not only the mistakes I was, but the shoulds and self-judgement followed by these mistakes.

Screen Shot 2018-02-04 at 7.17.56 PMAfter watching Brené Brown’s Ted Talk on vulnerability, I felt the very familiar self-judging perfectionist emerging from the deep dark depths of my insecurities. Part of being a perfectionist for me is wearing dense armor so it appears that nothing gets to me; I really don’t like admitting I’m sad, stressed or angry, and a lot of times its my silence about what I am going through that keeps me feeling alone.

However that night, I challenged myself once again to be vulnerable, to be real. That night we all embodied courage, a word that Brené Brown defined as “showing your whole heart.” I learned last year that I could go days without talking to anybody if I wanted; this campus can easily be large, isolating, and anonymous. Shedding my armor felt so good because I was no longer anonymous; I was seen.

Screen Shot 2018-02-04 at 6.57.27 PMIn sharing our messy, imperfect stories full of shoulds and some mistakes, I felt so close to these women. It was probably a -5 degree day, but I felt warm. Drinking in the wisdom of my huddle group’s stories, I felt like I knew myself a little better now too. And for just a little bit, I could breathe easy with my inner perfectionist quiet and pondering.

Making the Shift from Fear to Faith

Written by Sarah Baker

It took 21 years, but I can safely say that Fear is no longer running my life. And it took one of the worst experiences I’ve ever had for that to happen.

Let me set the scene for you.

There were several significant times in my life where Fear took the driver’s seat. Back in high school, I was offered a position on the best competitive volleyball team in Duluth for my age group. My parents let me know that the coach had contacted them, asking if I would be willing to take a leading role as a setter on the team. I was a shy, skinny little 10th grader at the time and the idea of playing on a Nationals team terrified me. I knew many of the girls on the team and I was convinced they were all much better than I could ever be. So I told my parents, “No, I don’t want to play,” even though volleyball was my favorite sport. Fear: 1. Sarah: 0.

Looking back, not joining the team is one of my biggest regrets; there’s no telling where I would be right now if I had joined the team and gotten infinitely better at volleyball.

Another major event in my life where Fear stole the wheel right out of hands occurred this past summer. At the beginning of the summer, I was set to go on a four-week study abroad program in Scotland. As the days to my flight out of Winnipeg drew nearer, I got increasingly more anxious. The anxiety was warranted—the last time I had gone on a vacation, I was overcome by a peculiar sickness while on the side of the mountain, basically all alone. (We later figured out I had a virus of some kind and my thyroid had gone berserk, making me feel constantly sick). I was terrified that I would end up in Scotland by myself and in a similar situation. About a week before the trip, I confessed my fears to my parents and we decided that it would be best for my mental health to remain in Duluth for the summer. Fear: 2. Sarah: Still 0.

Ever since I was old enough to make my own choices, countless decisions I made were driven by Fear. Hmm yeah I think you’d better not talk to that guy you like. Don’t apply to that research lab—you’re definitely not smart enough to join. Don’t join that club—you won’t fit in. Basically, the final score ended up being Fear: 1 million, Sarah: probably a solid 2. I’m sure most of you can relate.

Everything changed during the summer after my sophomore year of college. I had just decided to skip the Scotland trip and had fallen into a terrible state of anxiety-induced depression. I’ll put it bluntly—it really, really sucked. All the things I originally loved doing (fishing, playing with my dog, driving up the Shore, etc.) didn’t seem interesting anymore. My heart was racing all the time and my mind felt like it was constantly going a mile a minute. And let me tell you, when you’re in a bad mental state, your mind can put some pretty horrifying thoughts in your head. It got to the point where my faith in God seriously suffered. I’m a good person, I thought. Why would God be doing this to me? I surely don’t deserve this. Maybe GOD ISN’T REAL. Yeah, that’s gotta be it.

I’d like to say a switch flipped and everything went right back to normal. But that wasn’t the case. God doesn’t work like that and I now know that. Although my experience with depression and anxiety lasted less than a year, it felt like much longer. When you’re in the middle of that wilderness, it seems like you can never find the forest edge. It feels like you’re the only one stuck in there and the trees are so thick, that not even the light of the Son can find its way through. Here’s the thing though: as long as just a little bit of light breaks the treeline, you can find your way out of the wilderness. How? Through Faith. Faith that God is real and nothing can stop His plans for you. Faith that something good will come out of your experience. Faith that something is stirring inside of you, just waiting for the right moment to break through. And, as the great Elle Woods once said, “You must always have faith in yourself.”

For me, my experience changed my entire perspective on life. I no longer make decisions based on fear—now I choose my path based on Faith. I always hear athletes say “Trust the process.” By putting my faith in God, I surrender myself to trusting His process. I have faith that the good times and the bad times will bring about changes that I’m not always capable of fully understanding—sometimes God only knows. As my wise younger sister says, “I think that’s a huge part of faith—trusting God even in the midst of our lack of understanding. Sometimes, it’s only in retrospect that we see how He moves in our lives.”

Fear to Faith—I promise you, that simple shift will make all the difference.

“You beat fear when you stop running away from what scares you and instead run away from what makes you comfortable and into the very thing that makes you tremble. That’s when you see God’s power break in you and through you. That’s when everything changes.”
-Jordan Lee Dooley (#soulscripts)

Winter Leader Retreat: Finding Warmth and Light in the Darkness

Written by Mara Bowman

Winter and I are in an intense love/hate relationship. The first snow fall is so transcendentally beautiful and I love to stare up at the sky watching the intricate flakes fall down. For me, it’s magical in December along with the Christmas season. But once mid-January rolls around I’ve had about enough. I could say goodbye to snow and below zero temperatures that make your eyes water and your face hurt. I could do without the never-ending darkness that starts at 4:30pm. Any mention of weather, winter or venturing outdoors is accompanied with bitterness and a groan.

Over this past weekend 14 LCM servant leaders traveled to ARC retreat center—a tranquil cabin nestled in the woods—to recharge for the upcoming semester and engage in conversations about ways to shape our community. After driving through heavy snowfall, we were greeted by trees trimmed with the dusting of fresh snow, and I was filled with such a sense of comfort and peace as I sat with a warm cup of tea staring out the window.

A few brave LCMers decided to venture out into the freezing temps. It was still steadily snowing, and we wandered through the woods (Luckily for us the snowfall didn’t cover our tracks before we decided to turn around…). A winter hike reminded me of the ways I do appreciate this time of year and how thankful I am for a warm house to be cozy. It almost seemed that extremes—such as ridiculously low temperatures—enabled me to celebrate and relish in the warmth. At a time of year when Minnesotans bond over continuously complaining about the weather, it can help us remember that amidst cold temperatures and decreasing daylight, we experience the beauty of winter along with feeling gratitude for the warmth or comfort of being indoors with loved ones.

Even so, it can be hard to ignore the bite of a numbingly cold wind. It can be easy to allow the darkness to have the last word.

The summer after my junior year in high school I went spelunking, or trekking through a cave, on a camping trip. At one portion of the caves, the guide instructed everyone to turn off their flashlights. We were at a dark point where no light could enter, and the blackness seemed to swallow us up. At first, my eyes continued searching for light, as my pupils adjusted, it felt like my eyes were convulsing—not actually I’m just being a little bit dramatic. After a while in the blackened space, my eyes stopped adjusting. My eyes stopped seeking light to make sense of my surroundings.

Similarly, when we surround ourselves with narratives of darkness, or hopelessness, we eventually stop looking for the light. It’s as if we adjust to feeling weighed down by the destruction of a violent world, and we forget to be bearers of light. We learn to expect negativity, rather than hope, when we can in fact be people who bring hope!

In the book of Acts, people realize that even though Jesus has returned to heaven, the Holy Spirit continues to be God’s presence in the world working through all people; including me, and whoever happens to be reading this. One verse particularly filled me with a sense of peace: “Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices, and my body also will rest in hope…you will not abandon me…you have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence” (Acts 2:26-28).

The Holy Spirit works through each of us, as people who can bring hope and light to the communities we are in, on any scale big or small. When I scroll through my phone I see CNN headlines pop up, and they are 9 times out of 10, negative. I see negativity and destruction in our world. Hunger and violence. Despair and hopelessness. But yet, I must rejoice, trusting in God that our stories ultimately lead to light and justice. Even though we focus on darkness, remember that through the power of the Holy Spirit we are bearers of light: spreading love, joy and positivity throughout the world.

// “For the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” //

Peace and love to you as you bear witness to God’s incredible love—sharing hope and light with anyone you meet.


The Light Shines in the Darkness

Written by Sophia Litkewitsch

I’ve felt a heaviness on campus this year, more than in previous ones. Every day seems to bring fresh news of scandal and disaster, making staying informed an exercise in either helplessness and the resulting frustration, or in pitting sanity against our duty to be engaged local and global citizens. This state of the world can inspire fear and fatigue, which isn’t to say that either is an unreasonable response, but I think we get into trouble when this kicks off a chain reaction.

Both on the news and in personal experience, I’ve observed a positive feedback loop between fear and a step away from people. The more afraid we are the less we want to interact with community, the less of the good in it we see, the more afraid we become and so on. In essence, fear becomes an isolating paralytic in the face of circumstances that call for united action.

At times like this hope can seem naive bordering on reckless, but what are Christian communities called to be if not sources and announcers hope? From the first Advent to this Advent, we have been called to embody and spread the Good News in the face of political turmoil, economic hardship, and terrifying uncertainty. And despite everything, the news can indeed be good. Not just in the abstract sense, not just in the liturgical sense, but in tangible, everyday ways. How? Because we have a say in it.

We are given the choice between disengaging or reaching out, isolating ourselves or bearing witness to the hope around us, surrendering to helplessness or starting where we are with what we have to try and be stewards of our world and our neighbors.

I’ve seen this on campus this semester so many ways; friends making sure everyone gets home safely on the weekends, TA’s and professors going above and beyond the call of duty to help their classes, students organizing and giving time to causes they believe in, and so much more.

Hope on this campus is not always loud. It is not always public. It does not always draw attention to itself. It isn’t even always confident; but it is very much at work. The hope we get to be witnesses of and servants to isn’t a dusty abstract concept, it is the call to action and all the ways we say “yes” to that call. It is the rejection of apathy and defiance of fear. So as we move together into this season of Advent, whether it is with words or actions, in bold proclamation or hesitant admission, let us declare together: The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

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.