Advent Devotional 12/1/2015

By Service & Social Justice Intern, Laura Castle

This is an excerpt from an Advent blog entry that I wrote during December of 2012, when I lived in a small sugar cane farming community in South Africa…

“My South African host father ministers to hundreds of men and women in the surrounding areas. He travels to each different farm in our community—all are owned and managed by white farmers who provide housing and wages for black African farm workers and their families. Most of the field work is difficult physical labor including: planting, weeding, hoeing, cutting, burning, hauling, and packing onto the trucks.

I have begun to look forward to the chilly mornings when I join my host father. We leave our house at about half past five, with a coffee mug in hand. As we travel through the foggy, mist covered dirt roads, the vast fields of sugar cane are all I can see as they create a tunnel-like effect on both sides of the road. When we arrive at the first farm, we greet the workers and I attempt to lead one of the vibrant acapella isiZulu songs that I have learned—through endless hours of listening and sounding out each word. My father then shares scripture and a message. This past week the scripture for the devotion came from Luke 2:8-12:

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

In many ways, these farm workers are like the shepherds. They hardly get recognition or praise for the work they do, though it is some of the most important work in the community. These beginning stages in the fields are the start to a long production process, ensuring jobs for many South Africans. Working in a sugar cane field is viewed as one of the lowest jobs in South African society…but these workers are dedicated day after day, in order to provide for their families and communities.

And God comes to these South Africans, just like he came to the shepherds. He comes to bring them good news, and says that this joyful news of the birth of Jesus Christ is for ALL people—economic and social status aside. There is hope for each one of the farm workers I worship with during my time here. There is hope for all people in South Africa, and in the world, because of the day when the angel came to share the good news with the shepherds in the fields. In this Advent season, we live and wait in hope for the Christ who comes to ALL of us to bring everlasting joy.”

God Is in All of Us

By Student Servant Leader, Corey Bergman

I had a different blog already written for this week, but I’ve decided it was inappropriate in light of the terrorist attack in Paris. I had a blog all ready to go that was full of passion, and anger towards people putting more anger into the world. There are more than 100 people dead in a series of bombings and a shooting that took place in Paris, and something tells me the people who did it had quite a bit of anger themselves.

It is for this reason that I am re-writing my blog; I just cannot put more anger into a world that is already brimming with it. Although to be honest I do not have much to say. Unfortunately at the current moment I am still speechless.

The bible says a lot of things, but it was written long ago, and words of advice on how to respond when people blow themselves up, and shoot a bunch of people are hard to find seeing as guns, and dynamite didn’t exist yet.

The only thing I can think of is that there is a little bit of God in all of us, and God is the best at bringing hope to the hopeless, joy to the saddest, and help to an impossible situation. That’s why all I can say is I hope everyone can find that little piece of them, and use it to fight all the anger, and sadness that is going around right now. Also please Pray for Paris.

Peace

Beer & Hymns: a Night of Community & Spirit

By Student Servant Leader, Dana Rademacher

Two weeks ago, Lutheran Campus Ministry, along with the young adults from two local congregations (Grace & ULCH), met at Blarney’s Pub & Grill for a beautiful night of community, beer, and song.

Since I enjoy a good brew and folk music is not-so guilty pleasure of mine, I couldn’t have imagined a better way to spend my Thursday night. It was our first Beer & Hymns of the year, so it was a small group, no more than 25 I reckon. But we illuminated the basement of Blarney’s with such liveliness that it felt so much fuller than that.

With the intensity of the guitar, and our deep, spirit-filled singing & clapping, we were a loud, spirited bunch. I can’t help but smile when I imagine what the fellow bar patrons thought upstairs as we belted out “Praise the Lord, I saw the light” and many other hymns that night.

Yes, the irony did strike me…we are doing church…in a bar. Definitely not something you see everyday and I’m sure the people upstairs were confused. I actually spoke with a few people who practically did a double take when I used the words “beer” and “hymns” in the same sentence.

However, I also can’t recall a time (maybe aside from our student worship pause), where I felt so much energy, spirit and vulnerability from a group of people. Plus, it was in a fun environment and I got to meet lots of other young adults from around the area!

After going to my first Beer & Hymns, I know two things for certain:

1) I will most definitely be attending our next Beer & Hymns (Nov. 12th!)

-and-

2) I love this community, but I will sadly be graduating this spring. And when I do, and depart from the Twin Cities, I will for sure be searching for a church community that embraces its young adults with fun, community building events such as this!

While you may not hear about it everyday, yes, you can do church in a bar. And yes, God still shows up there, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” (Matthew 18:20).

And yes, it is awesome.

Remembering Those We Love

By Student Servant Leader, Emily Mentz

This past Sunday the Christian church celebrated All Saints Day. It is the time of year when many cultures celebrate those that have passed away before them; perhaps it is something about the fall that inspires this in so many.

All Saints Day is a day of remembrance, as we share stories of those who have impacted us and think about the connection we share with the generations that came before, and those that will follow us.

When I was seven, my grandmother passed away from esophageal cancer, and the memories I have of Grandma Joyce are few, but they are rich. She was a short woman with a smile like home-baked cookies and an embrace that made you feel like you were home and warm and safe. She could often be found sitting on the floor, covered in her grandbabies, bringing an element of calm to the chaos. She had the most grateful heart, as you could give her a plane ticket to Acapulco or a rock you found in the front yard and her reaction to it would be the same. As her cancer progressed and she got her wig, she allowed my cousins and I to touch it, to touch her, to ask questions.

My memories of my Grandma are not clouded by her illness, for her beauty shone through it all. I now see pieces of the memories of my grandma in my mom; in her laugh and the way she answers the phone. As the holidays approach, I don’t think that the loss of my Grandma is one my family will ever cease to feel. However, we have not lost our connection to her, and I know she is among the saints that we will meet again in Heaven.

Being Kind to Myself

By Student Servant Leader, Emily Mentz
Lutheran Campus Ministry held its annual fall retreat in Trego, WI during the weekend of October 2-4. From the beginning of classes to the time retreat rolled around, I felt completely spent. The morning before leaving for the weekend, I had what felt like a much needed cry and too much mint chocolate chip ice cream for lunch. I had this recurring thought that I was being spread too thin but also not meeting the expectations I had set for myself all at the same time. It can be so easy for me to become frustrated when I skip a workout to get much needed sleep, or don’t give an assignment the effort it deserves because I take time to call my mom. Therefore, it was fitting that the theme of retreat was the Sabbath and the importance of taking breaks in order to resist a culture that screams at us to continue a productive, fast pace. This intentional retreat time became a great space for me to practice some self-kindness: I wore only my comfiest clothing, drank lots of tea, ate chocolate, and was surrounded by the beauty of creation in the fall and wonderful community. The challenge is continuing to be this gentle with myself now that I’m back to the demands of campus. However, I think little things like comfy scarves, good coffee, and intentional time to slow down to talk with God about what’s on my heart are helping me to keep a better balance. I’m continuing to learn that I cannot always reach the expectations that I set and I cannot please everyone- but I am valued and loved and this spirit was made for more than a frazzled and hurried existence.

Collaboration & Differences: Helping Others up the Mountain

By  Student Servant Leader, Corey Bergman

This year the leadership team of LCM has decided to really focus on reaching out to other communities. We did a river clean up with the Muslim Student Association. We are trying to get in contact with the Black Student Union to plan an event, or even just attend an event of theirs. Other leaders have attended events for the Wesley group, and the Interfaith Council who we collaborated with on the paint the bridge project.

All of this is really cool stuff, but some of you might be asking the question: “Wait if they do not believe what we believe should we be helping them?” or “Don’t we disagree with those groups on some pretty fundamental God stuff?” These questions are totally legitimate because as far as we have been told by history, the media, and other social sources if you disagree with someone you cannot possibly get along. I have spent quite some time spacing out about these questions, and I would like to share with you my answer to these questions.

The way I see it life is kind of like climbing a mountain (Yes I know semi- cheesy metaphor) there is more than one way to the top which is supposed to be the perfect world with everyone peaceful, and happy etc. This being said there is more than one way up the mountain. We as Lutherans are taking one route, but that does not mean it is the best route, it is just the route that is best for us. Who are we to judge the route that other people are taking? Maybe they need more structured rules, or they need more concrete answers than our route provides. The way I see it because we cannot say that our route is the best for everybody, all we can do, as long as they are promoting love in the world, is encourage them, and work with them to make sure everyone gets to the top. It is to this end that I find it important, and cool that we work with other groups on campus to make it a better place to live, and study.

Peace.

Taking Time to Pause

By Student Servant Leader, Lauren Zima

This past Wednesday, I slept right through my alarm, twice. I was late for a meeting where I was a speaker, my car wouldn’t start, I had to stay late at work, and I unknowingly tried to submit an assignment that was due the night before. And by the time I finally flopped down on the couch at 10pm, a little frazzled and a lot exhausted, I realized I’d forgotten to Pause. Yes pause, literally, I’d been on my feet the entire day, but also the LCM Wednesday night service. The one point in my week where I feel confident to drop everything, clear my mind, and spend an hour just being instead of thinking and worrying about everything else on my plate.

This past Wednesday was an exceptionally bad and poorly timed day, but remembering to pause even if it’s not for Pause (haha), is a skill we, as college kids, need to make a top priority. Remembering to pause is both literally and figuratively, the best way to regroup after a long day, catch up with old friends, or take a moment for just yourself to be present and aware of what’s happening around you.

For me, the chance to pause is the chance to step out of the bubble of college and the mass chaos that it can be. After the first psych out of a week that is syllabus week; a cruel concept that tricks you into thinking you will have enough time on your hands to watch an entire Netflix series a week, see your friends every day, and spend hours at the gym, you quickly realize that college is A LOT. It’s a lot of class time, studying, stress, and exhaustion. But after syllabus week is done and you’re settling into your routine of how you personally do college, it’s critical to take time to pause. Whether it be taking the time to watch a Netflix episode (yes episode, singular), go for a bike ride down the gorgeous Riverside trail, or come, literally, to Pause, finding out the best way for you pause and regroup is perhaps one of the best skills you won’t learn in school.

So this month I urge you, regardless of the dozens of to do’s on your list, or items on your plate; to figure out how you pause, and take the time once a week to do it. It’ll be the best thing you do all week. (Unless of course there’s gopher game day!!)

Welcome! Welcome! Welcome!

To those friends I have yet to meet,

Coming to the U as a freshman I knew that joining a faith community was a priority for me. I grew up in an incredible church and was eager to find a place for me here at school. Throughout my freshman year I dabbled in different faith groups, never finding somewhere that I really fit.

Transitioning to college is already difficult, as you begin to find out how to balance a more independent life, and I was hungry for a strong community of faith. I longed for a place where I was comfortable but challenged and growing at the same time. My first encounter with LCM was during the spring of my freshman year but due to my job I was not able to really get plugged in. However, my brief encounter inspired me to really commit to getting involved that coming fall. One of the first nights I attended Pause I tried to slide quietly into a pew near the back. My plan to not be noticed was foiled by an amazing student name Heidi as she quickly plopped down next to me and before I knew it, we had exchanged numbers with plans to get coffee. Simply connecting with Heidi made me feel noticed and valued as a member of the LCM community.

For me, LCM stands out among groups as there is a strong emphasis on authenticity, on curiosity and on building relationships rooted in faith. The folks that make up LCM are some of the most welcoming, kind-hearted, passionate, and inspiring people I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing and I’ve truly found my fit. Could LCM be where you fit too? Come connect with us and let us discover one another’s stories. 🙂

I’ll be keeping an eye out for you, like Heidi did for me…

Emily Mentz