(a few of our student leaders at leadership training in August of 2013)
Lutheran Campus Ministry-Twin Cities has long been committed to cultivating faithful leaders for both church and world. We are excited to announce that we have been awarded a 5 year, $100,000 grant from the Lilly Endowment to deepen and strengthen our leadership development and vocational discernment work with undergraduate students at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities.
This initiative, the Theological Exploration of Vocation for Campus Ministries Initiative 2013, invited 30 campus ministries from various denominations across the country to apply for funding to “build up their capacities to play a more prominent role in identifying and nurturing a new generation of highly talented and religiously committed leaders for church and society.” We are very excited to be a part of this cohort, to learn and discern together how we might nurture young adults to lead faithfully in the 21st Century.
Our particular project, The Discipleship Project will deepen and expand leadership opportunities for a core team of students, equip them as teachers of LCM-TC’s central faith practices, and will give them opportunities to share this learning with students and throughout the church.
This grant is significant because of the way it encourages and supports our work with student leaders (and through them the campus). It does not replace any of our current funding needs, rather enhances our ability to train leaders in a more robust way. In that, it highlights the importance of leadership in fundraising, governance, and strategic decision making as we stretch and grow on campus, and in the communities these students will impact.
The Board of Directors of Lutheran Campus Ministry-Twin Cities is honored to have its ministry recognized by the Lilly Endowment and welcomes Lilly as a partner in the great work God is already doing on the campus of the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. As we continue learning, it is our hope that we can also share the work that we are doing with the broader church, and invite others into sharing God’s boundless love with the world.
For more information, or to see the executive summary, please contact Campus Pastor Kate Reuer Welton by emailing email@example.com.
 Please see Lilly’s Website for a full press release: http://www.lillyendowment.org/pdf/LillyEndowment11-25-2013PressRelease.pdf
Advent is full of anticipation and excitement, and the end of fall semester is filled with much the same feeling; although sometimes it can be hard to see through the stress of finals to the light and excitement of the oncoming Christmas.
I was having trouble seeing through the stress of oncoming testing and haze of sleep deprivation this week when God came to me in the most unexpected of places, in the baking of Christmas cookies. I had committed to making two dozen cookies to decorate for the Christmas party and to be honest was slightly dreading the time that cookie making was going to take away from my studying time. But I had scheduled it out and I was ready to make the cookies, get it over with and move on to what was really important. But things got complicated when I realized that I did not have a rolling pin or cookie cutters. But I was not going to let this stop me, I am a senior in college, I have battled finals 6 times over and an absence of cookie making tools was not going to stop me, so armed with a plastic cup and a butter knife I got to work.
As I battled with cookie dough and creating the semblance of shapes with some Christmas spirit and occasionally muttering under my breath “LCM I’m not complaining but you better not ever doubt my commitment to you”, I had a lot of time to think and most importantly breathe. And once I allowed myself to clear my head and allowed myself to think about things other than electrical engineering courses; I learned some things, like it is okay to not be perfect.
Because if my cookies are one thing they are not perfect, and since it is finals season and everyone could do with a little chuckle I have decided to share with you my Christmas cookies:
These are supposed to be Christmas trees, but they kind of look like arrows. Perhaps they are trying to point me in the direction of a better Christmas cookie.
These are meant to be Minnesota…I think they just look like they are trying to eat each other whilst wearing tiny hats.
These are stars. I think some of them look like they are dancing, I’m not sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing.
Here we have in order a stocking, a candle, a house, another stocking and a heart. I don’t have anything witty to say about these cookies other than I’m sorry about the stockings.
By the end I was kind of getting tired and the haze of sleep deprivation was encroaching on the clarity of cookie making adventures so I made some very oversized “ornaments” and another Christmas tree.
Not all of the cookies made it, some of them broke and they were delicious.
So in this time of finals take a deep breath, make cookies even if you don’t have time to, and remember that it is okay not to be perfect.
Looking back I see how important seasons have been to my life. Not only seasons of the natural world, or the coming and goings of each semester, but those evident in the liturgical calendar. Reflecting on the years it’s perfectly clear. I came to the University of Minnesota in the season of Epiphany. A season of growth and change and discovery where a wide eyed freshman me was exposed to everything new. It was exciting and scary and filled with growth. As I got a little older I moved into Lent, perhaps staying there too long, yet learning all the while. Testing myself and wallowing in the questions of life. Trying to figure out what this whole living thing was all about. Thankfully Lent too past, leading me through Easter and into Pentecost, when, thanks to a LCM spring break trip to Mexico I found my passion and fire for social justice. A passion that has tugged at my conscious ever since. It has driven my study and direction within the design field, forcing me to question, but also learn. And now, nearing the last semester of my college career, I arrive at advent.
Advent “is the season for mystics, for those who search the stars and the sky for signs of hope and promise in the deep blue winter… Nestled into the cold dark night, under the drape of the deep blue sky, in what ways have you been lulled to sleep? What shooting stars and signs in the heavens might you wake up to see? Or are you tired with watching and waiting for the coming of God? Are you frightened or discouraged by the silence of the cold winter darkness? As we put on the deep blue robe of Advent and light the candles to watch in the night, what might God be waking you to see? What might you miss if you do not watch and wait?” *
This time of advent is a season for hope, for anticipation, culminating in the birth of Christ and a new beginning for us all. It is a time of light that gathers within the darkness of winter to bring about new life. Hope, peace, joy, and love abound in this beloved time of year. So here I am, a senior, trying to find my way in the darkness of planning for a post graduation future, gathering little pieces of light in this time of advent. Light that comes in the form of friends, family, and mentors, to guide me on my path to living out my vocation. Once again it is a time in life for a new start, whether it is a new place, new faces, a new job, or a new sense of self, it is a time to start afresh. And let me tell you, it’s scary.
In the hope for the coming of Christ we often forget about the doubt that can plague the season. The doubt reflected in the darkness of December that surrounds us. Doubt seeps in when trying to answer the nagging questions about the future. “What will you do when you graduate?” “Where will you be?” “Who will you be?” Yet amongst this doubt there is hope, a hope for the birth of Christ and answers to life’s questions. Right now this doubt is a more than a little overwhelming. Quite frankly it’s terrifying. Yet I know, wherever I end up, whatever I am doing, whomever I meet, I will be blessed with a fresh start, a gift in this time of advent. I will wait and watch the heavens for the shooting stars of the deep blue winter sky. I will be blessed with a new beginning and a path with another new direction to guide me onto life’s next great season.
*Excerpt from Holden Village Devotional
Please take a moment to watch this joyful video.
Now, take a step outside, breath in the snow (and the cold) and rejoice in its sheer beauty as that penguin does oh so well.
Snow and winter bring frustrated drivers, dangerous biking, and cold. Instead of biking, I’m now trudging miles to and from classes and interviews, tripling my commute times in my busiest weeks. It’s easy at this time to get wrapped up in stress and annoyance, particularly with finals closing in. But the snow invites us to slow down and savor the beauty of God’s creation as it snuggles in for winter.
To borrow the words from a friend’s status: “Snow storms. Gods way of saying hey, slow down, breathe, look around. It is advent.” -Mark
Advent is a time of expectant waiting, of preparation. It can be difficult as students to live into this season since it is one of our busiest, but I invite you to embrace those moments when you are forced to move slowly. While waiting for a bus or walking carefully across ice to class, take a second to look up at the sky and take a few deep breaths, stepping into the wonder of Advent.
This Thanksgiving, I flew from Minneapolis back home to Chicago. I love flying out of Minneapolis, especially out of Terminal 2, because it’s usually a very pleasant experience. This Wednesday was no exception. Terminal 2 is the epitome of Minnesota-nice culture: people are courteous, nobody is rude and pushy, and even the TSA agents smile. Terminal 2 is also where I saw God this week.
Everybody sees God in different ways. Some people see God when they are outside in the beauty of nature. Some people see God in the quiet. I see God when people show love to one another in chaos.
In Terminal 2, on the most stressful traveling day of the year, I saw a lot of love. I saw families reuniting. I saw a barista greeting each person as an individual, despite having tons of customers. I saw strangers chatting and bonding over the shared anticipation of a holiday with loved ones. It was a wonderful way to start my break and I am very thankful that I was able to see God in this way.
This past Wednesday at our Pause worship service, we talked about the process of becoming – a process in which we grow to better understand our identity and who God created us to be. The following story is one of my own experiences of becoming during my time in China – enjoy!
For those of you who don’t know, I’m majoring in Chinese and last year I studied abroad both semesters in Beijing. I had many experiences of becoming during my year in China, but I’m going to focus specifically about how I experienced becoming in my faith and beliefs as a Christian.
Before going to China, my faith life revolved almost entirely around all things Lutheran. We’re talking potlucks in the church basement, lefse bakes, old school German hymns, super chill Midwesterners, and a strong belief in salvation through grace. Lutheranism was what I grew up with and for the most part, it was all that I knew! After two years of being heavily involved with LCM and loving every minute of it, I was in a very comfortable place with my faith – I was confident in what I believed and I didn’t have many questions for God. And then I went to China…
Since I was going to be in China for many many months, I made a conscious effort to seek out a church community. I wanted to make sure that I maintained my relationship with God, and I wanted to find a good ol’ group of Christians to be in community with. After doing some research on the ELCA’s website, I found a partner congregation in Beijing called BICF (Beijing International Christian Fellowship). BICF is a non-denominational church for Beijing’s international community. They had an English service on Sunday mornings and were pretty close to my dorm, so I decided to check it out.
I walked into the worship space (a rented room in an office building) and found an empty clump of chairs towards the back. Since this was an international church, the worshipers were mostly American, British, African, Pacific Islander, etc. There were mostly families and 20-somethings in the congregation. The service started with a worship song led by a contemporary praise band with the lyrics projected onto multiple screens. About halfway through that first song, I looked around the room and noticed more than a few people with their hands in the air, swaying back and forth to the music, really getting into it. I’m not gonna lie, I got the church giggles a lot that morning. Since Lutheran worship services are typically pretty reserved, I felt very out of place in this new worship style. The whole time I kept thinking, “What have I gotten myself into?”
After the service ended, I was getting ready to leave with no intention of going back, when I heard someone call out my name. I turned around to find my next-door neighbor from the dorms, John. John’s from England and as I found out, had been going to BICF for a while. He introduced me to his group of friends and we all ended up going out to lunch. This group was all young working professionals or students like me, all Americans or Brits, and they were all involved in a small group. They were also the first big, friendly community of young people I had found since being in China – everybody was really friendly, welcoming, kind – it was like walking into LCM for the first time as a freshman.
It wasn’t long before I joined one of their weekly small groups. We met every Thursday night for about an hour, and we would follow a Bible study book, reading and discussing certain passages. At first it was great to be back in a weekly routine of faith discussion, something I had really hoped to keep up with after leaving the U.S. But after a few weeks, I started hearing opinions and ideas being expressed that didn’t have much correlation with what I personally believed or had thought much about before, particularly the idea of conversion and salvation through faith alone. There were a couple small group meetings where we prayed for people we knew to find Jesus. Since converting others isn’t something Lutherans really talk much about, I felt very confused and turned off whenever the subject came up in small group or at church services. Every now and then I would get into these long debates with myself about it, thinking over and over about what I actually believed and how to reconcile this difference I had found with my other small group members. My faith had been shaken, my comfortable ideas about God and Christianity thrown out the door. I even had to Skype with Pastor Kate a few times for moral support and to remind me the basics of the Lutheran faith.
After a few months of these sorts of internal debates, I eventually came around to the idea that finding the answers wasn’t so important. I didn’t have to agree with everything my friends believed – we could have differences and it didn’t matter. At the end of the day, we were all just a group of Christians who liked to have active, thoughtful discussions about God. I even got used to and enjoyed some of the different practices they had – even some of the contemporary songs sounded pretty good by the time I left China!
More importantly, this group had given me something that I would’ve never experienced without stepping outside of an ELCA church. They had given me a reason to seriously question my faith, to challenge my ideas about God, to live into those questions we’ll never know the answers to. Like Martin Luther said, “this life is not about being, but becoming; not rest, but exercise.” My experiences with this group led me to get a TON of spiritual exercise – and my faith is stronger than ever because of it. I was able to grow, and I was able to become a little bit more the person God has made me to be.
Next week is Thanksgiving – the one day each year set aside for being with those we love, feasting on delicious food, and giving thanks for what we have. However, Proverbs 15:15 tells us “A happy heart as a continual feast!” Instead of just on Thanksgiving, shouldn’t we be giving thanks to God every day of the year for all that we have to be grateful about? I, personally, have a multitude of things to be thankful for. But, sometimes, in the busyness of day-to-day life, I forget to be grateful for them. Every night before I go to sleep, I try to think of 3 things I’m thankful for that day. Think I’m silly for doing this? Research has shown that people who are grateful tend to be happier, healthier, and more fulfilled. So, instead of just being thankful and feasting on Thanksgiving, try being thankful every day of the year. Then your happy heart will have a continual feast!
A problem I always find myself getting caught up in is how to be a faithful sports fan. I’m not talking about how to be true to my team. Over half of my wardrobe is maroon and gold. In my 4 years at the University of Minnesota I have attended hundreds of sporting events, including the Gophers Men’s and Women’s Hockey, Men’s and Women’s Basketball, Football, Volleyball, Baseball, and even Tennis. Never in my years here have I not given my full support to Gopher athletics. I am also an avid fan of the Twins, Vikings, Wild, and Lynx, although I don’t watch nearly as many Pro-sports games as I do at the collegiate level.
What I mean by being a faithful sports fan is being faithful to God, while enjoying sports. I often get so caught up in the heat of the moment that all I can think about is Gopher Hockey. Occasionally, I get so wrapped up in how the Gophers Hockey team is doing that I let it dictate whether it is a good or bad day. If the Gophers Football team is on a loosing stretch, I can’t help but feel a little gloomy.
One thing that a good friend of mine told me was that if we put our faith in anything other than God, we are bound to face disappointment and anger. However, if we put our full faith in God (where it belongs), we will never be disappointed. It took me a while for this to fully sink in. The more I thought about my behaviors as a sports fan, the more I realized that this made sense. When I am fully invested in the outcome of a sporting event, I realized that I am putting my faith in something that is a gamble.
We are also reminded of the FIRST commandment: “Though shalt have no other gods before me”. While I don’t ‘worship’ the Gophers, I have caught myself at times putting sports at the forefront of my life. During the fall semester, my whole schedule revolves around the Gophers football season. I have missed opportunities to spend with friends and family. In hindsight, was I putting sports before other things in my life? Was I putting sports before God?
I am often times faced with the tough question of “how can I be a FAITHFUL sports fan?”. I think the important thing to remember is that God comes first in all things. If I can continue to remind myself that God is what I should put my full faith in, I will never be disappointed. And I should give thanks to God for the opportunity to go to sporting events and enjoy them so much. “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” – Colossians 3:17
So go out there and cheer for your team, giving thanks to God all the same for the wonderful gift of sports! And Lord, please give me patience when my friends cheer for the Wisconsin Badgers.