Mountain Vespers

I just spent $9.90 on iTunes.  What, you might ask, did I buy?  Well let me tell you!  I just downloaded all ten of the songs on Kent Gustavson’s Mountain Vespers CD.  My decision to purchase these songs is completely nostalgic and let me tell you why!

This year, LCM decided to host Pause, our student worship, every week instead of twice per month like in the years past.  In order to keep Pause fun and engaging, we do different services each week, including Traditional Pause, Second Supper, Holden Evening Prayer, and Mountain Vespers.

Mountain Vespers is by far my favorite service.  I look forward to it each month!  We gather at the front of the sanctuary and sit in a cozy circle.  We are lead by our very own folk band and talented soloists as we sing the Mountain Vespers songs.  The music was written for a mountain church in Washington called Holden Village, so the songs are homey and very catchy.

I love everything about the Mountain Vespers service!  I’m sad that tonight is the last Mountain Vespers of the year!  I purchased the Mountain Vespers CD on iTunes so that I can continue to sing along to the songs while I’m on break during the summer.

I would encourage EVERYONE to come to LCM’s Mountain Vespers service tonight at 9pm!  Maybe then you’ll truly understand why $9.90 was well spent on these songs!

For a sneak peak, check out the songs here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/mountain-vespers/id210458636

Amy Weispfenning

I’m going to climb it, with strength not my own.

Snow on snow on snow. Projects on more projects, accompanied with exams, papers, and attempting to maintain a social life. IT’S THAT TIME OF YEAR!!!

Senioritis has hit me pretty hard–a year early. With the anticipation of summer, studying abroad in the fall, and warm weather, I’ve mentally checked out of the school year. However, with a 19- credit semester, and plenty of preparing to do for the next few months of life, checking out is not an option for me!

So today, in an attempt to procrastinate my six-page analytical report on US Immigration Policy, due at midnight, I decided to go on a run. I had plans to do a quick, 2-mile loop, but before I knew it, I was standing at the top of the hill in Gold Medal Park–my absolute favorite place in Minneapolis. It’s ahhhhh-mazing how peaceful it is at the top of that hill, amidst the busyness of downtown Minneapolis. For five minutes, I stood at the top of the hill, sweaty, tired, and frustrated with my lack of motivation, asking God to give me energy to finish the rest of the semester with as much energy as I started it with.

As I continued praying aloud, my surroundings became dream-like. It was raining, I noticed that I was standing on green grass, I smelled the river– which always floods, and I heard and felt my heart beating big, full, happy beats. There was an abundance of life in and around me. An abundance of hope. 

I finished my run feeling full of energy and life. The Spirit was flowing through me… it was exactly what I needed.

So here I sit, still trucking through my analytical report, enjoying some James Morrison Pandora (I highly recommend it). This song just came on… another friendly reminder to me that if, “There is a mountain, here before me, I’m going to climb it, with strength not my own.” 🙂 [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pLDQEbdHhz8]

Energy and strength to all of you, summer is on its way!

Kalysta Schlitter

Awake My Soul

As I sit here with all of you tonight, just as so many others have sat gathered together in this beautiful sanctuary and as so many will in the years to come, I struggle to comprehend how it is that the past four years of my life have gone so fast, and moreover all that has happened that has led me to this spot right here on this floor. Wasn’t it just yesterday that I was driving down to St. Peter to start what I thought was going to be the first of four years at Gustavus? Didn’t I just transfer here? I feel like I just got here. And what will happen once I leave? What will happen to everyone? In this Easter season, I can’t help but notice the hamsters of questioning and fear as they spin on their wheels in my head and in all of these questions and fears picture myself as one of the disciples walking unknowingly with Jesus on the road to Emmaus. Or perhaps, I should say the road to the U of M. Over these three years, I have seen and done and learned and loved and lost and grown…a lot. For a lot of that time it has been all too easy for me to get lost in those questions, just like the disciples, of the what if’s and whys, even to the point of wandering into the desert for periods of time, but somehow I have always found my way back to the road. It is through these more difficult times of my college career, dealing with school, vocational calling, and relationships to name a few, that I always find myself thinking of something my dad told me as a kid.

I grew up being very active in the Boy Scouts, ultimately achieving the rank of Eagle Scout, and along the way my parents, particularly my dad, were always there to support me. He would always come along on as many of my camping trips as he could and one memory that stands out clearly was from when I was about 12 or 13. We were in our tent packing up our gear to head home and I was struggling to roll up my sleeping bag properly. I’ve always been one to do things for myself and it was clear to my dad that after the fifth time I was getting ticked. He calmly said “Here, let me show you, and pay attention, because I’m not always going to be here to show you”. While both my parents are thankfully still around today, those words have always stuck with me.  As Jesus came among the disciples when they were in confusion and disbelief, so too I think we are called to remember that wherever we are, whatever we are doing, those closest to you may not be there in that moment physically, but what they have said and taught during their time with you will never leave.

Like the words of my father, there are so many things that I have learned and experienced during my time with the many people that make up LCM that have made my time here so wonderful. I could give you a list of names and places and events, but it’s deeper than that. It is here that God has become present through all sorts of community. I’ve realized what it means to live together in a community that supports you for who you are. That says “Hey it’s ok Mr. German perfectionist, none of us have it all figured out either, and that’s not the point, so just take it easy once in a while ok”? Like the disciples in the text from tonight who were called and sent to perform different tasks within the church, the important part to recognize here is that all were called to use the gifts they brought, all were called to work together, like us, to be the hands and feet of God in the world. And what I find particularly exciting about this is the first part where it says “Now during those days when the disciples were increasing in number”

“Now during those days…”

As I look at all of you, particularly the relative new comers, the future leaders, the future hands and feet that will continue to guide this amazing community in the years to come, I can’t help but change that line to “Now during these days” These days, when some of us prepare to leave, to take a turn onto a different road, other people’s roads will merge with the one we left behind and make it even stronger, unique and beautiful.

And as you prepare to go forth and continue building our community each in your own way, I hope and pray that it continues to be one rooted in the spirit of love. If my time as a part of the LCM community has taught me anything, it is the meaning and power of love as an extension of our radical hospitality towards one another in sharing our lives together. Coming to college, and even after my first two years, I was stuck in this romantic-esque rut of understanding love in very superficial terms that always had the plot running the same way. I’d meet someone, hit it off, date all through college, graduate, get married. Yea right. Guess I’ve watched UP too many times. Through many different experiences I have learned that there is more to it than that.  Ultimately, I have come to understand what it means to love each and every member of this community for who they are as a person and the light that they shine. For this time with all of you whether it was a few years or a few minutes, I will be forever grateful that I have been able to do my best to follow Micah’s words and walk humbly with each of you and our God, to do justice whether it be in Minneapolis or Chiapas, and all along on this messy road of life, continue to love kindness.

 “He has told you, O mortal, what is good: and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God”.

As you continue on your own road, may your soul continue to awaken with new questions, possibilities, friendships and love.

 

Mark

Power of Community

Community is something truly unique and beautiful in humanity.  Our ability to communicate and reach out to other, to feel included and have a purpose is extremely powerful.  This sense of community is even more important in times of transition and questioning.  This is not something that everyone feels they have and that loneliness can be detrimental. Yesterday LCM joined the University in raising awareness for Mental Health issues.  As a faith based community we had the opportunity to share why it is important for us to be a light for people in their darkest days.  So mental health issues have affected many of us in LCM personally or by those we care deeply for.

By participating in this event I feel like I got to be a part of something so much greater.  To know that our community at large on campus is interested in Mental Health and understand the effects it has on our family, friends and ourselves.  It was a blessing to be able to put wristbands on strangers and know that an image of community is spreading throughout campus. 

My hope for this day is that people have a chance to understand that they are not alone. That people care for their well-being and that these moments of darkness are normal.  I hope that they can understand the power of community to help heal the wounds we have.  I am so blessed and thankful to be a part of a community on campus that loves so deeply and cares so wildly for those on our campus.

-Allison

Giving thanks in the Holy Land

I’m currently studying abroad in Israel at the University of Haifa and have been here about two months. In that time I have seen where Jesus lived and died, visited sites holy to millions across the globe of many faiths, and experienced history stretching back thousands of years. It has been truly awe-inspiring.

Among it all, though, I believe the most memorable and impacting moments will still stem from the people I have met along the way and the profound conversations we have had. And for that, I need to thank Kate and LCM.

Within days of being in this new country, I found myself in deep conversations about religion, politics, identity, all extending far past the surface chit-chat that generally occupies the early space of acquaintances. I hadn’t realized the rarity of this until one of my roommates (from Boston) pointed out: “You ask the questions all of us are wondering but are too afraid to ask.”

I thought about that for a bit, then I thought back to one-to-one conversation training during LCM leader training a couple years ago. We learned there to take that extra step and ask the questions that might not be entirely comfortable. People are often very willing to descend past the surface level with you very quickly.

I no longer think of conversations in relation to this one-to-one training, but evidently it has become engrained in my manner of forming relationships. I have friendships here based in our ability to discuss our differing perspectives instead of acquaintances intent on skirting around them. I have learned about identities from Arab-Israelis, Jewish-Israelis, an American Messianic Jew, and a Guyanese whose family converted from Christianity to Judaism. And in the coming months I will continue to deepen these relationships and form new ones with the vast array of people this small country attracts and forms.

So this is my thank you to you, Kate, and to everyone involved in LCM for promoting such an open, curious, and respectful community that extends far beyond the University of Minnesota campus.

Thank you,

Bryna Godar

A Perilous Journey

Cancun, Playa del Carmen, the Maya Riviera: all popular Mexican spring break destinations flooded by college students every March.  So which Mexican destination did a few lucky LCMers choose?  That’s right, Palenque, a rural town in the Southeastern state of Chiapas.  Our experience could not have been further away from the resort vacations of our collegiate friends.  Through the organization called Amextra, students spent a muggy hot week learning about Mexican culture through a variety of meetings with non-profit groups, locals from rural villages, and university students from a local college.  In a week of amazing experiences, perhaps the most impressionable was a visit to the Immigrant House in downtown Palenque.

Immigrant houses, like that in Palenque, dot the railways through Mexico, offering refuge for Central American and Mexican immigrants alike on their long journey to the States.  As a Midwesterner, I had never really been confronted with immigrant issues, and considered myself to be fairly neutral on policy.  Yet on our trip to Chiapas I found myself immersed completely in the issues and people they involve.  The nuns who run the house explained to us the tremendous violence towards immigrants and extreme danger each faces on their journey.  These men and women ride atop passing freight trains, with the hope of finding a job in the States to make enough money to return and support their families.  Only about 3 in 1000 actually make it to the United States, many are caught and sent back to their home country, or killed by organized crime.  At this point in the conversation we found ourselves surrounded by every single person who currently inhabited the house.  Young men, older men, a young women, first time immigrants, and men who had been in the states for years only to be deported, each with their own heartbreaking stories and dreams.

We were told the story of a man who had lived in Salt Lake City for 13 years and had been deported only 10 days prior to our meeting.  The story of another man who left his girlfriend in Arizona after he was deported.  The stories of others who only wanted to work for a strong American dollar in order to provide for their families.  How many times had I heard that immigrants were in the States, taking jobs from hard working Americans?  Yet here I was staring into the faces that so many Americans feared as job competition.  And let me tell you, it was hard to keep any validity to this argument.

Hearing these stories I came to a simple yet profound realization.   We are all people.  All children of God.  We all want the best for those we love.  We all want to be able support and provide for them.  Yet we put up so many barriers, ways to separate and privilege one person over another, when clearly the only difference between me and any of these people was that I was blessed to be born on the side of the dividing line that doesn’t require a life threatening journey to be hired. If only the citizens of our country could experience what we were blessed to experience, perhaps we could change the discrimination and danger that these men and women face.  While policy is not always so black and white, the need for change and justice is undeniable.  For equality among all of God’s children, whether they be born into a small Midwestern suburb or a village in Honduras, each deserves the opportunity to simply provide for those they love.  By bringing back these stories we can put a face to the issue, combating an argument that paints our fellow human beings as competition.  We bring these experiences back so the unfair barriers we put up between one another may begin to be broken down and change may come.

Lindsey M.

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Embracing Change

Change — something that I have never particularly been fond of. I’m a creature of habit and love the sense of security that comes with it. I am also very analytical, so when it comes to making a decision, my brain flies wild trying to factor in way too many things. Propagating potential outcomes way too far out for any accuracy — and continually converging to the realization that there are too many unknown variables!!

A few years ago on a LCM retreat, I don’t remember exactly who, but someone mentioned this phrase, and it has stuck with me ever since:

There is no growth in the comfort zone and no comfort in the growth zone.

I have been coming to terms with the fact that in order for me to grow, I need to step outsize of my comfortable Minnesota undergraduate life and into a very exciting but scarily unknown California graduate life. I have explored lots of the possible factors (taken graduate courses, performed research, explored the city, visited the campus, met with students and faculty) but I am still hesitant to make it final. To sign the acceptance letter (yikes!). To move to California (so far away!) for 5+ years (really long time!). To pursue a Ph.D (really difficult!). It’s overwhelming to think too much about.

Through my endless self-doubts and stressful decision making process, I still have had a great sense of comfort and support. And what ever happens tomorrow, a month or a year from now, I know that I will always have a little bit of my comfort zone with me where ever I go. God has brought such an amazing support system into my life (LCM, friends, family) that I know will be with me every step of the way — and words cannot express my gratefulness for that. Even in times of great change, I know that I can trust in the Lord to be that sense of security as I venture into the unknown.

The Prayer of Good Courage from Mountain Vespers (Kent Gustavson) has been a wonderful blessing to me to remember this:

Oh God you have called us | To ventures where we cannot see the end | By paths never yet taken | Through perils unknown | Give us good courage | Not knowing where we go | To know that your hand is leading us | Wherever we might go | Amen

-Valerie

Footsteps

This past week was spring break for the University of Minnesota –Twin Cities. Typically at this time many college age students flock to warm, tropical places like Florida or Mexico (not unlike some LCMers that went to Oaxaca). However, there were some students that decided to spend their spring break in sunny, warm Minneapolis, MN (not only did it snow earlier in the week, but it wasn’t all that warm or sunny…) to be a part of an Urban Immersion program through the Greater Minneapolis Council of Churches. Despite the lack of sunshine and warmth, the experiences had through the Urban Immersion program were eye-opening and thought provoking.

On the first night at Urban Immersion we met a wonderful group of Catholic students from St.  Steven’s at the University of Northern Iowa (UNI). We talked about service and justice, defined these terms, and applied their meanings in the world in which we live. One of the UNI students talked about the two-step approach to service and justice. It was explained something like this: in order to walk a person needs two feet, similarly there needs to be a two-step approach for justice and service in order for progress to be made. One foot is justice, which we defined as advocacy and fixing the problem that is causing the injustice, and the other foot is direct service, which is providing people in need with the services needed such as food, shelter, and in some cases home furnishings. Both of these “feet” are needed to help people in need so that the cycle of poverty may be broken.

The next evening we took part in a poverty simulation where a small group of students acted as a family of five. We were in charge of spending the parent’s combined salary of $3,000/month (the father made $11.50/hour and the mother made $10/hour –reasonable starting wages in the Twin Cities) to provide housing, transportation, health care, child care, clothing, and entertainment for the family. Throughout the simulation there were many difficulties that arose that emulated what life is like living in poverty, living paycheck to paycheck. At the end of the simulation not one group was able to break even although many cost saving techniques were utilized.  This activity shed so much light on the brokenness within our current system – high costs of living and low minimum wages (it was calculated that an appropriate minimum wage should be $14/hour), poor transportation to the areas that need public transit the most, and inadequate health care coverage. This exercise made me indignant towards the injustices strewn about our system. How can a family that is doing honest work and trying so desperately to make ends meet not be able to break even?

Throughout this Urban Immersion experience we were in contact with individuals that live the life of the simulation family every day. We met people through Bridging (a home furnishings organization for immigrants and people with permanent housing), Loaves and Fishes (a community meal program at River of Life Lutheran Church in North Minneapolis), and St. Anne’s (a Hennepin county women’s shelter in North Minneapolis). In my mind, these people put a face and a life story to poverty. These are the people that need the system to change the most, but the system will not change unless there are people to advocate for system reform. To me, a few of the salient issues that need addressing include higher minimum wage requirements, access to more affordable housing, and better transportation to lower income areas such as North Minneapolis. However, these issues will not change unless there are people to advocate for them to change. After this Urban Immersion experience I am further convinced that advocating for others is how the cycle of poverty can be broken. It will take a lot of effort, time, and attempts to try to change a broken system and the minds of people, but ultimately this will result in a better quality of life for all, a healthier Minnesota, and potentially a healthier America. One footstep, followed by another footstep…

Laura Sr.