How to be Generous, Even When You Feel Empty

I think this a phrase that all college students have said or heard more times than we could count.

Being Real: Self Reflection

As a volunteer for The Aurora Center, I am expected to attend monthly volunteer meetings.

Vision Teams Leaves for Iona in Scotland

Dear LCM community,

I am so excited to write to you all today as part of the 2017 LCM Vision Team, which includes myself and my fearless counterparts: Jonah and Regina. Every year, three students are nominated by their fellow student leaders to identify a growing edge of our LCM community, visit another Christian community to learn about how others approach a similar issue and bring our learnings and thoughts back to our LCM community.

Identifying this growing edge was somewhat of a challenging process for us. We each had different opinions about what aspect of a community and church’s life was most important. We disagreed about what we thought was working well and what we thought could be improved. Through these challenging and hopeful conversations, one theme jumped out; that was that we all experienced our faith differently. In the end, we chose to explore differences in people’s experiences of faith and spirituality through the framework of Corrine Ware’s four spiritual types.

Most of us were first exposed to the idea of “spiritual types” at the LCM winter leader retreat last January. Through informal polling and conversation, we discovered that LCM tends to have individuals of all spiritual types but as a whole, we tend to lean more heavily toward two of the four types (more on all this in blogs to follow!).   As the vision team, we settled on the question of how LCM might make space for people of all types to feel welcome and fulfilled; and how can we as individuals grow by stepping outside our comfort zones and walking alongside those who experience their faith differently than ourselves?

In pursuit of this question, we will be journeying to the island of Iona in Scotland to spend a week with the Iona Christian community, established at a former abbey and monastery. We chose this community because it is comprised of members who live on the island as well as a network of members around the globe who are committed to living their lives following the principles of the group. The community embraces mystery, pioneers new music and ways of worshipping, and is committed to putting their faith in action in the public square.  We are so excited to learn from this community about how we might build a community which can hold diverse spiritual needs, and kinds of religious expression.

Stay tuned at this blog to hear more about how we’re growing and learning as individuals, as well as our hopes and dreams for the formation of our 2017-18 LCM Community at the U!

By Julie Wall

Come Now, O Prince of Peace

“Come now, O Prince of Peace, make us one body.  Come, O Lord Jesus, reconcile your people. Come, Hope of Unity, make us one body. Come, O Lord Jesus, reconcile all nations.” –Evangelical Lutheran Worship Book, #247

I have found this song passing through my mind many times throughout this semester, and it seems even more appropriate now in the season of Advent than ever. Both personally and as a part of larger groups, we have felt much brokenness and division lately. Whether this pain stems from political uncertainty or hateful vandalism, we acknowledge our need for healing and unity. While we may tend to look to ourselves for answers or try to ignore the problem, this text points us upward. People are doing amazing and beautiful work to serve others and create bridges between peoples, but we also know that this work can only be perfected and completed through Christ. We turn to God of guidance in work, and God turns to us to do this work, and we rest in the knowledge that someday Christ will in fact “reconcile all nations.” In this season of advent we wait, we long, we hope, and we trust that something beautiful is coming.

Come Lord Jesus.

Written by Julie Wall (LCM Servant Leader)

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.

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!!)

Recharging Without Technology

In late May, I had the amazing opportunity to take a pilgrimage with Lutheran Campus Ministry to the monastic village of Taizé in France. (See Pastor Kate’s blog here!). While this community is known around the world for numerous things, such as their beautiful prayer services and the Brothers themselves, one thing that I particularly grew to love while at Taizé was their limited use of technology and the internet, and how that helped me take a break from the world and find peace after coming from such a hectic semester.

I’m actually surprised how relaxing and freeing it was to be completely disconnected from the outside world because I am such an internet junkie; just about anyone can tell you how much I love social media or how I reference random Youtube videos all the time.

Even when I’m travelling and I have the rare opportunity to set down my phone and be thousands of miles away from my stressful, sometimes chaotic life, I don’t let myself get away from it all and just be.

This lead me to be a little worried about the low tech aspect of Taizé that I had heard so much about because I am so dependent on it. Yet, it also made me excited to leave my stressors behind and just have a week focused on faith (which truth be told was something I really needed).

While at Taizé, I didn’t use my phone for an entire week. There wasn’t cell service, so I wasn’t texting or calling somebody every few minutes. There wasn’t WiFi surrounding the village, so no easy access to Facebook or email. (In fact, if you wanted to use the internet, you had to be quite methodical about it and buy a Wi-Fi card. Then, you had to go to a specific area of Taizé which was the only deemed Wi-Fi zone).

The first night was admittedly difficult because I’m so used to scrolling through my phone at night. But after that, I was thrilled to be rid of my phone and internet; I didn’t even once think about going to buy a Wi-Fi card.

At Taizé, I met so many amazing people that I have now become friends with from all over the world and the best part about interacting with them was that none of us were distracted by our phones. When I would talk with someone, there wasn’t a screen in front of our faces the entire time; we would just talk, pure human interaction. This unhindered communication allowed us to really open up and get to know one another in an extremely fast and deep way, which is nearly impossible to replicate back in the States with technology so readily at our fingertips.

Yes, technology is fantastic and technology is actually what is helping me keep these great Taizé friendships thriving. But we need to remember on a daily basis not to let it own us; our phone is just a hunk of plastic and we have the power to turn it off for an hour, or even a day, to get some alone time.

It is also worth remembering that there are few things greater than having a face to face, in-person conversation with somebody and we should try our best to not let our phones get in the way of building those relationships. I truly believe we see God through interacting with others, and when we use our technology to put up a wall between us and the other or to distract ourselves from the world, we aren’t being fully present on this earth and we aren’t being fully present with God.

As stated before, I am a self-proclaimed internet lover and I’m not looking to give it up anytime soon. But after coming home from Taizé, I am continuing to make efforts to curb my usage of it, like by turning off my phone while I pray, leaving it in my purse when hanging out with a friend or just listening to the sounds of the city when walking home from work, instead of blasting music. It’s hard to pull yourself away sometimes, but when I do, I feel so refreshed and not as overwhelmed by the busyness of life.

It’s amazing the beautiful, normal, everyday things you can miss while being sucked in by technology; I want to intentionally choose to miss out on less of these things.

-Dana Rademacher

Chipped Vessels

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I recently traveled to the ecumenical monastic community in Taize, France (called “Taize”) with LCM’s small student vision team. This community is fascinating for a number of reasons; it’s most known for it’s contemplative worship and music, and it’s also a point of pilgrimage for hundreds if not thousands of young adults across the world EACH week. Most interesting and inspiring to me, however, is its inception as a place of reconciliation –a community born in a call to respond to the Jewish refugee crisis in 1940 – and the way that community lives out it’s call to reconciliation now.

One of the ways the brothers of Taize support this ministry is by selling pottery. I purchased this beautiful blue chalice and paten (cup and plate) to be used for communion, and shared by LCM and the community of Grace University Lutheran Church (see above). All sorts of beautiful metaphors were stirring in my mind. And then, despite carrying it on, and lugging it on trains, buses and planes, on the way home it chipped.  Which was deeply disappointing to me. After some thought, however, I decided to save the plate, and use it anyway.

What a more fitting tribute to our shared humanity, our brokenness as individuals, and the way we are gathered together as Christ’s body.

Our community at LCM has long prided itself as being a place of theological and political diversity, and this year we struggled with how to live that out. There was some discord, and some division, We are, as humans and human community, almost always in need of reconciliation. We own that.

And we also proclaim that it’s into those chipped vessels, those broken places, and those cracks that God’s light shines, with power and purpose.

The team of students that traveled to Taize was called by their peers to explore a Christian community different than our own. They were also charged with bringing back and integrating those learnings into our community. After we left Taize, we spent a good chunk of our (one!) day in Paris reflecting on our year as a community, and what we might bring back so that LCM can continue growing into a thriving, generative community that bears witness to God’s love on campus.

We talked for a long time about theological diversity, what it means to claim a particular theology and still make room for difference, how we’re all (as in ALL of us) still figuring out how to do that well, and how we can to that better in the coming year. Going into our broken places is hard, and without this trip, I doubt we would have had time and space for this conversation.

We don’t yet have the answers, but again, Taize may have something to teach us. When asked about their mission of reconciliation and how they live that out, Brother Emille said that they “trust, and pray.”   While that honestly seemed to be a bit naïve to me at first, when faced with our own situation it seems like the best way to proceed; trusting in God and our community that we’ll work together to bind up the broken pieces, and rooting ourselves in prayer as our starting point. I pray that it’s as simple, and as complicated, and as deep as that.

In Anthem, Leonard Cohen croons,

“Ring the bell

that still can ring.

Forget

Your perfect offering.

There is a crack

A crack

In everything.

That’s how the light gets in.

That’s how the light gets in.

This chip, this crack, in our paten/plate will continue to remind me of our time at Taize, and our striving to experience reconciliation. In the meantime, we also trust and pray that God shows up in our cracks, shining so much light and beauty and hope into our lives, into your lives, and into this world.
May it be so.

Pastor Kate

Faith in Hong Kong

Dear everybody,

I’m away from the LCM community this semester, taking my adventures abroad to Hong Kong! I’m really enjoying my time here and I’m learning a lot about myself and what it’s like to be a Christian here. One of my highest priorities coming here was to find a Christian community that will help me grow in my relationship with God. Surprisingly, finding a Christian community is not the hard part- finding one in English is! There are at least 4 Christian groups at the university I am studying at, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST). One Catholic, one for Mainland students in Mandarin, one for locals in Cantonese, and Campus Crusade for Christ (known as CCC here, Cru in the U.S.) which is mostly in Cantonese but has a 3-yr-old English sub-division called Agape. So I joined Agape! Agape has about half local students, half international students, many of whom are exchange students from the U.S.

The most striking thing about Christians here is their commitment to their faith. They are very willing to share their faith with others, which is much needed at HKUST. Students at HKUST often get caught up pursuing grades and GPA and success at whatever cost. Many base their lives around their ability to perform on tests. This manifests itself in a high suicide rate which just breaks my heart. Students here are so smart and have so many wonderful opportunites, but aren’t given the support that they need due to the culture that places so much weight on certain ideas of success. I aim to learn from my friends in Agape how to spread God’s love at HKUST and to inspire others to work for a higher purpose.

I also joined a fellowship group (not related to HKUST) for undergraduates and recently-graduated young adults. Last night, the topic of our discussion was the Occupy Central and Student Protests that have been taking place over the last 2 weeks. The movement started with student boycott of classes at the major universities in HK to protest a recent ruling by the CCP regarding the election process of HK’s chief executive. My university participated in the boycott, but had lower participation rates than other universities. Last Friday, protests escalated when police used pepper spray to try to dissolve a protest. In response, the Occupy Central pro-democracy group and many other citizens joined the students. The protests continued for a few more days, but have since lessened with the promise of talks between HK’s current chief executive, CY Leung, and the student groups. Until last night, when it re-escalated as pro-Beijing citizens, fed up with the pro-democracy protests, violently attacked protesters still assembled at one of the sites. Now, I’m avoiding those areas and waiting for what is next.

Our discussion was about whether it is right, as Christians, to participate in the protests and Occupy Central movement. It was an interesting discussion, as the fellowship members were a diverse group all with varying backgrounds: local students, international students, exchange students and expats here for work. Some supported the pro-democracy protests, some didn’t, and some (like me) felt they didn’t have a say in the matter. But what we concluded was that we must proceed by what we feel is right. As Christians, we are supposed to obey the laws, except in cases of injustice (Isaiah 1:17). If HKers feel the law is unjust, and many do, then it is okay to participate in peaceful protest. One thing we all absolutely agreed on was that the protest must remain peaceful. We concluded by praying for all parties involved and that a peaceful solution can be found.

Finally, I just wanted to let you all know that I am safe and far away from the affected areas. Hong Kong is usually a very safe and peaceful place and it makes me sad to see violence here. I feel like this is my second (third? fourth? I’ve lost track) home!

Much love,

Emily

Tea Breaks

The last semester of senior year is, to no one’s surprise, a stressful time. Not only are you juggling school, work and clubs, but also trying to figure out your next steps in life. Finding a job, figuring out your place in the world, it is all very stressful stuff! As I am currently in the midst of sending out applications and putting my next year into focus, I have found the beauty of tea breaks.

Having taken a number of tea breaks in my time abroad, I have tried to maintain that moment of breathing. There is something wonderful about realizing you are tired and doing something about it. My days have become long and busy, but realizing that I can and should take 15 minutes to just sip a cup of tea has been a joy.   God has a way of making us realize our own limits and God also has a way of giving us small joys in times of chaos. So even when I feel like life full and my “to do” list is too long, I have found joy in my moments of pause. I truly know that God is with us through everything but it can be hard to notice God’s presence if we don’t take a moment to stop. To stop and breath. To stop and sit, To stop and drink a hot cup of tea.