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.

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?

Actually existing in a world that encourages artificiality

Written by Mara Bowman

On move in day, I walked through the hallways of Territorial Hall—squeezing past piles of cardboard boxes and random futons parents had placed in the already narrow halls—and shoved moving carts back out to the front entrance. The influx of 700 new residents created a couple busy days for me and the other Community Advisors (CAs). It felt simultaneously like a decade and a minute since I had been moving into T-hall myself as a freshman only a year before, and here I was again at the start of another school year; except this time was different.

Once the parents said their long goodbyes, my residents were left to their own devices. Some emerged from their rooms and began talking to each other, asking surface level questions about majors and hometowns. Freshman would probably tell you that one of the biggest anxieties of starting college is finding friends. For many, this is the first time they’ve been thrown into an entirely new and uncharted territory. Last year, I came to the U where I only knew five people out of 30,000 and those five were high school classmates I wasn’t even close with. College can be an amazing time to meet truly genuine people and form life-long connections. However, the intense pressure we feel to establish a friend group can lead to us putting up facades in order to fit the mold of the first friend group we find in a desperation to feel belonging. Sometimes we transform into people we don’t recognize just to fit in.

As a CA it’s a huge part of my job to make impactful connections with my residents. We regularly talk about how to make meaningful connections in staff meetings, and my boss will have weekly check-ins to see how these are developing. I’m supposed to be someone they can come to with their roommate issues, questions about school or just feel comfortable talking openly with. From the comfortable distance of one year of college experience, and in my new role as a CA, I got to watch freshman interact in ways that were all too familiar. The fragility of the new connections prevents the presence of vulnerability in our relationships. Maybe it’s trying to hide the fact that you’re homesick, or that you regularly struggle with a mental illness, or that you don’t love college life as much as everyone said you would. Instead we have to appear perfectly put together. The absence of real spaces means these deep parts of ourselves are bottled up inside, weighing us down. We become too busy trying to cover up these very real conflicts in our lives, that we’re too afraid to be real.

Being honest and real about our beliefs and struggles is a conflict that has existed for, well, forever. Martin Luther was a guy who had some issues with the Catholic Church. In fact, he got so fired up about it he nailed a list of his grievances on a door, all 95 of them, a bold move that we’re celebrating the 500th anniversary of this year. His willingness to be open about his discomfort, and the dissonance he felt in his beliefs, led to a formation of an entirely new way of looking at God: through a lens of grace and forgiveness.

Luther’s new ideas weren’t exactly welcomed with open arms. The Catholic Church didn’t throw him a parade and toss roses at his feet, they were actually pretty unhappy with him. Being real sometimes means taking a risk that people won’t like who you are, or what you have to say—a step that can be intimidating and scary. Luther took the initiative to create a new space in which he could be real about his ideas, and find common ground with others who shared his frustrations. Participating in spaces where everything about ourselves is celebrated and accepted—even if we don’t all agree on it—is vital to our spiritual, emotional, and physical well-being.

God knows who you are. God loves and accepts the parts of us we have a difficult time admitting to others, or even ourselves. Immersing ourselves in real spaces permits us to see the infinite bounds of God’s love and God often manifests that reminder in people we find sitting next to us in these real spaces.

Real spaces surround us with people who celebrate the people God has made us to be and the people we are striving to become. LCM has been that source for me; it has challenged me to be honest about who I am, showed me the boundless acceptance of a community that strives to grow, and challenges our ideas of who we are and who God is in the world today.

Luther didn’t upset the Catholic Church so he could sit at the cool kids table. He relished in his own vulnerability and was real about his beliefs. Be real about who you are and find spaces that support you in moments of vulnerability. When we practice a life of authenticity, and surround ourselves with people who celebrate the people we are and the people we want to become, we’ll hopefully find a life of joy.

Real spaces combat a world that tells us we’ll never be enough. Real spaces are a celebration of the “city kids and country kids, introverts and extroverts….the Engineers and English majors, questioning and certain, poor and rich.” All are a part of the body of Christ. Actively seek out spaces where you are reminded of the boundless acceptance and love God has for you each and every day.

Welcome to the University of Minnesota!

Hello amazing, wonderful, human!

I hope I find you in good health, a happy spirit, and excitement for the upcoming year. There will be a lot going on when you arrive on campus, and it will be beyond exciting to get started on your path to the “real world,” but let me tell you something in advance—there’s going to come a moment when you realize that you’re exhausted and you need a break.

I’m going to let you in on a little secret. It’s something that, I will admit, I had help discovering. It’s a group that is full of so much passion and energy but also creates the perfect time to finally Pause. From exploring your dorm and running around all three banks during Welcome Week to getting lost on campus and having to stop someone and say, “Excuse me but could you direct me to ___,” I know it will be a long, tiresome, exciting, funny, stressful adventure, and you’ll be in desperate need for some place to just stop, take a deep breath, and relax.

Look no further—Lutheran Campus Ministry, aka LCM, is the place for you! The first Wednesday night I went to worship, an hour service called Pause, was during a thunderstorm. It was maybe the third week into the school year and I arrived at Grace University Lutheran Church drenched and stressed out. I was still making the transition from living at home with my family to living at school. My pastor from my home church recommended LCM to me, and I hoped that in my time of need for familiarity, I could find a bit of peace.

I realized I was walking into an unfamiliar space by myself during the third week they had already been gathering, and I thought, “What were you thinking???” Nevertheless, I did it anyway. I was greeted at the door and from there to the sanctuary, I was welcomed at least four times before I took a seat next to a stranger. We ended up making conversation and the next thing I know, I found myself singing Mountain Vespers, which were already near and dear to my heart. It was so special to experience walking into somewhere brand new, not really knowing what to expect, but feeling right at home. After the service, we gathered downstairs to enjoy conversation and treats and I found myself signing up for the LCM fall retreat (with people I had now known for a total of two hours—and by the way, the retreat was a blast)!

I came to Pause hoping to find peace in a time of transition, but I found much more than that. I was welcomed into a community of grace and hope and curiosity. The night I decided to see what LCM was all about, I found something so special that once I found it, I never left.

May you find peace when you need it most and happiness always.

Love,
Gretchen Glewwe

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)

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

A senior looks back…

It has been a wonderful experience being involved in Lutheran Campus Ministry since I started as a freshman. For those of you who don’t know, I have had the pleasure of being a part of this group for 8 and a half semesters (4 ½ years). In my time here, I have really been able to build a lot of relationships that have been really positive in my life. I met some awesome Muslim students that I was able to learn from and serve with in New York. I’ve met some great friends that deeply care about me and check up on me. I’ve met some really cool guys that study scripture together at Men’s group. It was also through LCM that I met my Fiancée, Meghan Lane.

In the passage in Luke, Chapter 24, the disciples were “talking with each other and discussing everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him.” This passage is really profound for me, because I often wonder how the disciples could not recognize Jesus, the man that they had spent nearly three to three and a half years with together. That is just about the same amount of time the average student in LCM spends with another student in the same graduating class, except that Jesus and his friends were with each other almost 24/7 during that stretch of time. I usually only see Jeremy on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays while classes are in session, but I still can’t even imagine walking down scholars walk and not being able to recognize him if he came up to me.

To me, I think that Jesus was disguising himself as someone different, kind of like the show Joan of Arcadia that used to air on CBS. For those of you unfamiliar with the show, the premise was that God appeared to a teenage girl named Joan in the form of a different person every time she encountered God. God appeared to Joan as anyone ranging from a plumber to a librarian, an elder or a small child. I think the biggest thing that I took away from this show and this scripture is that God is present in each and every one of us and can show up in the places we may least expect.

In my journey through college, I have met some really incredible people, with really incredible stories to share. People come from a lot of different situations in life, but despite our differences, we can learn from each other and build relationships that bring us together. Lutheran Campus Ministry has been a great place for me to grow within this large campus, because I have learned what it means to see God in your neighbor. I have met a lot of great people along the way, and I hope to continue to grow in my relationships with those I’ve met, and those I have yet to meet later on in my life.   – Joe

Spring Break!

LCM is doing a stay-cation of sorts for spring break 2015. We are going to spend some time playing learning and serving right here in the Twin Cities!

Are you looking for a way to make a difference this Spring Break? Do you feel called to be the change you wish to see in the world, right here where you live?

Then this Alternative Spring Break is for you! We’ll 1/3 of our time serving in the Phillips area (working with Community Emergency Service), 1/3 of our time reflecting on faith, justice, and sharing our stories with each other, and 1/3 of our time playing in the metro area.

Our hope is that each participant is outside of his/her comfort zone, and well within his/her comfort zone at some point within these five days; and that all people experience the growth that comes from taking risks in community!

Check out this cool poster for more details: Spring Break 2015

To sign up RSVP on our facebook event here: https://www.facebook.com/events/609735189155438/

If you have any questions please contact me, Colleen Maki, Intern for Service and Social Justice via email at colleen@umnlutheran.org.

God’s peace to you on this day!

12-8 I’m so Close to Graadumacaitng

Hello guys my brain is very melty and my fingers are very buff. I am typing at incredible rates. Today Hallie, Caitlin, Wes and I went to Kate’s cottage and hung out with her and her husband Jim and their baby Benjamin and LCM’s interns Colleen and Tim. We all sat around in her living room and enjoyed some quality conversation and home-cooked food, cake, and hot apple cider. It was much needed for me, because I have been alternating between working really hard on school stuff and then cramming in fun social outings, but never making time to just sit and talk. It is not my personality as much to be in a relaxed environment. I tend to be more of a GO-er and a DO-er. When I take the time to sit down and check in with some of my fellow Christians, it always proves to be a good time. Then I realize how important it is to do that from time to time, because as busy as I feel like my life is, if I don’t keep up with others’ happenings they will speed right by me! Sometimes staying in touch can be a difficult thing, but some people are worth it. Saying goodbye to my LCMers is gonna be the toughest part of graduating. It’s the one part of finishing college that I am not excited about. I am currently doing a lot of writing. I geared my classes toward my writing abilities because that is my strong suit, and now I’m feeling the heat as I am cranking out the pages. I still like it though. It will be cool to write about whatever I want instead of what I am assigned, and research things that pop into my head instead of things that somebody smarter than me suggests. Upon the culmination of my education, I can see how much my eyes have been opened to a lot of problems in the world and it makes me want to spread the word to people who didn’t have the resources to come to college and learn about issues beyond what they tell you in high school. That’s why in January, my dear boyfriend and I will be au pairing in Florence, Italy, teaching Italian kids English and absorbing some of their culture ourselves. It’ll be a nice exchange, and I will escape the brutal winter! The problem is, my host-mother dumped me so now I have to find another gig. I am confident that I will, but it is pretty stressful. I don’t want to put myself through long distance. In my last relationship, it took a huge toll on me. Now that school and work won’t be tying my to this place, I am happy to be able to extend my freedom and go wherever I please. I can’t wait to visit the beautiful cathedrals in Italy, and have more peaceful time to listen for God’s voice and reflect, and communicate more with family and friends. LCM has helped me settle into my faith enough that I will feel secure bringing it with me all over the world. When I have questions or challenges from learning others’ perspectives, I know I can work through them and God won’t think anything less of me. Grace Lutheran will always hold a special place in my heart. I extend thanks and compassion to everyone I have connected with through the community. I hope that you guys will continue to reach out to me if you ever need to talk, I’m all ears. God bless