Compelled to Inclusivity

Written by Olivia Olson

We’ve all experienced that awful feeling of rejection and loneliness before – whether it was during elementary school gym class and you were picked last for the team, being dumped, ignored, or ghosted by someone we care about, or get rejected from that job we really wanted.  It makes us feel really crummy inside – that we aren’t good enough, talented enough, or good-looking enough. Unfortunately, this happens in so many situations, and happens frequently enough, that it can really wear on people without us even noticing unless we are personally affected. Sometimes, we even hurt others without realizing it through what we simply fail to do. It’s so easy for us to go about our daily lives, living in our own bubble, without reaching outside of that bubble to welcome others in and include them in our already created communities and lives. I am guilty of this, and I’ve found that it’s not as easy to shake that habit as I want it to be.

IMG_2382 (1)

Here’s a picture of Olivia serving at a nearby food shelf with fellow LCMer, Jordan.

But, as a Christian, I am continually reminded about the importance of including others and welcoming them for who they are, as well as challenged on a daily basis to follow through with this calling. It seems so insignificant to do something as simple as welcome someone into a community, but the impact it has on someone’s life and self-positivity can be enormous. Far too often, people are rejected by family members, community, or the larger public for beliefs and identities they hold or ways they live. Oftentimes, the church has not been a good role model in these situations, for even though the very basis of our faith is to love everyone, we still end up putting stipulations on that love and acceptance and reject people and turn them away. But that’s the thing – the foundations of Christianity are love and inclusivity, as we are called to be God’s hands and feet and beating heart in this crazy world today.

I am so blessed to be a part of the LCM community, for each week I see and experience the love and welcome that this community is filled with. It’s a powerful motivator for me to take this sense of welcoming and bring it with me into each day and share it with those that I meet, and to reach out to others instead of living in my own personal bubble.

There is so much uncertainty and loneliness in our lives today, so to be able to be a light to others and show them that they are loved and always welcome seems to me the least we can do. Yes, it requires vulnerability to reach out to someone, especially if we don’t know them very well, and that definitely freaks me out. But God welcomes all of us freely into community with God and one another as humans, and that reminder and reassurance gives me a push to reach out more even when I don’t quite feel like it.  Because honestly? It’s not about me and my comfort zone, but the power of what this small action could be to someone hungering for community.

Everyday Agape

Written by Emily Hackerson

I have never been a huge fan of Valentine’s day. I never quite understood why there had to one day set aside to say “I love you.” Shouldn’t we be saying “I love you” everyday?Growing up Christian, I was always told to love my neighbor, this is difficult to do especially when your neighbor might not be of the same political mindset, same college or major, or even like the same football team and so on. It is situations like these that call for agape.

IMG_1337

Here’s a picture of Emily and her roommate/fellow LCMer, Grace, helping share agape love with students at the U of M during the spring activities fair.

Agape, in a simple definition is unconditional love. This is the love we are called to give ALL of our neighbors. This is different from eros and philos, which are the romantic and friendship type loves respectively. So, while I may not “love” my neighbor like a Valentine, I think it’s important to love them as human beings, or whichever of God’s creatures they are (I strongly believe animals are our neighbors as well, and my roommate Grace would want me to include bacteria and microbes).

I have felt this love within this campus ministry through the relationships I have made with fellow students. We all come from vastly different corners of this large University, but everyone is welcome and everyone is loved and valued. This love is agape love.

This love is recognizing a face from worship the previous week when you are on the bus from St. Paul and simply smiling and waving. A familiar face on a campus of over 50,000 people is invaluable. So, while the commercialized pink and red of Valentine’s day may not be my favorite, maybe this day is an opportunity to show your community you love them, not with chocolate boxes but with giving them your best self.

This can be difficult as students because we are constantly stressed and potentially running on very little sleep. In my experience however, people respond to positivity much better than negativity, including myself. I would use my stress to excuse being grumpy, but this only made me grumpier. Something as simple as holding an elevator or door for someone made me feel better. I know we hear these stories about doing something for someone creates a ripple effect and that feels cliché, but clichés exist for a reason. So, whether you’re a democrat or republican, STEM of humanities student, Vikings fan or Packers fan (skol) you are loved, not just by your Valentine but by your community.

The Tug of Agape (Love)

Written by Mara Bowman

One of the greatest tragedies on Valentine’s Day this year will be the discontinued candy hearts that will be missing from millions of grocery store shelves and classroom parties. If you didn’t already hear, consider LCM blogs your latest and greatest source of news. As I think about all the traditions that surround this holiday, everything about its calculated romance, commercialism, and glamour leaves a lot to be desired. Everything about it can feel…transactional.

While romantic love might be more on our minds in the context of the holiday, other types of love could use some attention. One that has particularly resonated me throughout this past year, is a form of love called agape. [And to prove that it resonated and guided my last year, I got a tattoo of it, no joke]. Agape does not resurrect for me, the whimsy of this holiday that come in the form of puns on valentine’s cards. [Although, don’t get me wrong, I’m a sucker for a good pun.] It sounds simple, but it isn’t. Agape calls us to dig deeper than that—agape calls us to love in ways that are unexpected and challenging.

So what is agape love? To say it simply, it is sacrificial, selfless, unconditional, loving without expectation of return. [Here’s a great video that I find beautifully encompasses what agape is if you’re curious about it!] So much of our lives is about transactional relationships that this concept can feel foreign. This highest form of love is demonstrated in the gift of God’s son, Jesus, who endured pain and suffering, through an act of love. I struggled to compare that heart-wrenching, sacrificial love to the flowery image of love we see in hallmark cards and exchanging of chocolates.

maratattoo

Here’s a picture of Mara’s tattoo, the word “agape” written in Greek on her foot.

When I thought about replicating the kind of love God expresses to us, I was confused at the feelings of brokenness or hurt that developed from it. I wondered, how do we feel fulfilled and whole, in a world where we are called to love everyone—no exceptions? It began to feel to me that when I was practicing this expectation-less love, I was left feeling empty. I began to have doubts about this sacrificial form that agape takes, I craved the transaction where I could receive the equal of what I had given.

Even though practicing agape was hard, I found that in that vulnerability I began living more fully into who God is calling me to be. Agape gets rid of the transactional relationships that fill our lives; we begin to love those around us because that love is an expression of God among us.

God’s purest form of love was shown when Jesus died on the cross, and this great act of sacrifice made newness of life possible. Martin Luther King Jr. described agape as a love which heals communities, the idea that loving selflessly leads to reparation of our relationships, of the hurt in the world. The idea that the highest form of love, this ultimate gift, a sacrifice that was made with no expectations for humanity, Jesus is not only resurrected but brings the promise of newness of life for all people. This newness arises when we give up our expectations for how others will love us in return.

While I don’t think the agape we live out in the world is quite so gruesome as this, we are invited to love others without expectation of return. We love simply because it brings the broken and jagged edges of the world together when we do so. We express agape because it is the breath of God among us; in the extension of a hand to a stranger, in the heartache of loving a family member despite a broken relationship. We love, because God first loved us.

May you feel the warmth, tug, challenge, and hope of agape this Valentine’s Day.

Remember to pause

Written by Kelly Mork

Every semester coming back to school after a long break, I find myself battling mixed emotions. I’m excited to see people again, I’m worried classes will be hard, I’m nervous I won’t be able to do it all, I’m ready to learn new things, and the list goes on. Yet each beginning, even as I’m running on high breathing, we reach the first night of Pause. And everything is okay.

Do you ever get that overwhelming sense of comfort? Of realizing “this is what I needed” even if you didn’t know beforehand? Pause, our weekly worship gathering on Wednesday nights, is just that. A literal pause. A chance to stop in the middle of the week and take a step back from life, campus chaos, work, classes, and all the other stressors to allow yourself to BE.

(Video above taken during the sending song at pause on Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2018)

There’s something about walking in to a dark, cozy sanctuary filled with candles, music, and people your own age that is so welcoming and comfortable (especially when you’re greeted with hot cocoa in negative temps). As we said our gathering litany, sang songs of joy and light, and settled into this community, you could sense the tension easing, the chatter of reconnecting slowing, and the smiles of contentment growing. It’s a new beginning.

Our first week back started in the season of Epiphany, that one after Christmas where the wise ones travel to meet baby Jesus. But what about the star that led them there? As the wise ones followed a star to find Him, we too set our own intentions in “stars” for the coming year. As we gathered at the cross, we lit candles and chose a word for our stars. Some included: rest, patience, joy, time, and other concepts to guide us through the semester and year as a reminder of something larger than ourselves and this campus.

As we begin this new semester, it’s easy to fall into routine and become overwhelmed. But finding your light and remembering to pause, whether in worship or on your own, is a chance to disconnect from the commotion and dig deeper into creation, community, and yourself.

Pause Gathering Litany:

There are a variety of gifts,

but there is one Spirit.

There are a variety of services,

but the same Lord.

There are a variety of activities,

but the same God.

Engineers and English majors,

questioning and certain,

poor and rich;

God arranged the members of the body;

God chose each one of us.

God loves each one of us.

Conservative and liberal,

city kid and country kid,

introvert and extrovert;

All are a part of the Body.

Just as it is one and has many members,

so it is with Christ.

In one Spirit we were all baptized into one body,

and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.

We gather now;

to worship in word and song

to question and pray

to belong and to become

to join in God’s work of reconciliation and renewal of all creation

Amen.

Overwhelmed with Great Joy

Written by Sarah Baker

“Epiphany—isn’t that the thing right after Christmas?” Well yes, anonymous roommate (…Alyssa), that’s one definition of it. More accurately, it’s the liturgical season that celebrates how many, many years ago, the Magi followed a star to find Jesus—God incarnate (Matthew 2:1-12). Upon reaching Jesus, they presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. I don’t know how many times I’ve been told what the latter two of those things are, but I can’t remember for the life of me. Fortunately, that’s not the most important part of the Epiphany story, nor the part that stands out the most to me. The part that really strikes me is described immediately before the verse that mentions gold and those two hard-to-spell words:

Matthew 2:10 says, “When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy.”

Overwhelmed. Now that’s a word with lots of negative connotation. Synonyms include: crushed, defeated, overpowered…the list of scary words goes on. When I think of being overwhelmed, I picture drowning in homework and thesis research. I think about the fact that I don’t have any concrete plans for a year from now; how I don’t even know where I want to live, if I want an “adult” job, or if I want to travel the world. But to do that, I’d need money, and wait, I don’t have any of that. I can feel my heart palpitating just thinking about it. Talk about feeling overwhelmed.

Basically, the noun that I immediately associate with ‘overwhelmed’ is ‘stress’. But in the early verses of Matthew 2, the Magi are “overwhelmed with joy”. Overwhelmed…with joy. Now THAT sounds amazing—to be stunned at the sight of the star pausing in the sky. To be overcome with emotion, that in just a few moments, the Savior of the world would be seen. To be utterly and completely amazed in the moment when they knelt at the side of Jesus and felt his love and power.

Those italicized words? All synonyms of ‘overwhelmed’—but the good kind—the ones that make you smile and give you heart palpitations of excitement.

img_7733

Sarah takes a moment to take in God’s overwhelmingly abundant creation last summer.

Depending the season of life that you’re in right now, it might be easy to get overwhelmed with worry and stress. But in this season of Epiphany, remember that there are all kinds of joy in the world to get amazed by: nature, relationships and community, new knowledge, music… Even the little things can incite great happiness—from the beauty of icicles hanging in the Washington Avenue bridge to the way your friends laugh at your imitation of Cartman from South Park.

So, in this season of Epiphany, reach for the things in your life that have the ability to overwhelm you with joy.  Let yourself be surrounded by light and be a source of joy for other people. And when you feel yourself slipping under the waves in the sea of stress, think of the Magi and their focus on the star that guided them to Jesus. Follow your own source of light, be thankful for the journey, and you too will be “overwhelmed with great joy”.

A Risk Worth Taking

Written by James Dahlvang

Last weekend, the student leaders at LCM drove up to Stanchfield, MN for a retreat at ARC Retreat Center. One of the activities Pastor Kate had for us was to map our faith, defining moments when we felt God actively in our lives. For me, one of those moments was my huddle.

Huddles are LCM’s small groups in the spring semester. 5-7 people gather every week and discuss an idea centered around a specific topic.

jamesserving1

James serving at a nearby food pantry alongside fellow huddle member, Jacob

Each week digs a little deeper and we finish each topic with an activity—like a service project or gathering with another huddle. Ranging from basic theology to deep, unanswered questions about faith and with service mixed in, huddles provide something for everyone.

Personally, I was apprehensive about huddles. I had one foot in and one out of LCM. But my huddle was different. The first couple meetings were a little awkward. People were feeling each other’s personalities out, and it was hard to dive deep. Eventually, I made a connection within my huddle and we’re still good friends to this day. My huddle, on top of quenching my theological thirst, had also given me close community—something I never expected.

This weekend, Pastor Kate noted that wilderness is something a lot of college students can relate to, and I agree with that. We’re dropped in the middle of the Twin Cities, surrounded by people from the suburbs, from the country, and from all over the world. For many of us, this is the first time we are on our own. Without my huddle, it would’ve been easy to get stuck in the wilderness. But having that small group to tether to, knowing for one hour a week I’d be surrounded by people who deeply cared for me and wanted to know answers to the same questions I had; that made my huddle a mountaintop moment.

I hope you consider joining a huddle. Whether it’s for community, service, questioning, or exploring faith, huddles will have something for you. And, if you’re feeling apprehensive like I did, know that huddles are definitely worth the risk.

Peace be with you, and have a great spring semester!

Huddle Up!

Written by Pastor Kate

What’s a Huddle?  

“Huddles” are a kitschy name for a small group of students who meet together weekly to get to know others, to grow in your faith, and to put that faith in action. Last Spring, we experimented with these small groups meeting on East Bank, West Bank and the St. Paul campus all throughout the day. Here are some comments from students who joined “Huddles” last year:

  • “…huddles helped me realize that while I am good at having a conversation with basically anyone, it is still very challenging for me to open up about myself to create a much deeper connection with another person – this is an area where I want to grow.” – Connor
  • “Huddles provide fulfillment and energy by adapting to the interests of its members – for example, our members are all interested in social justice…huddles helped connect our new knowledge of social justice issues with our understanding of God’s call for us to love and serve others.” – Julia
  • I’ve seen a lot of growth in my faith through our huddles…Our huddle leader has really challenged us as a group, and it’s been amazing to share stories of my faith with other kids facing the same challenges I do every day.” – James

These small groups are a great way to develop new and meaningful relationships, discover how God is at work in your life, discuss the questions you have and together, put your faith in action. We hope you join us this semester!

Sign up now (but for sure by January 24, 2019) by clicking here.

 

Welcome Freshmen!

Dear Freshmen,

Despite this being my fourth and final year at the University of Minnesota I remember my first semester of college oh so vividly. I remember being thrown into harder classes, managing living away from home for the first time, forming new social groups, the whole nine yards. Most of all I remember it all feeling very, very complicated.

Deciding how and with whom I wanted to spend my limited free time, new relationships and new priorities, and deciding how I saw myself fitting into this bustling campus; all of it was complicated. I’m sure in the coming weeks and months some of you may feel similarly, but I have some good news for you. Finding a community, a foothold on campus, was very simple for me and it can be for you as well.

I am not exaggerating when I say that discovering Lutheran Campus Ministries felt like finding a second home. Not only did this organization welcome me my first year, it has stood by me as I continue to grow and change in my time in college.

While there is a lot of exciting information about LCM’s various programing available, if you take away one thing let it be this: Whoever you are, whatever place you’re in, you are welcome. From a deep faith background or not particularly religious, excited or reluctant, overwhelmed or eager, questioning or certain, you are all welcome. LCM acknowledges that each person contains multitudes, everyone is both sinner and saint. People are complicated. Finding good ones doesn’t have to be.

So amidst all of the complications, I invite you into a place of simplicity. Whether you join us for just one evening or like me you decide to stay for the duration of your time here at the U, I truly believe this community is changed for the better by you and your presence.

The table is set, the candles are lit, the door is open; all you have to do is come, and I am so excited to meet you.

See you all soon!

Sophia

 

A Warm Welcome to Nate!

LCM Friends and Family,

We are beyond thrilled to announce that Nate Crary will be our new Outreach and Program Director!  Your monthly giving, congregational pledges, and general encouragement and support have made it possible for us to bring someone with his gifts and capacity on board.  THANK YOU!  Nate’s integrity, creativity, and genuine enthusiasm for connecting with students are a great match for our ministry at this time and place.

Nate has served the church in a variety of roles since graduating from Concordia College (Moorhead, MN) in 2007, including working as LCM’s musician in 2014-15. Nate has supervised work projects for summer youth mission trips in Juarez, Mexico, worked as a middle and high school outreach youth director with St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church (Mahtomedi, MN), directed summer camp programming with Green Lake Lutheran Ministries (Spicer, MN), and continues to serve as Director of Worship and Music with Christ the King Lutheran Church (New Brighton, MN).

Nate also spent a year with his wife, Chelsey, volunteering in global service with the ELCA’s Young Adults in Global Mission (YAGM) program just south of Bethlehem in Palestine. In these different roles, Nate’s passion for connecting with and working alongside young people in the church continues to thrive.

Please join me in welcoming him into this thriving community that Christ gathers at the U of M!

Pastor Kate

Finding Your “Holden Moment” : Spring Break Trip to Holden pt. 3

What a better  way to take a break from finals week than to read our blog series on the spring break experience to Holden Village! All jokes aside, many parts of Holden are infused into our communal life together, including regularly singing Holden Evening Prayer and Mountain Vespers in worship, and continually using The Prayer of Good Courage during our senior sending. Hear from students who went on the spring break trip and what their takeaways from this unique community are.

Read part 1 and part 2 here.

By Mara Bowman

As we’re in the midst of the chaos of finals, we can see the light and hope of summer in the distance…barely. For some of us it is right there, so close we can touch it. Maybe for you it seems more distant, where you have to squint really hard to believe it and see that it’s there.

Whichever one you’re experiencing, the end is there, I promise. I believe in you!

In college, we often surround ourselves with the narrative of being stressed and exhausted and we rarely experience any sense of rest or calm. This stress is real and it’s valid to feel that burden. It can also become overwhelming when this is the only story we tell ourselves. When this is the only narrative I surround myself with—that I am a stressed, overworked college student with constant responsibility—I lose sight that (as Pastor Kate says) that I am a human being, not a human doing. I then find it hard to feel peace in many capacities.

When I am incapable of sensing inner or external peace, I feel out of touch with God.

For those of you who either know me, or are a part of the LCM community, you’ve likely heard a lot about our trip to Holden. When LCM traveled to Holden Village over spring break, I reconnected with this feeling of extreme peace.

Traveling to Holden was an experience in and of itself. In a 36-hour time frame we jumped from train, to bus, to boat, to bus, before arriving at Holden. As the boat swept past the snow covered mountains, and as the bus climbed higher and higher through switchbacks, silence fell over our pretty chatty group. We were all grateful for the silence we experienced throughout the trip, especially with the lack of cell reception. The connection lost between us and the outside world created an inner sense of quiet.

One night while stargazing, a group of us were filled with a sense of terror-spiked awe at how all-encompassing the universe is. We so rarely take a step back to spend a moment in time outside of ourselves and our current struggles. Suddenly everything about my own existence seemed so insignificant compared to the intricate workings of the world around me. The infinite space beyond earth which I am incapable of comprehending was a reminder of how much more there is beyond my current reality. There is more to me than my stress as a college student or my grades. There is more to my existence than my accomplishments throughout my lifetime. This feeling of peace that washed over me I like to call, my “Holden moment.”

Although we got lost in our reflections and existentialist thoughts, it was incredibly grounding how God reminded me in that moment that the Holy Spirit’s encompassing presence is a transcendent embodiment of peace in our chaotic lives, in a turbulent world, and whatever else extends beyond that. What does it mean for us to find peace in daily life? We very rarely have the opportunity to escape from life’s hardships, or to run to the mountains and just ignore everything for a while.

When I was walking outside the other day, I looked up at the sky and saw an incredible sunset. Its cotton candy color reminded me instantly of the sunset we had seen at Holden, and its similar pink hues which had brushed the tops of the mountains.

It seemed so poetic to me that even though I was no longer in Holden, a place that was set apart from the cacophony of daily life, I still walk under the same sky. I still walk in a world where I can feel my own Holden moments on a daily basis, whether it is through laughter, talking with a friend, getting to watch students learn and grow in my practicum classroom, or simply experiencing moments of silence. I still walk in a world where I can experience peace amidst stress, exhaustion or hardship.

There is nowhere I can go where God will not also be.

Although I do not always feel the same serenity I experienced at Holden, God’s peace wraps around us even in the unsteadiness of daily life. Within our moments of hopelessness, loss, anxiety, depression, or anger, we must navigate how to discern God’s love and presence amidst hardship. God doesn’t leave when things get hard.

I am blessed to have been able to discern that peace in many aspects of my life, even when bombarded by deadlines, or if I’m feeling burned out. Holden helped to awaken that discernment within me, in ways I hadn’t thought of before.