We shout crucify…

Reading the passion

You realize

We continue to fashion

Ways to crucify

Jesus

Over and over again

In our history there

Isn’t one point when

We stopped hurting

The poorest among we,

We elect power grabbing

Leaders who continue

To hurt thee,

Jesus

In children with poisonous water

Chemicals, bombs, refusal

To feed and serve those we deem

Do not deserve

We kill you again and again

Oh God

We never stop our

Evil actions

Oppressing black family

Drawing factions

Stealing and poisoning land

Belonging to first nations

We let money drive us

Greed rule us

Satan enters us

We kiss our Lord with worship

And tonight he breathes no more…

Advertisements

Response to the protest signs in the 2014 July 4th Parade in Miller, SD

This year, I have spent most of my summer in Miller, enjoying the company of my parents and allowing them time to bond with my children before we leave for my year long internship in Denver.  I had the privilege to witness the Fourth of July parade this year, and the floats, the cars, tractors and other altogether awesome vehicles and livestock that went by were wonderful – and my children would like to thank you all for the abundance of candy!
 
However, many of you noticed, as I did, a pair of gentlemen carrying signs purporting to know what “real Christians” would or would not do – and as Christian and future minister, I felt like responding to their charges with my own beliefs – though I would imagine most of you already know what I’m going to say…
 
American Christianity is NOT a “Big, Fat, Joke.”  Maybe it’s not perfect, but it is not a joke!
 
Real Christians do and have gone to war – for centuries.  War is not fun, and we have more and more disagreements about it’s purpose and necessity – but going to war does NOT erase your Christianity.
 
Divorce is a painful thing that was spoken against in the Bible.  However, God would NEVER want someone to be trapped in a marriage that was abusive and unhealthy – and the abundance of Grace we are offered by God can take care of the rest.
 
Christian women can be meek and modestly dressed, or they could be like me – Loud, outspoken, full of God’s love, and into fashion that doesn’t hide the fact that I’m a woman.  Women are not property, they are loved children of God, just like every man!
 
And perhaps what I feel most strongly about – God does NOT hate this world.  God created this world, and when it disappointed God, he sent his only son to die, so we might be saved.  God weeps when we do wrong, but God very much loves this world, and all creation.
 
Lastly – in America, those men were exercising their rights to share their thoughts, and doing it in a way that was fully in line with their (and even my) religious beliefs.  It’s incredibly ironic that they have this freedom because of those who went to war…
 
 I hope that any annoyance you might have felt was mild and short-lived, and that you know in your hearts that a real Christian is not a pretty picture of a perfect human, but a real person like you and me.
 

Myself

Lately I’ve been faced with the challenge of being myself.

It is laughable – how hard is it to just “be yourself”, Stef?

It’s a little hard – I want so badly for people to like me – and historically I have been told that “myself” is a bit abrasive, loud, swears too much, and definitely not “Lady-like.”

Expletive.

I spent most of my formative years being told not to do something because it wasn’t “lady-like”.  I was “too pretty” to let my teeth rot out of my head.  I was a girl, I shouldn’t swear like a sailor.  I was a girl, I should not carry a wallet in my back pocket.  I was a girl, I couldn’t drive as well as a guy, I couldn’t handle certain conversation topics, and could certainly not be as interested in anything “manly.”

This traditional sense of “man” and “woman” has ALWAYS haunted me.  I have a fairly traditional set of parents – and family.  We split into the “men” and “women” during family gatherings, women are the ones asked to help with the meals, and men are the ones who play cards or watch sports games.  My father felt fairly certain that there was a “women’s” section to our family vacations – he felt left out with no sons to bandy with him.   

There was a time when I felt I had to reject any “manly” sorts of activity – boys did this, so I couldn’t.  It prevented me from enjoying a lot of things I might have been able to practice at in my younger years, but c’est la vie.

Not being a boy made me feel not good enough.  If only I could do manly things, my dad wouldn’t feel so lonely.  I tried liking sports – it worked!  Huge fan of football, and love basketball, and a few others I can stomach to see even with a husband who only likes the one sport I hate – soccer.  I tried liking hunting – I just can’t.  I don’t mind shooting at targets – but something about walking in a dusty field with asthma just does NOT appeal to this girl.  I have plenty of female friends for whom hunting is a great joy – makes me happy they are called out there along with all the dudes – and I’m proud of the dudes who don’t make a big “thing” out of it.

I never felt too girly – and a lot may have been my build.  I am not as tall as some women out there, but at 5’10”, I do have some height.  I’m also built fairly solidly – bone structure, I mean – and this is not a figure that appeals to the general population.  As a woman in a small, conservative locale, your attractiveness to men was a definite measure of worth.  So here I was, not lady-like at all, too large, and frankly, with a huge chip on my shoulder.  Dating, for me, was a huge mess.

I’m lucky enough to have married a man who is non-traditional – he was never worried about my manliness – and the times we do conform to our gender roles (I like to cook, he likes to hunt) he, like me, attributes it to our personalities – not our genders.  He’s committed to letting our boys be who they are – wearing pink, nail polish – whatever they want to do.  We are not “worried” they might be gay – if they are, great.  We love them, so does God.  We do not think pink or anything girly is indicative, nor a cause.

There are still some faith traditions that feel that only men are suited for leadership in the church – a point I truly disagree with.  I’m seeking ordination with the ELCA, and am proud to be a woman in leadership.  There are some traditions that say being gay (GLBTQIA) is not ok.  I wonder for my GLBTQIA friends how hard it is to be who they are, when in some places it isn’t even safe.  For this reason, I feel I must be willing to be me, my non-traditional, boundary-pushing self.  If I can be me, perhaps I can pave the way for others to be themselves without fear of judgment or repercussions.

How old is old?

It came in an email – “Your dad has a blockage,” – and as if in ironic empathy, I felt my heart sink.

Other things that came in that same email – “We caught it early” and “We are getting it taken care of,” and “he’s going to be ok”, didn’t seem to pick my heart back up, at least not as high as it had been prior.

My father, a man who just turned 60, has always been at the pinnacle of physical health – tall, lean, and active.  Active to the point that even NOW I feel he could easily kick my butt in hand-to-hand combat, but he’s refrained from challenging me while I was in the midst of child-bearing.  (He’s also a gentleman.)

 

 

When I look at him, and my mother (who incidentally is in a new health kick and in the best shape I’ve seen her in years), I do not see the “aged”.  I remember when I was little, if I heard someone was in their fifties or sixties, they MUST have white hair, need a cane – I’m sure you know the picture I imagined.

Those white haired people, are my grandparents.  I have all four – the eldest 86, and still checking his cattle, the youngest 78, and working as a home health aid, taking care of home-bound persons much younger than she.

My question is, who is old?  I am not yet thirty, and feel so unbelievably old – that half my life is gone and I’ve accomplished so little.  My face starts to show lines, my joints are starting to ache, and my children are starting to get more and more – wait, it’s enough to say I HAVE CHILDREN.

And then I think, aging is a gift.  A gift God has given me, and others have not had the opportunity to continue.  It’s a gift many of the young and beautiful are struggling against illness to achieve.  It’s a gift that has allowed me to continue to have earthly bonds with my ancestors, to know them as an adult in a much more meaningful kind of way. 

Hollywood has taken the beauty of youth and pushed it before the beauty of life, a full life, in which battle scars mark our faces and bodies, telling stories of our past, giving us hope for our future.  It causes us to wrongly assume that life is over once we are done being “wrinkle-free.”  To that I say, bollox.

The doctor told us my father’s blockage was in the “widow-maker” artery.  Bedside manner lacking, it told us how lucky we were to have him here, with a simple stent to allow him to be as active as ever, if only with a new perspective – not just for him, but all of us.

Our time is limited here.  As a Christian, and a spiritual being, I have hope for promise of life beyond death, but I want to remain here as long as I can, to enjoy those I love as much as I can, and to help God’s creation as much as I can.

Be thankful for the gift of your life, thankful you have gained enough time to earn signs of age, and try to forget our consumption with physical appearance – only you have control of your insides, and only God can make judgment on that!

Incredible Silence

This past week, I had the privilege to lead a mission trip – on which we served our neighbor, learned more about who God is calling each of us to be, and how to share faith in ways we might not see in our traditional setting.  What a blessing to see friendships forged and strengthened, young people stretched, and minds open to new ideas.  A week filled with noise – of the city, of the harbor, of work, of excited young people, and slightly stressed adults!

One of the most poignant experiences I had was in our visit to the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.   I have never seen such an exuberant and giggly bunch of youth turn into a somber, slow walking and reverent group of mature adults so quickly – and with no verbal prompting.

Before we entered the permanent exhibit, our intern pastor explained that this was a place for reflection and respect, though once we entered I am certain what we saw was enough to put each one of us in a state of, well, shock.

A visitor starts by waiting in line outside an elevator designed to look industrial, dark and scary.  One notes at each point the amazing amounts of architectural detail put into every element of this museum, even the passageways from one level to the next.

Each person gets a passport with the name and story of a Jew alive during the Holocaust, which you follow up with as you go along.  When you leave the elevator, you are at the fourth floor, greeted by grizzly photos of the remains of innocent people, who did nothing to deserve this horrible fate.

The fourth floor, first that you see, is full history to educate the visitor on what let up to the events, and although we, in hindsight, can say we’d never fall for Hitler’s lies, it is shocking to see how easy it was for people of the time to believe him.  My heart sank with each new fact I read, and watching teenagers actually stop to read what was posted next to photos told me they understood just how much this impacted the world then – and how important it is for us to know today.

As the levels went on, we learned about different populations that were taken to concentration camps, what happened to people there, along with video and photograph illustrations.  At times I wondered why anyone would record such horror, but I think it’s important to have proof, so that we never forget that real people suffered the way so many Jews did during this time.

I saw many visitors that needed to sit and have a good cry, to see the brothers and sisters that were valued so little, and to get a glimpse into the absolute terror they experienced, was more than hard to see.  I choked back tears many times – especially reading (something I already knew) that handicapped persons, mentally or physically, and children too young to work, were sent straight to gas chambers.

As a person who feels memories tied to objects, I couldn’t hold back the tears when walking through the room that held just a small amount of the shoes that belonged to beloved children, children of God, neighbors to you and me.  I felt guilt for crying – I had not suffered the way these people had suffered, and I had not felt the loss their families had felt, but I do think that I could mourn the loss, and mourn that the world let this happen.

When I left the exhibit, I was surprised to see that the person in my passport survived – she lost a child, and her husband though.  I went to the memorial area, lit a candle, and said a prayer.

I remembered what the intern pastor said – these are OUR brothers and sisters.  We share a past – and even if we hate someone, they are still our neighbors – meaning if we truly want to glorify God, we show them love.  The last exhibits, talking of liberating the camps, had a large number of names of people who helped the Jews – even people who did not like Jews took them in, knowing this is what God would ask of them.

I recommend the museum to anyone – but especially those with a faith and questions about who is their neighbor.  Fear and hate can be used to push an agenda with a guise of God – it is up to US to pay attention, to do what is right, never forget the Holocaust, and to honor it’s memory by preventing anything like this from happening again.

Peace…

When your body’s broken

& if you can’t speak

I will still be with you.

I’ll try not to 

let my plans get in the way.

God is here

God loves you; he forgives you.

Peace, please feel his peace.

If you weren’t able

to use your body

as it was meant

know God is there and loves you.

Peace, please feel his peace.

You face unknown

& it might feel scary

but all will be well

God is here.

God loves you – he forgives you.

Peace, please feel his peace.

When you look back,

I hope you don’t feel regrets

even the faithless and hopeless

have God.

God is here

God forgives you – and loves you.

Peace, please feel his peace.

When that time comes

& You close your eyes

Please do not worry

if I start to cry.

God is here, 

God loves us – he forgives us.

Peace.  Feel his heavenly peace.

How many are my foes

I have shared with a few of you that due to a poor grade last semester (amongst many good grades and having a baby, mind you) I am on academic probation.  While I feel strongly this is a message from God to say “SLOW DOWN, STEF”, I’m frustrated that things are changing in my pastoral journey’s timeline.  I know things will work out and this is all for the best – and I’m quite sure that things had to get this official to actually get me to listen to the message – but this is a tough pill to swallow.

For years, when I wanted to overload it was no problem.  As a mother and wife, I need to look at things a little differently.  Overloading doesn’t just affect me.

 I look to others for help with self care, and will work on allowing myself the Grace promised to us through Jesus.  Thanks be to God for allowing me the space to change my way of life to a healthier pace.   

 

Psalm 3

A psalm of David. When he fled from his son Absalom.

Lord, how many are my foes!
    How many rise up against me!
Many are saying of me,
    “God will not deliver him.”[b]

But you, Lord, are a shield around me,
    my glory, the One who lifts my head high.
I call out to the Lord,
    and he answers me from his holy mountain.

I lie down and sleep;
    I wake again, because the Lord sustains me.
I will not fear though tens of thousands
    assail me on every side.

Arise, Lord!
    Deliver me, my God!
Strike all my enemies on the jaw;
    break the teeth of the wicked.

From the Lord comes deliverance.
    May your blessing be on your people.

http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm+3&version=NIV

 

An open letter to my classmates….

Dear friends and fellow classmates at Luther – 

I know the past week has been interesting.  Hard.  Upsetting even.  It came without much warning to us that our President was resigning, and this financial deficit we are in is SERIOUS. We saw our president say a tearful goodbye and heard words from the board that seemed almost unfeeling.

I want you to know that there is hope a midst this hard time.  While it’s hard for us to say goodbye to President Bliese, and hard for him to say goodbye to us, our school is doing what it can to help us have a future, to carry on, to even progress in a forward direction.

We can’t know all the details, but we do know that there was no scandal.  We know that we need to do some things differently when it comes to finances.  While we may not know what that will look like, we can know that the board, the staff and faculty of Luther Seminary DO care about us.  They want to give us the best education possible, and equip us to be the future of Christian leadership.

Our future depends on them and their choices, but it also depends on YOU.  Please do listen to the messages of our leaders and voice your questions and concerns.  No matter how trivial, mild, or harsh you think it is, our leaders WANT to hear it.  Even if those concerns have a negative tone.  (Just because we are Christian  doesn’t mean we don’t have ugly feelings.:)

We are training to become leaders of the church, in various capacities, and this is part of that call.  Remember what you are being called to do, why you are in Seminary, and that what you do has an effect on others.  This include telling leadership what is going well, and what needs improvement – bearing in mind that criticisms should come with suggestions!

Blessings to you as we go through this adjustments together.  Again, I plead with you, do not keep concerns and questions silent – there are members of staff, faculty, even student council here to listen and offer what help they can, and build towards a better and stronger future.

Much love,

Stefanie

Little Miss Sassypants…

Luke 3 In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar—when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene— during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet:

“A voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.
Every valley shall be filled in,
every mountain and hill made low.
The crooked roads shall become straight,
the rough ways smooth.
And all people will see God’s salvation.’”

We preachers use the phrase, “wrestling with the text” when we are talking about finding meaning and diving into our sermons.  Wrestling doesn’t begin to describe how I’ve felt approaching this text.  It was more like a knock down drag out.  Now I’m not a preacher who always adheres to strictly biblical education, and in fact, I stray a bit from the text when I have a pressing message that I feel the text gives me – some feel I might be straying too far.

So when I sat down to take a good look at this text, I thought, this time, I’m going to be DEEPLY embedded in the text.  I read it.  I poured over it.  I examined it.  I read it again because I was confused.  Are you kidding me, Luke?  Tetrarch?  What the what?  So I hit up Google.  First site is Wikipedia- it (and I quote!) says “Tetrarch may refer to:” and then offers a list.  REALLY??  Definition says that it’s a ruler of a portion of a country – makes sense, but I’m not sure how important I find this information when interpreting.

I notice they say this particular rule has been for 15 years.  The articles I read speak of the rule of Tiberius Ceaser as particularly harsh – and that this might make the people of that time less concerned with spiritual well being than just plain surviving.  This becomes important in a few minutes.

We are then offered the fact that John the Baptist, son of Zechariah (and Elizabeth thankyouverymuch) has heard the word of God in the wilderness.  We then hear the prophecy, which is almost identical to Isaiah 40:1-3 (I won’t bore you by reading the subtle differences.  I’m sure Rolf Jacobson and David Fredrickson could argue why they are super different, but let’s just say for now, they’re the same!)

So this prophecy is there, why?  Is it telling us that John is saying the quote inside the quote?  Is it just telling us that these prophets of the Israelites are legit?  That John is legit?  Can that really be all I’m supposed to figure out with this passage?  I choose to say no.  (A yes would just make me cranky at this point, and that’s not terribly productive.)

So John is in the wilderness.  Wilderness is important – in chapter 4, Jesus will be sent there to be tested for 40 days, but it doesn’t seem like John is being tested.  I’m drawn to this idea that John not just hears the word of God, but he hears it in the wilderness.

John the Baptist is described very interestingly in the Bible.  In my class on Mark we talked about him wearing crazy furs, which wasn’t normal even for his time, and eating locusts and honey.  In this passage, we learn about John hearing the word of God in the wilderness.  Using that emphasis seems to set him apart – he was maybe a loner, definitely strange, and probably sharp tongued.

Ok, so not probably, definitely.  Later on He calls people seeking him out “vipers.”  This is my kind of guy.   To have license to not only have strong opinions, but to offer them very freely, without remorse (or at least we aren’t told of remorse).

Being in the wilderness, dressing oddly, eating bugs and telling people some super blunt things paints this John as a loner.  It might have been hard to be him – in fact I’m sure it was!  I’m guessing for a long time people told him how weird/wrong he was about life, and now all of the sudden they are swarming him for help with their salvation – that’s probably why he calls them vipers!  We see evidence of this when he says in verse 7, “Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?”  As if to say, you poops, NOW you believe me?:)

So if you remember, we heard that Tiberius was a harsh ruler, people were probably having a hard time in daily life because of that, yes?  This same article asserts that a prophet that was so different as John was needed to reach the people.

What does a proclaimer of faith in the present time look like to you?  They probably have a  nice white robe, or a shirt with a collar for many of us.  They are probably dressed nicely, not in expensive clothes, but dressy, “respectable.”  But I’m reminded of preachers like Nadia Bolz-Weber and her fabulous tattoos and I think, I wish I was brave enough to have so many tattoos, and I also think, she looks significantly different than a traditional view of a pastor.  For one thing, she’s a chick!  For another, she swears.  My hero.  She’s incredibly real, and very sarcastic – she even has a blog entitled the Sarcastic Lutheran.

I think we need to remind ourselves that proclaimers of the Gospel, not just us in the pulpit on Sunday’s but ALL God’s children, need to find their unique voices in order to spread the salvation offered to us by Christ, and the love and peace that news brings.  Some of us do this in a traditional manner.  Some of us do this with beautifully detailed biblical study and education.  Some of us do this by dressing in costume and putting on a show.  Some of us do it by sharing music.  Some of us do this with emblazoned passion and earnestness.  Some of us do it by being little miss Sassypants.

Whatever your method, own it.  God made John very purposefully as a unique individual who played an important role in many faith lives.  You might not have historical books written about you, or even have a famous blog, but you impact people.  You are unique in God’s eyes, and you make the story come to life for those people you touch.  Be your wild, hairy, locust-eating self, and baby, people will listen!