Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Grace July newsletter article.

I dunno...I guess I just feel pretty good about both of them this month.

I 've learned something very important this summer so far. Teamwork, while sometimes frustrating, complicated and hard, leads to results that are much more rewarding than what I can accomplish on my own. You'd think that I would have learned that already, but the examples of teamwork that I have been a part of recently have resulted in exceptional rewards.

With about 15 other Habitat for Humanity volunteers, I lifted up the frame for a wall on a home. With three other youth and Christian education directors, I planned a weeklong summer program that brought together 30 kids (ages 6 – 18) and about seven adult volunteers from three churches that allowed them to make new friends, have fun playing games and singing together, and got them out into the city of Omaha by serving in a different site every morning. By the time we ended the week with a pizza lunch at Table Grace, I was rewarded with an offering of more than $200 to present to Head Chef Matt Weber and many smiles from both kids who had made new friends or grown closer with old ones and had fun, and adults (parents and grandparents) who were so happy with the week their kids had had.

Similarly, it is great to see the Kids at Work kids getting to know each other better and have a good time together as they work. They are doing a super job at the organizations where they have worked; their help has been very much appreciated and their positive attitudes are really great as well. As I write, Vacation Bible School is just a few days away, too, and I know it takes a lot of teamwork to make that happen.

Even though I have always felt wonderfully supported by both congregations this year, at times I have also felt very alone. I know that God is always with me, but when I have to make a tough decision or think about a tough situation and I'm on my own, I get scared. That is why it has been so great for me to see the results of teamwork recently...I've seen God working through other people and am reminded that other people want to work with me through those tough decisions and situations, too. I don't have to do it all on my own.

I think that's a good point to keep in mind for the future of the church – Grace, the Nebraska Synod, the ELCA, everybody. When it comes to being active in ministry, our individual motivation is important, but we do not have to do it all on our own, and we really CAN'T. We need God with us – in our individual spiritual time, and in work with each other. We need to work together to show God in ourselves to each other. Teamwork is sometimes frustrating, complicated and hard – showing up to meetings, figuring out how to deal with discomforts and disagreements, etc. – but being saved by grace is also about doing good works; even good works that aren't always fun. I can't say it enough or more emphatically – the rewards of doing good works together make life meaningful.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Another newsletter article.

This one is for St. Luke's July newsletter.

From Your Community Outreach Associate

I have the word “service” on my brain. Our well-loved sign, which as I write is advertising the garage sale, previously read “9:30 AM SUMMER SERVICE.” I just finished a week of service with Justice, Minna, Sarah and Caleb as part of a summer program called “Lutheran Youth Serve Omaha.” And in about seven weeks, my year of service with the Lutheran Volunteer Corps will be over.

I'm going to go out of order and talk about “Lutheran Youth Serve Omaha” first, because it was so much fun, and I am proud of our youth for their good work and positive attitudes. Whether it was Caleb having a ton of fun digging up rocks in Kountze Memorial Lutheran's community garden with new friends from Kountze and St. Matthew, Sarah's good people skills shown through her conversations with senior citizen residents at deFreese Manor and care for babies at Precious Memories daycare, Minna carefully bagging diapers for young moms at the building where Youth Emergency Services' street outreach program is hosted, or Justice, the one-handed shoveling queen, filling sandbags even though her right arm was in a cast – we can all be extremely proud and pleased with their enthusiasm for service and representation of St. Luke's in the community and with our partner churches.

Check out the banner next to Pastor Patti's office that the kids filled out with their reflections on service each day. (All 30 kids answered three questions on three banners, one of which was sent to each church - “What did you do today?” “How did it make you feel?” and “How will your service affect the lives of others?”) Also, ask our participants about their experience when you see them around church this summer. I am pretty sure they will tell you that they made new friends, learned some things they didn't know about ways to serve, worked pretty hard, and had a good, fun week.

So, what about that first usage of the word “service” that I mentioned? 9:30 AM SUMMER SERVICE means get to church sometime between 8:30 and 9:30 for coffee, donuts and fellowship, then go to worship, sing, hear the Bible and a sermon, pray, say some stuff, sometimes get communion, sing again, then go home. Right?

Hmmm. I love coffee, donuts, and especially fellowship time, and worship does do a body good. (Just ask Pastor Patti.) But there's something more there, I think. At Synod Assembly in Fremont, keynote speaker David Lose said that church has the potential to be like an airport. We can come to church ready to go somewhere, ready to connect to something. Where we will go? Out in our communities to serve, in whatever way we can, to show God's love to everyone. A Sunday service can help us make that connection...to travel to wonderful, exciting new places...no matter where we are on our faith and life journeys.

So, turns out “service” is not just a regular occurrence in a church building, or even one special week out of the summer, but a really exciting, life-giving word. I bet Dick Webb didn't know that, when he suggested I put “Summer Service” on the sign since we didn't have enough W's to write “Summer Worship”, he was helping me write my newsletter article.

Anyway, as for that year of service coming to an end thing – I think I'm out of space for this month, so I'll wait until August to tell you about that.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

After ten months in LVC, it is now easier to...

...clean my plate. This has to do with the fact that one of my dear housemates was taught at her camp to use a piece of bread like a sponge to clean up all the extra sauce, etc., but also with the fact that I just really don't like seeing food go to waste anymore. I have been thinking a lot about hunger this year, and really, United States citizens waste a LOT of food. I'm trying my best to take what I feel I can eat (and I think I'm getting better about eye-ing that), knowing that I can always go back for seconds if I am still hungry.

...give away clothes. Maybe it's because my dresser drawers are kind of small, maybe it's cause I, probably like a fair amount of my friends, have a fair amount of clothes, maybe it's because I see more people now on a daily or weekly basis that I know need clothes more than I do. But for whatever reason, it's been getting easier to get rid of things.

...use pennies. Yesterday I made change with a twenty in exchange for three 5s, four 1s, a quarter, a nickel, 5 dimes, and twenty pennies.  When I buy a drink from the store, a pack of gum, or whatever in the next few days, I plan on using pennies. They're coins, too, and it sure makes me feel thrifty and like a better spender when I use them instead of breaking bills all the time.

...write...? Blogging has always felt pretty natural and easy to me, which is why I'm doing it now, instead of writing the second of three articles that I have the privilege of contributing to the summer issue of Your Nebraska Lutheran (click the link to take you to the synod page and my articles from the spring issue will appear eventually on the banner in the middle), re-writing my resume, or writing a personal essay about why I want the internship I would love to get this fall. However, I'll probably spend a few more minutes on one of those things before I head for bed. I may find blogging the easiest, but getting one article out today was a lot easier than I thought it would be, and I can handle the other stuff, too.

Speaking of which - I'll be blogging this weekend for the Nebraska Synod Assembly -  check out http://faith2grow.nebraskasynod.org to see those entries if you're so inclined.