Archive | August, 2010

final sermon.

31 Aug
For those of you were weren’t able to worship at Grace on Sunday –
(Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16)

As I arrive at this morning – my last morning with you here at Grace – and to this sermon, I reflect on my year of partnering in ministry with you. It’s hard to believe that a year has passed since you welcomed me into this congregation. I felt the Hebrews text for today speaking in wonderful ways to my year with you and to the congregation here. I first read the text and felt myself beginning to tear up – tears of joy that my year is finally done and over! (shaking head) No. That is definitely not the case. So not true. I am saddened at the thought of leaving. This has been a wonderful year in ministry with all of you – you are welcoming people in a wonderful community. But still, in a way, they are tears of joy too. In talking with someone about being sad because I’m leaving, he reminded me that it is a happy day too. Not because you’re happy to be getting rid of me – I hope – but happy because it has been a good year. If it hadn’t been a good year, I wouldn’t be sad and I wouldn’t be teary-eyed. There is celebration here today too – a celebration of this community and the ministry you do.

This section of Hebrews teaches us how to live as a community of faith in an indifferent world. We are worshipping on Sunday morning and that puts us in the minority. Each of us could easily count ten people that we know that aren’t in church this morning – either with us or across the country. I don’t need names – not looking to throw blame here – but just think about it. As we sit here, we’re not the majority. More and more, we find the secular world overwhelming, systems that put us as Christians on the outside, part of the few. This section in Hebrews is why we are different from the broader culture, this is the life we practice. Just the other day, someone told me, ‘You know, it’s not always easy to be a Christian.’ No! It’s not. It is not always easy to live out these things that the author of Hebrews directs us towards.

This selection from Hebrews almost reads like those books you will find on the shelf at the library in the self-help section. The books that promise they can help you live your best life now. Books with the top ten ways to reach personal success. Seven steps for living at your fullest potential. It gives instructions, ways to live. But the difference here in Hebrews is that living life to the fullest has little to do with yourself. Living your best life is tied to the best lives of others. There is no self-talk here – no direction to develop a healthy self image. It doesn’t tell us to focus inwardly on our own lives, or to give direction to a selfish vision involving only yourself. To live as a community in Christ, a community of faith, is to be a family with open hands, hospitality, and care for all people. Living our best lives, our lives to the fullest, is connected to the quality of the lives of those around us.

Much of what the writer of Hebrews commends us to do is what I have witnessed within this community in the past year. I read this passage and can think of examples, of places where I have seen this faith lived out – places where your concern, your focus is outward, reaching to others than yourself was practiced and shared.

Remember those who are in prison, as though you are in prison with them; those who are being tortured, as though you yourselves were being tortured. We could add these statements – remember those who work eight hours a day for $2 as though they are your neighbor and you’re working alongside them. Or remember those who are in the midst of a natural disaster – a nightmare – as though you are there beside them. In my time with you, I’ve seen this congregation go to work and put your faith into action to meet our neighbors. You’ll remember that we collected items for health kits, shortly after the earthquake in Haiti. The donations kept coming and – in the whole process of it – we put together well over 400 kits with supplies to spare. 400 kits! Those toothbrushes, washcloths and other supplies that we had an abundance of, that were left over, were recently sent to Kenya to be shared with our neighbors there. A cousin of mine was embarking on a month-long trip to an International Village in Kenya and, together with his travel mates, they packed their suitcases with those extra supplies we had. We had hundreds of toothbrushes, plus many washcloths, bars of soap, and combs to give.

He sent these pictures to share with you – pictures of the women, the students at the secondary school, and the children in the orphanage who received these goods were happy and appreciative. Connor, my cousin, wrote in the description of the pictures that he had never before seen someone so excited about a bar of soap. You gave them a bar of soap. These women that you see work for eight hours a day, often with their children on their backs, and earn $2 for their labor. The children in the orphanage were excited to have their own toothbrushes – they have nothing more than the clothes on their back so to have their own toothbrush is awesome. You gave them a toothbrush. More than a toothbrush – more than a bar of soap. You gave them love, gave them hope, and, through action, showed them that they have worth, even when the rest of the world easily casts them aside. We remember those who struggle, who are in need, and who call upon their neighbors to help them in their despair.

We live abundantly and focus on what Hebrews tells us in regards to this – keep your lives free from the love of money, and be content with what you have. We had an abundance of health kit supplies to share. We all have an abundance of things – including money – when we think about our neighbors in the world. So often we connect our best life, the improvement of our life, to money. That’s what many of the self-help books claim – that these skills will lead you to be more successful. What does success often boil down to in our culture? You’ll earn more money. Our culture tells us that when we have more, things will be better.

Hebrews calls us to live our life free from the love of money. Money isn’t what should be loved or worshipped. Instead, let mutual love of each other continue. Give love to your fellow believers in the community. Love to strangers through hospitality. Welcoming people, being a congregation that welcomes the stranger is a vital way to demonstrate love. Sometimes it’s hard to envision what that looks like at Grace in Dawson. We’re not in a metropolitan area where new people are consistently in and out. I’ve learned that there aren’t many strangers in Dawson. People know pretty much everyone and, well, people are related to pretty much everyone. Just the other day, someone made a connection for me – did you know that so-and-so is so-and-so’s grandma? No. I had no clue! In a year here, I still haven’t figured out the many ways in which people are connected and families are intertwined. Though the immediate people around us may not be strangers in that sense of the word, we can use our connections to evangelize, to preach the Christian gospel, to live our lives with the same mind that was in Christ. Perhaps there are strangers to the gospel, strangers to the love of community that need an open hand, an inviting word. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, or people you know well, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.

Hebrews instructs us in the midst of this community of believers but not just here – outside the church doors we’re called to live in this way. I leave for another year of school in St.Paul, saddened to say goodbye but looking back with such gratitude. That’s my story this morning. When I walk out the doors, that’s where I’m heading. As that is mine, all of you have your own stories. I don’t know where you’re going after worship this morning or what is heavy on your mind. Changes in health. Transitions to a new school year. Worry about a family member. We come from different places with our own stories and we’ll leave this place of worship to continue on our own way. As we go, we remember that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Jesus is forever faithful to us – that never changes. Our stories change. We change jobs, family situations, locations but God’s faithfulness does not change. I make this comparison lightly – not wanting to compare God to Santa Clause on too serious a level – but think of how children ask, after they have moved houses, “will Santa know that I’ve moved? Will Santa find me in our new house?” After that change, our response is always – of course. In a similar way, we change. We sin. We make mistakes and stray from the life we’re called to lead. Will God still be faithful to me after I’ve done that? Does God still love me? Our response – yes. Jesus is the same yesterday and today and forever. He continues to be faithful here and faithful in all of our lives as we leave this place and go out into the world. Jesus’ never-changing faithfulness sets us free – through him, let us continually offer a sacrifice of praise to God. Because of God’s faithfulness, we’re given grace and we’re transformed. We’re empowered to be a community that loves and gives and thinks of our neighbors before ourselves.

Our reading this morning concludes with this verse – Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. Last week, we read about the Sabbath and the meaning of worship. That on the Sabbath day we rest but we’re also freed. We are freed in worship. What the author of Hebrews gives us here is worship too – do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. That is worship. That is living your life as worship. When we care for others, when we feel ourselves freed to help our neighbors, when we preach the gospel to others – that life of worship is pleasing to God.

I leave you with the challenge to continue your lives as Hebrews calls us to live. To continue to mutually love. To show hospitality. To remember those who are in pain. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have. There are so many gifts in this congregation to share – share them! We are called to be good stewards of what God has given us – to share what God has given us. Continue to find ways in which to help your neighbor, to be a light to others, and to live your life as worship towards God. I have been blessed to be a part of your community for a short year. You have shown me love, hospitality, and welcomed me in so many ways. Together as a community, I felt us reach out to remember those in pain, to worship the unchanging God, to continually offer praise to God. My life in the past year has been linked to yours – we’ve grown together, cried together, and prayed together. I pray that as we all leave this space and go out to different places this morning, whether out for brunch, to work, or to St. Paul with a packed car, we remember that our best life is linked to the best lives of others. That we’re all connected. That Christ’s faithfulness does not change. And we’re called to love one another always and have our neighbor be forefront in our Christian lives of worship. Always let your mutual love continue. Amen.

bite me, transitions.

30 Aug
Let us first note that this is my 200th post on this blog. Sorry to say it’s not going to be a very nice one. I considered waiting … not writing what is on my mind … including something pleasure-filled like yesterday’s celebratory moments. But what did I decide? Bite me, transitions. This is where tonight finds me; thus this is the blog posting #200. (I promise posting #201 will be all things magnificent and not depressing.)
I hate transitions – this one most specifically. To get you up to date, yesterday was my last day in Dawson. My last Sunday at Grace. Despite the fact that I had to leave, the morning was all things wonderful. The staff, internship committee, and congregation gave me the most thoughtful and perfect send-off. It included many things gnome, many things written, and so many joyful moments. Honestly, it made leaving all the more difficult because of how perfect the morning was … hrmph. I promise more about that, the inclusion of literary pieces (stories, odes, songs and sermon), and the tale of an attic tour is soon to come. Cross my heart. But right now –
Bite me, transitions. I left Dawson yesterday afternoon, arrived in St.Paul in the early evening, and then home to Edgerton by midafternoon today. It’s been a lot of packing, unpacking, and traveling for this short gnome. (That wheelbarrow gets exhausting to push. Too many books, boxes, and baking supplies!) I feel like I’m in between. Like I’m not quite sure where I belong. Dawson has been my home for the past year. St.Paul will become my home … but right now my apartment is the most chaotic pile of boxes ever. It feels nothing like home. Edgerton is always my home … but not ever in the same way when I live out of a clothesbasket while here.
I think back to other big transitions in my life. I moved to Decorah, three hours away from home, for college and mildly freaked out. In all honesty, as an eighteen year old, Decorah never felt like home. It wasn’t until I was 21 – my junior year – that I remember feeling like I belonged there. But I was there with 600 other students who were in the midst of the same transition. After college, after my stint substitute teaching at home, I moved to Stillwater. Big transition. Hard transition. But once I adjusted, I loved it … and I stayed there for a couple years. Even once I was in St.Paul, I was never too far from my Stillwater life. The transition to Dawson was not an easy one either; it took many months for me to adjust and have Dawson feel like home.
Eventually, it did. Then it was time to leave. Yesterday. I think what really bothers me about this transition is that I’m not a part of a mass-group of people undergoing the same change. Sure, other interns are filing back to campus from internship but we all had such different experiences. I feel there are many ways that I cannot even share what I experienced at Grace because it seems like I’m bragging. Dawson folk – you’re just too dang awesome. I feel very restless and very alone in the transition. I’m not sure where to go with it. And then I’m back on campus, transitioning, while I know that business at Grace continues … and I’m no longer there to be a part of it. The further bothersome point? Grace became my family … and I don’t know when the next reunion will be. It’s always helpful to know a date, an event, something that will bring us back together and right now, that’s unknown. I can only hope sometime in the somewhat near future.
I know it will get better but right now it’s just icky. I start to tear up when I think about it. It wasn’t much fun getting on I-94 and driving east instead of west. My heart wanted to lead me in a different direction. Bite me, transitions. I don’t like you much at all right now.
(I forewarned you that it would be a bit of a pity-post. That’s where I am, having my own little pity party. It will get better but for now, when I’m stuck in the in between, I cry. I mope. And I have to write/proof/finalize a twenty page paper tomorrow. That doesn’t help matters much either. I hrmph again.)

good week.

28 Aug
Even though it was my last week in Dawson, it was a good one. Let me give you the play-by-play :
Monday: I was treated once again to supper with C. and his family. They have been so wonderful to invite me over many times for supper and games. I built towers out of blocks and C. knocked them over. We ate awesomely decorated cupcakes and played a game about aphids. C.’s little sister seems to finally have adjusted to me. She gave me a hug before I left and jabbered away to me before dinner – super cute. I’m just sad it’s only happening now when I’m leaving!
Tuesday: Hamballs. (See the previous apology letter to the balled food.)
Wednesday: Taste of Grace. An annual pork chop supper in the courtyard at church to benefit the youth mission trip fund. We had a great turn out and the perfect weather to sit outside under a tent and enjoy the food. This was a good night because I got to see many of the youth that I haven’t seen since confirmation – I think I’ve missed them? No, not a question – I really have.
Thursday: My inevitable leaving was a reason to party at Stelter’s on this evening. The whole staff plus Lori (and spouses and children) came out for a delicious dinner and a good time. I should make it be known that it was, in many ways, an evening of worship. We prayed many times (every twenty minutes for fellowship) and worked our way through the hymnal, singing everything from ‘A Mighty Fortress is Our God’ to one that resembled a polka – so polka in the living room we did. There really is no way to explain how much fun we had this evening. Hands down – love, love, LOVE the staff at Grace.
Friday: One more movie night with my new friend, the organist. We worked together for this entire year (aka He began playing hymns as I tried to speak and then just smirked into his organ music as I stopped talking, defeated.) and I continue to kick myself that we didn’t become friends or start hanging out until the last month of my life in Dawson. We watched Up! Classic. (Kevin’s a girl?)
Tonight: I continue to work on my sermon, pack up my last things, and wait for my mother’s arrival later this evening. Though she was just here last weekend, she returns for my last Sunday at Grace. And to hear me be roasted during coffee hour. Not going to lie – I’m nervous.


28 Aug
I guess this is it?
The day I’ve been dreading for months has almost arrived. I’ll use the naughty word again – this sucks. (And I’ll throw in a ‘horse apples!’ for effect.)
The more I think about it, the more I understand why this is so hard. I came to Dawson twelve months ago, completely alone. I knew no one. I had no connection. Those first months were extremely hard for me. Adjusting. Figuring out how things worked. Feeling lonely. I would go to work and come home to my apartment by myself.
After Christmas, something clicked. I had adjusted. I had found my niche at work. I began to know people. This became home. Staff meetings were like family dinners. I began to let people into my life. (It takes me awhile.) I had found my rhythm and routine. I had figured out who I was in this new place and I was happy.
This year has been so formative for me. Formative to my call to ministry, formative to my independence, and formative to learning more about who I am and who I remain though factors around me continue to change. I struggle to think that the year has made me a bit more of an introvert; the thought of not having so much “Lindsay time” back in St.Paul scares me in the tiniest degree. But I also think of the strong feet I have found beneath me. That I can stand in the midst of uncertainty, when I’m not prepared, and when the unexpected comes.
Even though I pack up my car tomorrow and leave this place behind me (until I visit, of course), Dawson will always be a part of who I am and who I have become.
(… that was a little too sentimental. A bit over the top. I think I threw up in my mouth a little. But it’s still true.)

Dear Ham Balls,

25 Aug
I’m sorry. I was wrong about you. I made a quick judgement call and I now realize I was wrong.
It’s not always easy to admit that you’re wrong. You know this from your spat with Pork Chops. Sometimes we make decisions irrationally and too instantly – without doing further research or realizing that one bad experience shouldn’t make one never want to try something again (except with sky diving).
I met you, Ham Balls, on an off day. You were slimy and swimming in a mysterious pineapple sauce; I was not impressed. But last night I learned that you’re different than I thought. That my first impression was wrong. That you actually can be quite tasty, firm, and pleasing to the stomach. For not realizing that sooner, I’m sorry.
I enjoy you. Really, I do. I hope to have further encounters; perhaps I could even share you with others who have not yet had the pleasure of pig in ball form. I only regret we didn’t begin our relationship sooner.
Lindsay S.
[A shout-out and thank you to Mary O. & Co. (including husband, Sam, who likes to keep Snickers in his fanny pack) who saw an intern pastor in need – in need of a positive ham ball experience. This intern pastor had a grand night of ham balls, peach pie, and great company in her last week in ham ball country. Perfect.]

this week, I’m carried by –

23 Aug
A sleepover with a best friend and her crazy cat.
An out-of-the-blue email from a friend, telling me that he misses me.
A facebook wall post that ends with, “Love you!”
A hug from my favorite five year old girl.
A dinner out, catching up with a friend.
A mom and sister who dealt wonderfully with a crabby daughter/sister while moving.
A staff and community that has become my family away from home.

a little perspective.

21 Aug
Life has a way of keeping you in line, showing you a little perspective in the midst of your own trials and struggles that seem like mountains too tall and rivers too wide.
In honesty – today has sucked. I’m not a fan of writing that word (in my blog or elsewhere) but if you were to talk to me, that would be the word I use. Sucked.
My mom and sister arrived in Dawson last night. That part is all good – visitors are grand. However, one of the main purposes of their visit was to help me pack, load, and move my things back to seminary in St.Paul. Dislike. (See a number of previous posts to understand my distain of moving and leaving Dawson.)
It’s been a crabby, crying kind of day. I don’t like moving to begin with; add in the dislike of leaving Dawson to return to classes and homework, and you’ve got a pretty cranky Lindsay. Someone who is not very much fun to be around. Just ask the mom and little sister.
Needing to put the finishing touches on my sermon for the morning, I head into the office for a little while to focus. I end up sobbing in the sanctuary for fifteen minutes because of all my woes before receiving a phone call from the funeral home. There’s a family there. Their father has just died. They would like to have a short service of prayer.
I slap myself. And I’m crying about moving? Seriously, Lindsay.
[Side note: So I tell the funeral director that I need to make myself presentable and I’ll be over. I’ve been moving all day and I didn’t particularly want to walk in with my jeans and tie-dyed tshirt. I run home, change, and as I am introduced to some of the family, one of the brothers of the deceased says to me, “Well, you clean up pretty nice!” Um, so you heard I was a mess earlier?]
As much as I hope the short service of prayer and scripture was part of what they needed to hear and be a part of as a grieving family, it spoke to me too. I continued to work on my sermon after the short gathering and came across these words regarding worship –
“Bath, table, prayer and word are important to every seeking soul because God is there, wiping away tears, giving life.”
God was there in the midst of the prayer service. God is here, wiping away tears – the grieving family’s tears, my tears – and giving us life. Amen.

gnome gnews.

19 Aug

When my friend, Amanda, stopped by for a few nights last week, we – of course – visited the gnome folk at gnome park. There has been some gnew gnome business going on since the last time I was there.
Gladys is back! The old Gladys was presumed gone forever so a new Gladys, complete with her notepad with which to write the gossip column for the Dawson paper, was constructed and placed next to her husband gnome, Harland. You can really tell the difference between the old gnome artist and the new gnome artist. Despite the contrast in colors, shape, and style, I’m just glad Harland has his partner in crime back. (Harland and Gladys, the real life couple, were together constantly and even shared a room together at the care center until the real life Gladys passed away just a few months ago. A for cute couple indeed.)
Other gnew gnomes –
There was a new Harris gnome, next to his wife, Eloise, to replace the one that had been stolen soon after it was first put on display.
The AGP gnome from last year finally made its way to the park to join in all the other gnoman games. He looks like he’s about to run someone down. I knew gnomes were mischievous but he seems downright dangerous. The gnome from this year also found its new home in the park, right next to Gladys and Harland.


19 Aug
I’ve been at the care center/assisted living facility in Dawson a fair bit in the past week. I led communion services at both places last Friday and then again had a service at the care center on Sunday morning after regular worship at Grace. It’s always humorous to overhear certain comments from the residents. They either have no idea who you are and thus say these things, or they may think you’re out of earshot when really, you’ve only taken five steps away.
Instance A: We’re preparing for the Friday afternoon communion service at the care center. I’m setting up, getting organized, when I hear a man behind me ask, “Where’s the minister?” Another man answers him, “She’s right there.” First man pauses and then says, “Oh. I was expecting a man.” Of course you were. And probably someone who doesn’t look 16, the age many people tell me they think I am.
Instance B: I have the service at the care center and then I walk the fifty feet to the assisted living facility for the same service once again. After that service, I typically stay for a short lunch before needing to return to the care center to visit/give communion to those who did not attend the earlier service. I stayed for lunch – coffee and bars – and then had to take my leave. I said goodbye to the ladies and began to walk away to gather my things. I was not five steps away when they started to talk about me. I just smirk to myself, thinking, really, ladies? Do you think I can’t hear you? They were all good things so this is not at all a complaint but rather just a humorous episode in my book. (“She’s a good pastor,” “A church will be lucky to have her,” “She’s a sweetheart.” Aww. Ego boost! [which I really don’t need – my head is large enough] I love the assisted living ladies.)
Instance C: This is not an instance of overhearing exactly, but rather something told directly to me. On Sunday, as I mentioned, I was at the care center again to lead the Sunday service. I’ll often announce the hymns we are singing and then walk around the room, helping residents turn pages and find the hymn in their spiral-bound hymnals. I helped one resident over and again, and one of the last times I turned pages for her, she said, in her raspy voice, “Thank you. You’re special.” That’s what my mom always told me. For cute.


17 Aug
A portion of an email from a friend and future Luther Sem lunch buddy, in reference to my upcoming departure from Dawson and transition back to city student living –

“You have transformed lives during this past year and that is what God calls us to do. Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Whelp. Now I’m crying.
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