In late May, I had the amazing opportunity to take a pilgrimage with Lutheran Campus Ministry to the monastic village of Taizé in France. (See Pastor Kate’s blog here!). While this community is known around the world for numerous things, such as their beautiful prayer services and the Brothers themselves, one thing that I particularly grew to love while at Taizé was their limited use of technology and the internet, and how that helped me take a break from the world and find peace after coming from such a hectic semester.
I’m actually surprised how relaxing and freeing it was to be completely disconnected from the outside world because I am such an internet junkie; just about anyone can tell you how much I love social media or how I reference random Youtube videos all the time.
Even when I’m travelling and I have the rare opportunity to set down my phone and be thousands of miles away from my stressful, sometimes chaotic life, I don’t let myself get away from it all and just be.
This lead me to be a little worried about the low tech aspect of Taizé that I had heard so much about because I am so dependent on it. Yet, it also made me excited to leave my stressors behind and just have a week focused on faith (which truth be told was something I really needed).
While at Taizé, I didn’t use my phone for an entire week. There wasn’t cell service, so I wasn’t texting or calling somebody every few minutes. There wasn’t WiFi surrounding the village, so no easy access to Facebook or email. (In fact, if you wanted to use the internet, you had to be quite methodical about it and buy a Wi-Fi card. Then, you had to go to a specific area of Taizé which was the only deemed Wi-Fi zone).
The first night was admittedly difficult because I’m so used to scrolling through my phone at night. But after that, I was thrilled to be rid of my phone and internet; I didn’t even once think about going to buy a Wi-Fi card.
At Taizé, I met so many amazing people that I have now become friends with from all over the world and the best part about interacting with them was that none of us were distracted by our phones. When I would talk with someone, there wasn’t a screen in front of our faces the entire time; we would just talk, pure human interaction. This unhindered communication allowed us to really open up and get to know one another in an extremely fast and deep way, which is nearly impossible to replicate back in the States with technology so readily at our fingertips.
Yes, technology is fantastic and technology is actually what is helping me keep these great Taizé friendships thriving. But we need to remember on a daily basis not to let it own us; our phone is just a hunk of plastic and we have the power to turn it off for an hour, or even a day, to get some alone time.
It is also worth remembering that there are few things greater than having a face to face, in-person conversation with somebody and we should try our best to not let our phones get in the way of building those relationships. I truly believe we see God through interacting with others, and when we use our technology to put up a wall between us and the other or to distract ourselves from the world, we aren’t being fully present on this earth and we aren’t being fully present with God.
As stated before, I am a self-proclaimed internet lover and I’m not looking to give it up anytime soon. But after coming home from Taizé, I am continuing to make efforts to curb my usage of it, like by turning off my phone while I pray, leaving it in my purse when hanging out with a friend or just listening to the sounds of the city when walking home from work, instead of blasting music. It’s hard to pull yourself away sometimes, but when I do, I feel so refreshed and not as overwhelmed by the busyness of life.
It’s amazing the beautiful, normal, everyday things you can miss while being sucked in by technology; I want to intentionally choose to miss out on less of these things.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
God’s peace to you on this day!
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
There are so many things making my stress level way too high right now! I am going to be done with school for the rest of my life in one month’s time. I really have no clue what will happen after that. I need to finish my senior project and that still is pretty vague in my mind as well. I also get really anxious thinking about what my life will be like when school is over. I am really excited to be done. I am hoping I will get more free time to practice my music, design and make clothing, prepare wholesome food for myself instead of turning to fast options. But wow, I feel so old. I am a little afraid that I will sink into a hermit lifestyle. It’s ok, I have a dog. I don’t have much more to say at this point except how I am very grateful, and also pretty heavily reliant, on the inner peace that I receive from worshiping at Grace on Sunday mornings and on Wednesday evenings with LCM. God’s peace is a saving Grace.
For those of you who do not know, I am studying abroad in Haifa, Israel for this semester! While it is super exciting and such a new life experience, I was missing part of home; my church life. So, last Sunday, my friend and I decided to finally check out a local Episcopal church in Haifa, which was about 40 minutes away by bus from the University. It took us a few wrong turns, and checking in random places, but we finally found the church when we noticed a priest walking into the chapel. At first, when we arrived, we were the only two people in the sanctuary so we were a little worried this was not the correct location, but the priest and the organist greeted us warmly right away, making us feel comforted. After we took our seats, the priest came over with the English translations of the readings for that day and also the Order of the Liturgy, because the service would mainly be in Arabic, and he explained the service very thoroughly so we knew what to expect.
As more people started shuffling in, just about everyone in the congregation (25 or so) came up and greeted us, asking us questions about where we were from and what we were doing in Haifa. You could tell they all loved having visitors and were genuinely interested in our stories.
As the service started with the opening hymn, I just stood and listened to the beauty of the music and admired this quaint church. The service was interesting in and of itself because it was a harmonious blend of Arabic and English; half of the prayers were in Arabic, the other in English, we said the congregational responses collectively in both languages, and then all of the hymns were in Arabic. The organist even translated the sermon for us as it was given, so that we too could hear the priest’s wonderful message of loving thy neighbor, and putting our faith in God even through our hardest trials.
Near the end of the service, the priest actually had us introduce ourselves to everyone, and adamantly invited us to have coffee and treats with them afterwards. During the coffee hour where we filled up on delicious coffee, harissa (an Arab pastry), and cookies, the priest once again welcomed and thanked us for joining them that morning, and what he said to us next was truly heartwarming: he said that we were always welcome, that we could consider St. John’s our church home while in Haifa and they would help us with anything we needed in getting acclimated to the city. We had only spent an hour and a half with these strangers practically, yet they had opened their doors and arms to us, and made us feel as comfortable and at home as possible.
Last Sunday was such an excellent example of how to show genuine hospitality towards others, and it got me to truly think about what I think hospitality should look and feel like, and how I will show others this same kindness. I urge you all to also reflect on this, and whether you see a new or old face at church, to treat everyone with kindness and to make everyone feel welcome in our community.
Even though I couldn’t understand the service fully due to the language barrier, I knew that this church was living out God’s commandment to love thy neighbor to the fullest. It was one of the loveliest things to see, that around the world and in all types of communities and languages, God’s love continues to be shared and extends to the edges of the Earth.
It seems like just last week I was settling into the back row of my lecture hall ready to breeze through syllabus week, but joke’s on me because here we are at week EIGHT of the semester; holy cow did time fly! Between classes, work, study groups, PAUSE!, and late nights at the library, the semester has hit almost the halfway point and I feel as if I haven’t yet had a chance to take a breath. Everyone says that each year you’re at college, the time goes faster and faster, and I couldn’t agree more. Contributing to the chaos of this semester are the impending and exciting thoughts in the back of my mind about studying abroad this spring. In January I will be heading to Sydney, AUSTRALIA for the entire semester! I am beyond thrilled but also a bit nervous, and a lot sad to be leaving everyone on campus. Things for me this year have really clicked, and it’s hard to envision myself away from the wonderful community I am a part of at the U.
As I sat down at Pause last week, my head swimming with these thoughts and of things I needed to do; start to study for my midterm TOMORROW, finish my chemistry problem set, go to office hours, and most importantly call my mom, I found it a bit difficult to concentrate on nothing, as I like to do at Pause. I find it a great time to sit back, clear my head, listen to the music and the sermon, and just BE.
But this last week I had trouble even clearing my head for a minute. As I sat there stressing, thinking about everything I needed to get done and everything people were counting on me to do, I found myself feeling a bit hopeless and just plain exhausted.
My evening took a turn however when we gathered to sing the Prayer of Good Courage to Dana, a student leader leaving to study in Israel for the semester (how cool!). As we sang to Dana I was struck by the words of the prayer in a way I hadn’t been before. I found myself relating to the prayer quite well; feeling like everyone was singing to me, (even though I was obviously not the star of this show!)
I saved the sermon with the prayer on it, brought it home, and tacked it on my bulletin board, in the most visible place from my desk. I invite you to read it too:
O God, you have called us
To ventures where we cannot see the end
By paths never yet taken
Through perils unknown
Give us good courage
Not knowing where we go
To know that your hand is leading us
Wherever we might go
Looking at this prayer daily, even if only for a quick glance, has renewed my energy and faith in myself and in my semester. It has made me realize that it’s not always the big things that we could pray for courage for. We could ask God for courage to face an impending exam, a troubled relationship, or a venture across the world, and He will listen- no matter what! In a time of stress and exhaustion, this prayer spoke to me and encourages me daily to put my faith in God, His timing, and his will to lead me and guide me to wherever it is I am supposed to be.
I hope it speaks to you! -Lauren Zima
It has been 2 weeks since the retreat, and I am back into barely having time to eat, sleep or pee. I am very excited to graduate soon and restore order that factors in being able to simply BE with God. When 3 classes, 3 practicum theatre credits, a senior project, two jobs, and a substantial social life leave me gasping for air trying to find time to breathe, I find myself chanting 2 MORE MONTHS internally. Part of me wishes I had the will to slow down and spread out the last year of my college experience another semester, but most of me is desperate and excited to be done. Pretty much every aspect of my life is going to be up in the air after I graduate. I am not sure where I’ll live, what I’ll do, if my relationship will carry on through the transitions…what I do know is that I have a lot of options which is something to be grateful for. I am waiting to hear back about a job as a flight attendant, and if I do not receive that job I will move to L.A. to continue acting and modeling, hopefully on a larger scale. If I DO get the Delta Airlines job, I might be based in a Spanish-speaking country, but I would begin in January with 2 months of training in Atlanta. For now I am focusing on completing my degree and enjoying my blessings. The retreat reminded me that moments of peace turn out to be the best moments of life. Many people describe their goals as “I want to do this…” “I want to go here…” “I want to buy this…” My goal is to reach a point of stability where I can sit. I want to sit. That’s all. Idleness allows me to eagerly respond to and embrace opportunities that come my way. Today was a beautiful day–t shirt weather if you’re out moving in the world. My boyfriend Sam, my dog Tigger, and I walked down by the river, and then we (the 3) went to a sushi place. Remembering Sabbath and taking rest rejuvenated me and I feel ready, although not eager, for another busy week. Little things help me persevere through this crazy schedule and daunting amount of responsibility of completing my degree. The Holy Spirit taps me on the shoulder during rushing bicycle rides to say, “Hey! Look at the trees. Aren’t the changing colors magnificent? Isn’t God’s glorious creation wonderful?” A thoughtful friend sends me a funny picture to bring me down to earth from the constant feeling that I am fighting my own battle. Random communications from family and friends remind my that although my story has a lot to it right now, I am not alone, and everyone else has their own story too. This sensation of realizing how tiny you are, and how all the tiny details that apply to your life; Every other person of the billions has that many tiny details wrapped up inside them as well: that’s called sonder. The feeling of sonder overwhelms me as I am remembering all these times I have to be many places to do many things and I see so many people around me on this bustling campus with the same robotic agenda. I think about how unnatural it is to be expected to be at the same place, at the same time, every other day for weeks. Not exactly a huge burden or obstacle to triumph over, no. But considering how fluid our minds and moods and bodies are, and how they are constantly responding to infinite changes in the world around us…isn’t it pretty wacky how we all have such strictly mapped calendars? I gotta say, I don’t think God planned for humanity to behave in this way. He made sun-up and sundown, and we’ve over evaluated those guidelines and calculated them down to the markers known as seconds. I remember a time I planned out going to this dance at school in high school. I had a set group of girls, I knew what I was going to wear, etc. When the dance was approaching, I thought to myself, “I don’t really FEEL like going to a dance right now.” I followed that instinct and stayed home and played keyboard by myself in my basement. It might sound silly that I chose that activity that I can really do anytime when I have free time over going to a dance that would only happen once, but I don’t really regret it. I did what I wanted to do when I wanted to do it. Seems like the natural order to me. Our bodies and brains can be mediums for God to use to speak to us. If we are feeling tired, God is saying, “Get some rest.” If we get a cold, God is saying, “You are over-expending yourself. Cut back.” If we feel stuffed, God is saying “You are being gluttonous.” If we feel ashamed, God is saying, “That was not the right thing to do.” The problem is most people have their life set on overdrive and don’t have the time, patience, or awareness to hear these calls from God. The retreat, and any time I can find a sense of retreat within my life are the times when I can get reconnected with hearing God’s voice. http://vimeo.com/user7278324/sonder
I’m away from the LCM community this semester, taking my adventures abroad to Hong Kong! I’m really enjoying my time here and I’m learning a lot about myself and what it’s like to be a Christian here. One of my highest priorities coming here was to find a Christian community that will help me grow in my relationship with God. Surprisingly, finding a Christian community is not the hard part- finding one in English is! There are at least 4 Christian groups at the university I am studying at, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST). One Catholic, one for Mainland students in Mandarin, one for locals in Cantonese, and Campus Crusade for Christ (known as CCC here, Cru in the U.S.) which is mostly in Cantonese but has a 3-yr-old English sub-division called Agape. So I joined Agape! Agape has about half local students, half international students, many of whom are exchange students from the U.S.
The most striking thing about Christians here is their commitment to their faith. They are very willing to share their faith with others, which is much needed at HKUST. Students at HKUST often get caught up pursuing grades and GPA and success at whatever cost. Many base their lives around their ability to perform on tests. This manifests itself in a high suicide rate which just breaks my heart. Students here are so smart and have so many wonderful opportunites, but aren’t given the support that they need due to the culture that places so much weight on certain ideas of success. I aim to learn from my friends in Agape how to spread God’s love at HKUST and to inspire others to work for a higher purpose.
I also joined a fellowship group (not related to HKUST) for undergraduates and recently-graduated young adults. Last night, the topic of our discussion was the Occupy Central and Student Protests that have been taking place over the last 2 weeks. The movement started with student boycott of classes at the major universities in HK to protest a recent ruling by the CCP regarding the election process of HK’s chief executive. My university participated in the boycott, but had lower participation rates than other universities. Last Friday, protests escalated when police used pepper spray to try to dissolve a protest. In response, the Occupy Central pro-democracy group and many other citizens joined the students. The protests continued for a few more days, but have since lessened with the promise of talks between HK’s current chief executive, CY Leung, and the student groups. Until last night, when it re-escalated as pro-Beijing citizens, fed up with the pro-democracy protests, violently attacked protesters still assembled at one of the sites. Now, I’m avoiding those areas and waiting for what is next.
Our discussion was about whether it is right, as Christians, to participate in the protests and Occupy Central movement. It was an interesting discussion, as the fellowship members were a diverse group all with varying backgrounds: local students, international students, exchange students and expats here for work. Some supported the pro-democracy protests, some didn’t, and some (like me) felt they didn’t have a say in the matter. But what we concluded was that we must proceed by what we feel is right. As Christians, we are supposed to obey the laws, except in cases of injustice (Isaiah 1:17). If HKers feel the law is unjust, and many do, then it is okay to participate in peaceful protest. One thing we all absolutely agreed on was that the protest must remain peaceful. We concluded by praying for all parties involved and that a peaceful solution can be found.
Finally, I just wanted to let you all know that I am safe and far away from the affected areas. Hong Kong is usually a very safe and peaceful place and it makes me sad to see violence here. I feel like this is my second (third? fourth? I’ve lost track) home!
I will be blogging 2x a month for Lutheran Campus Ministries!I will start out by sharing a little bit about myself. This is my first year as a student leader at Grace, and I am really enjoying it! I have gotten more involved with the sharing of music this year by singing and also playing the washboard when we do bluegrass! I have become more comfortable with the other student leaders, and I have been enjoying welcoming new people into the church. I’m from Minnesota and I was raised Lutheran. I started out at Prince of Peace, then we switched to Shepherd of the Valley, and now I go to Grace! After this semester, I will likely move to California and have to search again for a church I enjoy. I have always been very strong in my faith. Here’s a story from my childhood that my mom told me: When I was three, I once spent a whole day in my bedroom. My mom came in and I was sitting on my bed, talking. She asked who I was talking to, and I said “Jesus!” She was astounded and a bit scared, because she wasn’t quite sure how we had met. I honestly feel a very personal connection with Jesus. His voice is very present and I maintain a pretty constant stream of conversation with my Lord. I am not free of sin by any means, and I often get sidetracked or wrapped up in my own story instead of reaching solely to be a part of His story, which is my idealistic goal as a Christian. I have been through many tough times. These are moments in which my fellow Christians have admitted they have questioned God, His love for us, and His intentions. For me, I would not have made it through some times with that mentality. Instead I viewed the challenges that God has presented me as gifts. God knows my strength and ability to be resilient through adversity, and I take that as the highest of compliments. I have learned so much by trusting in God and persevering in tough times. I try to stay positive in spirits, buy I am a hard-edged Realist when it gets down to it. My most recent test from God happened less than a week ago. My little sister’s ex-boyfriend who I had met on several occasions committed suicide. He had broken up with her quite harshly and said many very cruel things to my dear sister. She trudged through the break-up process, and even got asked to homecoming by a new beau. After she went to Homecoming, Adam asked to see her. They hung out a couple days in a row, because he confided in her that he really missed her, he was terribly lonely, and had only dumped her because his Dad didn’t like the two of them together. My sister Megan forgave him but did not want to further a romantic relationship with him, although they were still close friends. The day after that conversation he took his life using his father’s gun. I am not a very emotional person. I am mostly comprised of logical speculation. This situation makes me sad and angry. I feel sad that Adam did not have the faith or strength to know that he could get through that time. He would have entered a new chapter in his life shortly after graduating high school. He had a stable family situation and financial contributions from his parents. A lot he didn’t have to worry about, but I don’t think he realized that or he would have been more grateful of his situation. This is the point at which I get angry. It’s unfair to those that had given him so much and now they have to suffer. I also feel impassioned to push for stricter gun education and regulations when it comes to distribution, licensing, and safe storage. Unfortunately, this is America, guns are sold at Wal-Mart, and the right to bear arms is in the Constitution. With my decently solid knowledge of history, I would estimate it’s going to be a minimum of 100 years before that changes. The thing is, I don’t get mad at God for these frustrating and saddening items and occurrences. I know He’s not happy about them either. I don’t view God as a puppeteer, but more as a partner and all-knowing overseer. That’s how knowing God helps me through tough times.
When my roommate and I stumbled across LCM at the end of our freshman year I didn’t realize how important this group would become to me. Since then I’ve become more and more invested in LCM and watched it grow from a community of fifteen to fifty. When I spent a semester abroad in Rome, every Wednesday night I would get a little down because I knew I was missing Pause. I missed the community and the friends I had found here. All of us who come to Lutheran Campus Ministries are in one way or another looking for an open and supporting faith community. What we’ve found and what makes LCM so special is that along with a faith community, it’s also a place where you can be unapologetically yourself. We hug each other in greeting, crack each other up at the most inopportune times, and clean up the dishes together while singing show tunes and Disney. We’re a bit of a motley bunch and that’s a part of what makes LCM, LCM. We come from a variety of backgrounds with different experiences and view points yet we find a way to come together, laughing and praying and loving and living. Though a handful of us are graduating and going off to explore our own paths, we will carry these memories, lessons, and friendships with us. Like LCMer’s before us we’ll never be too far from the home that LCM has given us.