Call Story (I)

One of the people in my I-group (a group of people with the same academic advisor told me that I might want to start learning to share my call story. Here is my first shot at some of what is leading me to become a pastor. This is going to be a story in installments, so stay tuned to this journal. 🙂 (By the way, I am really open to dialoging with people about this, so please email me if you have questions or [civil] commentary.)

Psalm 139 describes how the Lord formed us and knows our souls. As I reflect on my life, I feel that God set me aside from the beginning. Nobody in my nuclear family (mother, father, brother) is a practicing Christian and I think my father deliberately to steer me away from faith. He is cynical about the faith and that influenced me for the first ten years of my life. My first glimpse of the Gospel was my neighbor Mrs. Griffin reading us the Christmas story and reading on with me until the resurrection and crucifixion while baking cookies with her in 1st grade. That has really stayed with me and I think God planted a seed in me that day that grew quietly within me even during the times when I denied God’s existence. Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me. Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light [are] both alike to thee. (Psalm 139:7-12)

At age ten, I attended Camp Hammer, a Christian summer camp, with my friend Emily. I gave my life to Jesus that week but promptly forgot the promise two weeks later. I lived without God until I was twelve or thirteen when I began to wonder if there was a God. I taught myself the Lord’s Prayer and prayed it every night. I did not fully believe but wanted to hedge my bets. If there was a God, I thought I should probably do everything in my power to make myself look better. I started wishing that my family had been Christian and that I had grown up going to church. Ironically, I could have asked any of my friends or my neighbors if I could go with them but I was too afraid. Around that time, I found a book of Bible stories that had been given to us by a friend and I devoured those stories. They were so interesting and I really saw how human the people in the Bible were. I read about Jesus and how He died on a Cross for me and it just amazed me.

This continued from the end of middle school and into my first year of high school. That year, everything that could go wrong did. I had deaths in my family, was beat up at school, lost many of my friends to rumors, had one of my cats die… By January of that year, I was friendless and miserable. I started having severe problems with depression and I started contemplating suicide. When I finally did come close to attempting, something in me intervened.Â? Then, I felt this incredible peace come over me and I heard a voice telling me not to do it because I was too important to lose. I stopped at that point — I now knew that God existed and that He cared so deeply about me.

That year, my friend Jason had started bringing me copies of Our Daily Bread and I devoured these voraciously. I found my mothers old KJV (which we used as a book of spells when my brother and I were younger) and I would read the passages out of there. I soon sent for a subscription and would read it and the passage in the mornings when I got up. I started praying more frequently and I did grow in my knowledge of God. However, I lacked baptism and was too afraid to ask for it. During my junior year, I joined the Episcopal Church in Almaden. This was two days after I had buried my friend Gabriel Maze, the third of my friends to have been killed in a three month period. During that time, the Lord more than sustained me and I knew His comfort more than ever before. The people at ECA were wonderful and became a second family to me. I lived in fear however, upon finding out that I had taken the Eucharist without being baptized and that it was a sin. I did not want to just stop because it would look bad, but I secretly yearned to be able to do it rightly. People at the seminary have told me that God is not going to hold this against me because I was definitely one of His followers and I was baptized during my first year of college.

Next… my senior year of high school and my college years.

Meeting with Dr. Fransen

I met with Dr. Fransen on Friday to discuss the details of what Jon and I need for Internship. We want a place in the Midwest because it’s cheaper to live there and a place where we’d be in a small town but not in the middle of nowhere. A college town would be nice because it would mean that we’d have community and be able to minister to the college students. We also want a parsonage so that we don’t have to deal with finding a place to rent. We need a stipend because we’ll probably be paying back my student loans though Dr. Fransen is going to work with me on that so that I might take an Independent study with him and avoid having to pay them back immediately.

It’s ironic that a lot of this is happening because we’re so young as compared to everyone else here. Jane (our Contextual Ed) person wants me to get some life experience. I *have* life experience — just not what she perceives it to be. I’ll also start circulating my resumï?? so that I can find a job upon arriving there. This summer, I’ll also start my candidacy process and try to get all the nasty stuff done so that I don’t have to come back too frequently.

I also seriously do not know when I will choose to go back to school. I might work an extra year so that we can get some of our student loans paid off. We’ll have my loans for this year, Jon’s loans from college, and his seminary loans to pay off, meaning that we’ll be pretty much loan crazy for a while but we can pull together and get them paid off eventually.

Another thing I like about being in the Upper Midwest is the proximity to Canada so we can go play over the border occasionally. I’ve loved every part of Canada that I have visited and I would love to live there some day if the opportunity arose. I would love to serve with the ELCIC and raise my kids there. I would really like to go travel around the country and see more than just the Pacific ones. (I do *love* the Pacific ones however.)

C/S

Frustrations

My meeting with the representative from Luther went very well today. He and I talked about my transfer plans and my year off and he really supported it 100%. I feel like I can get some flexibility with them, which is good. Now, I just need to meet with Dr. Fransen (Jon’s advisor) and figure out the game plan for Tuesday. Jane (our Contextual Ed person) does not know about us deciding to look out of state and at this point, I have no idea how it is going to work. I have yet to take my permit test and we need to get the car insured and everything transferred over to us. We’d have to have both of us driving so that one of us could drive the U-Haul truck. There has to be work for me in the town because I’m not sitting on my butt for a year, especially since we need the extra income.

On my way into the library today, I ran into a few people who have either just had their pre-Internship meetings or are going to have them. I vented to them for a while which was probably not the best thing for my reputation of not gossipping but it took some stress off of me. I am honestly beat up with stress and worry over this. The fact that Jon and I are getting through it is a testimony to the power of God because many couples would probably split over something like this. They reaffirmed that it is my call as well as Jon’s that should be considered and that their attempt to not put pressure on us has put a mountain of stuff on us that is worse than anything we’d face on Internship. Jane is not married and does not have a family and she doesn’t understand about not wanting to move around twice in 4 years. She was unattached when she went on Internship. Jon and I are not. She did this whole process thirty years ago. The majority of seminarians are not young men in their early 20’s. Most of the people at my seminary are old enough to have me as a kid and many have kids who are around my age.

I know God is in control of this but I am majorly frustrated!!!!

Lord, please let me rest in your arms right now and know that You have this under control and that you will be willing to take care of all of this. I know that You have some kind of plan and that I have no right to question what You decide but I wish I knew what was going to happen come July (or August). I am Yours and I know that as Your creation, You ultimately decide where I go and when I will come home to You. Please Lord, comfort me now and help me to know that I need not be afraid because You will be with me every step of the way. Amen.

C/S

For You Shall Go Out In Joy…

When I was doing my devotional time with Sacred Space today, the verses that popped up were Isaiah 55:10-12 which basically talk about the words spoken by the Lord not returning to Him until His purposes have been accomplished. Lest people say that the Word of God is outdated, this passage was what I needed to hear from God at this time when I am really trying to discern His will.

I went to talk to our Admissions person because he went to Luther (the school to which I would like to transfer) and he was really helpful in telling me what I had to do. Then he mentioned that the people from Admissions at Luther were visiting Capital University (the Lutheran school across the street) and asked if I possibly wanted to meet them. God has an amazing sense of timing… I met the Admissions people and will talk with them tomorrow afternoon so if you read this before 3:15 EST, keep me in your prayers — I’ll definitely need them. The really hard part of this was telling Dr. Ramseth. I think he and Carol really want me to stay and it’s ripping me apart inside because I really don’t want to hurt them but the Lord is telling me to move on. When I was praying during my devotional time, I did pray for them and that God would give them comfort and turn their hearts if they were fighting me going away. They promised to support me and I know they will; but I also know that they do care quite a bit about me and my decision isn’t the most pleasant for them, especially with the draft going on and the seniors being up-in-arms about where they will be assigned.

I cannot believe that I am actually excited (though also terrified at the same time) about taking a year off. The thought of it is bringing me through the stress of this quarter. I am continually amazed at the plans God has for me. Four years ago, I would never have dreamt that I would be sitting here in seminary instead of in medical school or still in college finishing up my B.S. in Biology. How God works in people just amazes me.

For you shall go out in joy, and be led back in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall burst into song, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. — Isaiah 55:12

C/S

The Interior Castle

I was reading things for Church History last night and one thing was “The Interior Castle” by St. Teresa of Avila. She wrote it to teach the women in her convent about prayer and I think it makes some really good points.

She writes about how all of us have an interior castle within us which is made of diamond or clear crystal. The outer gate is only entered by those who have nominal faith in Christ who pray. The outer rooms of the castle are covered with poisonous snakes and serpents which bite those who cannot get out of them or who choose to remain in them. As you go toward the center, the light gets brighter and the center chamber is where God dwells and His light radiates outward. Essentially, our interior castle is the beautiful part of our soul where Jesus dwells within us when we ask Him into our lives.

This really radiated with me because I like the idea of having a place of brightness in me, especially when I am so depressed. She goes on and talks about how mortal sin takes the fountain of life in this castle and turns it into black sludge. The tree containing the fruits of our spirit is poisoned by this sludge. This was also a really compelling thought.

Probably the most striking point she made was on how our lack of prayer is like losing the use of our hands or feet. We have them but cannot give orders to them. I know that my lack of devotions can cripple me (which is probably why I added a couple devotional sites onto my Resources section) and I hadn’t realized how crippling it could be. Then, I realize that my day goes much better if I enter into prayer first thing the morning. The sad thing: I was so good about this before I hit seminary. Mea culpa!!!!

I really hope that going to Evening Prayer a few nights a week can help me here…
C/S

Praying the Lord’s Prayer

This morning, I was leading prayer (and reading and singing) for the contemporary service and I had the brilliant idea of praying according to the Lord’s Prayer. Well… it’s actually the Holy Spirit that gave me the idea because I’m not great at extemporaneous prayer, especially when I am really sleep-deprived and have fallen behind in my devotions. This isn’t my exact prayer (or my original outline) from this morning but it’s a way to pray:

Our Father who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name… I thank You for the opportunity to gather in this place. I am blessed to be here in a place where I may worship You without persecution and fear of death. I thank You for this opportunity to be in Your presence worshipping You, the living God, who moves in my life and on this earth.

Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven… I pray, Lord, that you would be with me in my daily life, helping me to live your Word out fully in my words and actions. I pray for the decisions I must make in the next week and a half that You would guide me as I make them. Be with Jon and I as we attempt to find our way through the mess that the pre-Internship process has created and discern what Your will is for us.

Give us today our daily bread… Father, take care of Jon and I and give us the things we need — shelter, food, and adequate clothing. Help us to find love in this community and the community where we will be for Jon’s internship. Protect our families and provide for them. I pray now for those who lack even these basic necessities and ask that you would work on the hearts of your followers to help provide these basic things out of the abundance that you give others.

And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us… Lord, help me to forgive the people who have hurt me. Help me to forgive Pastor Jenkins for the amount of stress and pain her decision has put on Jon and I. I confess that I have triangled the situation with some people and Lord, I am sorry for this. Please forgive me and help me to keep from triangling other people into this that should not be there.

Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil… I pray that you would be with Joene and others in my classes who are sick. Heal Julie’s arm and help her to deal with the pain caused by the fracture and dislocation. Be with Dani as she mourns for her grandmother and others who are in mourning right now. Let your healing and comforting presence be with them in their time of grief.

For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory… Help me and my classmates to shine our lights in this world and to show Your power through our testimonies. Help us to tell everyone the kind of work that You have done in us that we might glorify Your name. Lord, shine your light through us that we may light the world.

Amen… Lord, listen to your child praying. Lord send your spirit in this place. Lord listen to your child praying. Send your love, send your power, send your grace. In the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, Amen.

(The last part is a paraphrase of a hymn from “With One Voice” [the blue Lutheran hymnal] called “Lord Listen to Your Children”.) C/S

Developments Toward Internship

The last few days have been proof of how much love and support I have here. I met with my pastor after my Hebrew quiz on Tuesday and he really affirmed my decision and told me that he would totally support me in whatever I did. Pastor Tom also asked me a lot about my stomach and grilled me on my Crohn’s disease (something that I’ll have to get used to as it *is* stress-related). He suggested I talk to our seminary president who is a former bishop to see if I would stay with Southern Ohio Synod for my candidacy or not.

I talked with Dr. Ramseth (our seminary president) yesterday and he was incredibly affirming and also (I think) very shocked. He was trying to come up with answers so that Jon and I can stay which was really hard for me because I felt really conflicted between what I felt God wanted and what I want (which is not to leave the community). He asked what was said and he is going to look into it to make sure that my needs are met as well as Jon’s. I was really thankful because I honestly feel like Jon and I were treated badly by the Contextual Ed person (who is being badmouthed by some of the students in her advisory group). When I started crying, he passed me some Kleenex and also prayed with me for God’s guidance.

This morning in chapel, I started crying and could not stop. I tried cleaning my face after class but people decided to hug me which got me started crying again. Then, we had the Junior Class Prayer Meeting because a lot of the people in my class are going through some pretty tough times. I felt bad because other people have been through death and illness and I was sitting there crying because I was upset about leaving. People were incredibly accepting though and I feel like I have an incredible support base here.

It’s ironic and probably not coincidental that all of this is coming out on Valentine’s Day. It was an agape kind of love that led to the first Valentine’s Day when St. Valentine sent messages to people from his cell and counselled young lovers. I think that the love and support of the community was the best present I could have received today. I just really wished I knew what God wanted for me right now. I am feeling so torn and conflicted and I just feel helpless. I know that I can pray and that prayer is the best weapon; but I just still feel like I am in a mire of despair at times. C/S