Divided States of America

American flag painted on a wall cracked in the middle; Shutterstock ID 129904772; PO: aol; Job: production; Client: drone

This election makes me sick.  I feel as though I have a front row seat to…finger-pointing and scapegoating.  Each candidate seems to be telling me that America’s problems are the other person’s fault and they are the answer to those problems.

I have blamed the candidates, the parties, and, even, the structure of our election process for this polarized political landscape (and there is enough blame to go around), but I’ve come to consider that the blame also rests with the citizenry.  The citizens of this nation have become incredibly entrenched in their views, overall.  Rather than civil discourse there are raised voices, hate speech, and violence.  Our politicians sometimes even get themselves into trouble if they are willing to work on a bi-partisan project or vote for a bill that doesn’t perfectly conform to their party’s platform.  From where does this entrenchment come?

Unfortunately, most people turn to television news that suits their existing worldview (yes, I’m talking about you, MSNBC & Fox News).  Instead of turning on the radio or television to have assumptions challenged: existing worldviews are reinforced.  Yet, one cannot solely blame television or, even, talk radio (although I like to try).

The advent of social media and internet news technologies allows a user to choose the news sources and information they want and much of it happens without us even knowing.  I share views with some of my Facebook friends but I am also connected with people who view the world in an opposing manner.  Though some of those opposing views pop up in my newsfeed (usually because of a heated argument in the comment section) most of the posts in my feed reflect the views of people with whom I already agree.  Facebook sees that I “like” and view posts by certain friends (that have shared points-of-view) and Facebook shows me more of what I want….

Most of our media is designed to reflect the world we want to see, rather than the complex challenging world that exists.  When a person sees the world as they want it is easy to become entrenched in a view.  As citizens of this great country we must seek out views that challenge us (and this is getting more difficult).  We cannot build relationships with people we do not understand and we cannot have a working government without understanding one another! We must work to understand the people who oppose us and have civil discourse on the issues that plague our civilization.  Here are three thoughts:

  1. Listening to opposing views will not betray one’s own beliefs, so listen to/read what other people have to say reserving judgement until you’ve heard/read it all!.
  2. Do not immediately comment or repudiate another person’s claims, especially on-line.  If the person is not standing in front of you, there is not a hurry to respond.  Taking a moment to consider another viewpoint may even help you to develop a response that is more persuasive.
  3. Remind yourself, when on-line, that each person owns their own posts and comment.  Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that your response will undo a post. In fact, responding in anger one is likely to only deepen another’s entrenchment.  Presenting oneself in a respectful way (even if the other person is not being respectful) and looking for commonalities will further your own causes.

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Social Media Evangelism

(reposted from Pastor’s Posts on HudsonUMC.org)

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We are made to be in relationships.

We know this, intuitively, about God and ourselves.  Social media can enhance our relationships and create new connections. If you feel comfortable on the web you can make church a part of your online identity.

When you use a church cover picture or share a post, tweet or video: you are extending the reach of this church:  people in the community will learn about our after school program, come to the church, or, maybe, contribute to our missions.  Your virtual activity has real-world consequences.  Why not make your online opinions and relationships a force for good?  Here are a few ways you can connect your faith and your on-line life:

Facebook

These are ways that you can help get word out about our church, engage with friends and family about issues of faith, and keep yourself abreast of the happenings and theology of our local church.  By writing a 5-star review of our church, you are helping potential church-goers to see our church in a positive way and feel more comfortable visiting for the first time. There is one more way to extend our church to the world:  When we have a special event or holiday approaching at the church, of if there is something about it that touches your spirit, download our cover photo and use it on your timeline.

Last, but not least:  When you are in the building, at worship or any church event (in or out of the building) you can check in using your mobile phone.  If you snap a great picture at church, make sure you have permission of the person (or their legal guardian) and share the picture on Facebook with our church tagged as the location.  It will help people peek into the life of our congregation and make them want to be a part of it!

Yelp

Yelp is one of the first places a person might go if they have moved to the community.  Go to our church page on yelp to see our church as others would see our church.  Know someone looking for a church?  Sure, tell them about our church, encourage them to our website, but also suggest that they look us up on yelp.

Twitter, Instagram, pinterest, and others

By following the church’s twitter feed, you will not only learn about the church but connect to events of faith, United Methodism and our larger community.  It is also a great way to connect to theologians and church leaders. By following your pastor or other church people on twitter, instagram or pinterest you get a peek into others’ life and theology.

Youtube

When you find a video that you enjoy…or that connects to your faith…you can share it with friends.  Oh, and by subscribing, yourself, to our channel you will always be alerted when a new video is uploaded.

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Holy Days

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Yesterday was a special day.  It was our anniversary…of sorts.  Three years ago, yesterday, I was wheeled into surgery to remove a brain tumor.  It is, ironically, a day of which I remember very little…yet it is a day that I will never forget and a day that redefined my life and relationships forever.

Our lifespans are each filled with many special days.  Days of discovering a terrible illness, surgeries, births, deaths, and weddings.  If that weren’t enough we often find ourselves commemorating these special days year-after-year.  Yet, our lives are not only made up of “special days.”  A birth of a child is special, sure, but so is the next day as you hold that child or watch a grandparent hold the child for the first time.  A lost tooth, first crush, first day behind the wheel:  these special days begin to grow together.  We begin to realize that every moment of life is a celebration of that first breath and how we live our lives will give meaning when we come to our last breath.

The same is true of Christ.  His Easter resurrection could not have been without the last breath of Good Friday.  Good Friday’s meaning was amplified by a triumphant re-entry into Jerusalem which we celebrate as Palm Sunday.  None of the events from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday could be celebrated without a small child born in a manger.  But these special days would not have held so much meaning without the daily work of Christ: healing, loving and community building.

Too often, I think, we focus on Easter and Christmas to the detriment of Christ’s daily works. Christ’s life was not primarily about one or two days or moments.  These special moments shaped our relationship with God, certainly.  These days were pivotal in human history, absolutely.  Yet, these times are inexorably tied to the daily life and acts of Jesus the Christ.  These “special days” lack specialness without the daily work of the Messiah.

In fact we don’t have high holy days in the Christian tradition.  Each Sunday is an equally important Holy Day because we remember not just a Jesus on a Cross but also a Jesus by a well in Samaria, healing a man at the pool of Bethsaida, raising Lazarus from the dead and calling fisherman from their nets by the sea. Each sunday celebrates the specialness of Jesus Christ on Earth:  his birth, death & resurrection, of course, but also his life of love and message of peace & justice.

I pray that as we approach each new day of faith we would model our lives after Christ:  living each day in pursuit of love, peace & justice.  That we would strive, each day, for a closer relationship with God and celebrate that relationship week-after-week on Sunday mornings!

Charlie & Jack

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In January of 2011 we went to pick up a little West Highland Terrier puppy which we named Charlie.  Little Charlie quickly became a part of our life (and like a child to us, in some ways).  Early in 2014 we began to look for a sibling for Charlie.  Rather than a puppy, we began to search with Cairn Rescue to see if we could find the right dog.  We found a little bridle Cairn in Milwaukee.  He had been found homeless on the streets of Kankakee.  Because of food aggression, the shelter thought he needed special attention and called Cairn Rescue USA.  Fast forward to Valentines Day (February 14) 2014.  We made a long drive to Milwaukee to pick up “Gizmo,” we arrived home around midnight after a very long day.  Two dogs together for the first time was a little overwhelming, but we thought we’d be able settle them in.  No way.  Eventually I had to take the new dog, which we named “Jack” to the guest room and Carrie stayed with Charlie in the master bedroom.  It was a sleepless night.  Over the next few days we couldn’t leave them together.  They fought often and fierce.  I was beginning to doubt  and wondered if we had made a terrible mistake and whether there was any hope the situation would improve.
It turns out that these dogs, over just a couple of weeks, would come to be best friends.  They are seldom in a different room from one another and they love to play.  It turns out that two very different personalities -enemies nearly, when forced together, actually became friends.
There are too many people with which I have failed to become friends and many more with which I have been rude or grouchy.  I wonder what I’ve missed out on with those people.  I wonder how many fruitful and life-giving relationships I have lost because I failed to see possibility.
My relationship with God was almost a non-starter.  I was hostile toward God and wanted nothing to do with faith.  Yet, I ended up at a campus ministry and, so, like these dogs:  stuck in the same house with one I didn’t want to be near.  Like Jack and Charlie, though, I came to appreciate God and grew in relationship.
Have you noticed that God is in your midst calling you into relationship?  Have you opened yourself to the possibility to growing deeper-in-love with God?  You may find that it changes your life for the better.
blessings,
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The Easter Vigil


Meet Dr. Jim Papandrea



Dr. Papandrea is an assistant professor of Church History at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary He is also an accomplished musician and brings Church History to life as a storyteller in the classroom.  He received his BA from the University of Minnesota, his Master of Divinity from Fuller Theological Seminary, earned a certificate in Classiscal studies at the American Academy in Rome, and his Ph.D. from Northwestern University.  I now welcome Dr. Jim Papandrea to my blog!


Think back to some of the parables Jesus told – parables about waiting, and watching. In the parable of the ten bridesmaids, for example (Matthew, chapter 25), the wise bridesmaids were the ones who kept their lamps burning through the night, and were ready for the return of the groom. The foolish bridesmaids were the ones who fell asleep, and let their lamps go out. In parables like this one, Jesus is teaching about his own return, the so-called second coming, and encouraging all of his followers to live in readiness, and in anticipation of the time when the Groom would return to claim his bride, the Church.

This concept of watching and waiting is embodied liturgically in the vigil service. Based on the Jewish tradition that a new day begins at sundown, the first worship services for a Sunday can actually be held Saturday night. There’s something special about an evening service – coming to the close of the day, with the sky darkening to twilight – it can heighten the sense of mystery in worship. And the liturgy that is arguably the most sacred and mystical is the Easter Vigil. This is an ancient tradition in which the first celebration of Easter begins late the night before, on Holy Saturday.

But the Easter Vigil doesn’t start out with celebration. It actually begins in darkness, with a small light, that expands to many candles, including the lighting of a new paschal (Easter) candle, and finally to the brightness of Easter. An Easter Vigil can last three or four hours, beginning in the late evening on Holy Saturday, and ending around midnight. It’s long, in part because there are many Scripture readings, telling the whole story of salvation history, from creation to redemption. By the time the vigil ends, the assembly has moved from the mourning of Jesus in the tomb to the joy of resurrection (Psalm 30:11).

The Easter Vigil also includes baptisms. In the ancient rite, that still continues in some traditions, adults who wish to be baptized and join the church community have been going through a catechism class, in preparation for their initiation into the Christian life. They have been waiting, waiting until Easter, when they are “born again” in the waters of baptism. And with them, the whole congregation renews their baptismal/confirmation commitment to Christ and his Church. So the Easter Vigil is an opportunity for the Church, the bride of Christ, to renew her wedding vows to her Groom. It’s an opportunity for every believer to experience a fresh start, to turn over a new leaf (an image that goes nicely with spring!). In the ancient Church, the concept of conversion was not thought of as a one-time decision, it was seen as an ongoing process, and the yearly tradition of the Easter Vigil was everyone’s chance to be converted again, through the renewal of their baptismal vows and through the recitation of the Church’s historic creeds.

The Easter Vigil symbolizes the time of waiting. On one level, it’s the time between Friday and Sunday – when Jesus was crucified and was in the tomb, and his disciples waited for the resurrection. On another level, it’s the time between his first advent and his second coming – when we wait for his promised return. It symbolizes – and it allows us to experience – that very moment when the Church goes from mourning into joy, from darkness into light.

Whether you celebrate Easter by attending an Easter Vigil, or the traditional Sunrise Service, or the big main service with all the trumpets, don’t let this Easter go by without making a conscious effort to rededicate yourself to Christ and his Church. As you wait for him, he is waiting for you, and he wants to give you a fresh start – no matter what the past year has been like for you.

Jim Papandrea
Associate Professor of Church History, Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary
www.JimPapandrea.com

Photo by Scott Carnes in France

A Good Friday Devotion: The Weeping Women of Jerusalem



The Weeping Women: a Holy Week Devotion


Luke 23: 26-34 (CEB)
As they led Jesus away, they grabbed Simon, a man from Cyrene, who was coming in from the countryside. They put the cross on his back and made him carry it behind Jesus. A huge crowd of people followed Jesus, including women, who were mourning and wailing for him. Jesus turned to the women and said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, don’t cry for me. Rather, cry for yourselves and your children. The time will come when they will say, ‘Happy are those who are unable to become pregnant, the wombs that never gave birth, and the breasts that never nursed a child.’ Then they will say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ If they do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?”
They also led two other criminals to be executed with Jesus. When they arrived at the place called The Skull, they crucified him, along with the criminals, one on his right and the other on his left. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing.” They drew lots as a way of dividing up his clothing.



On Good Friday two thousand years ago Jesus was led through the streets of Jerusalem to his death upon a cross. As he walked crowds gathered. Yet amongst these crowds, his disciples, friends and family were nowhere to be seen. He was surrounded instead by strangers. Strangers who lined the roads. A stranger who was forced to carry the cross. A group of strange unnamed women from Jerusalem. These women came to mourn. They followed Christ to Golgotha wailing and beating their breasts. But who where these women? Why did they weep so? 
Perhaps news of Jesus had long ago reached these women. Perhaps they had heard the stories of Jesus and how he was willing to talk with, to touch, to heal, and to forgive other women just like themselves. Among them may have been women suffering from malnutrition and illness who struggled to support their growing families year after year and had heard of this man who gave strength and healing to Simon’-Peter’s mother-in-law (Luke 4:38-39). Some may have been destitute widows forced to bury their children, in need of hope; these women may have heard of some strange events that had occurred in the far away city of Nain (Luke 7:11-17).  Still others may have been outcasts, declared unclean because of some sort of gynecological problem, they would have yearned for a human touch that could heal their body and restore their honor (Luke 8:40-48). Whatever these women’s specific situations one thing is certain; they lived in dangerous times. These women, valued for their ability to bare children would risk death year-after-year as they labored in unsanitary conditions with few resources. They would watch sisters die in childbirth. They would bury their children. They would stay up nights wondering how they were to feed their families. They may have had little hope that their children’s lives would be any better then their own. 
The stories of Jesus may have reached them and given them hope. As he was led to his death, they may have seen this as their last chance to experience his healing touch. Strangely, when he encounters these women Jesus does not offer them healing. Instead he hears them cry for him and in turn laments their fate saying, “Daughters of Jerusalem, don’t cry for me. Rather, cry for yourselves and your children. The time will come when they will say, ‘Happy are those who are unable to become pregnant, the wombs that never gave birth, and the breasts that never nursed a child.’…” 
In the years following Jesus’ crucifixion the economy in Judea would continue to decline, Roman oppression would intensify and unrest would grow leading to an eventual revolt: that Jewish revolt would be crushed, the temple destroyed and the people sent into exile. Jesus may have foreseen such events when speaking to the women. He knew that any life they would bring into the world would likely know only suffering and death. Women at that time were forced to bare children year after year whom they could not support. They were forced to raise children who would only know war. Jesus spoke these words to the women, declaring that no woman should have to struggle to feed ever growing families. Jesus spoke these words to the women, declaring that no women should have to give birth to children which she will be forced to bury. Jesus spoke these words to the women, declaring that no woman should have die simply so another could know life.
On Good Friday two thousand years ago, Jesus died that we might live. On his way to that death he spoke to the women of Jerusalem who followed him to the cross. Now, two thousand years later women are still mourning and wailing. Now, two thousand years after Christ’s crucifixion women are still going to the cross; dying that others may live. Every year, 4 million children die within a month of birth. Every two minutes somewhere in the world, a woman dies of compilations during pregnancy or childbirth. These deaths are largely preventable. In Christ’s name, we can offer these weeping woman a healing touch, simply by ensuring they have control over their own bodies. When a woman delays pregnancy at least two years after the birth of her last child, she is much more likely to have a healthy pregnancy and birth. When women can control the timing and spacing of their children, they can better ensure the health of each child.
This Good Friday, let us listen to the cries of women. Let us share the hope Jesus offered so many of the women he encountered: opportunities for strength and healing, access to medical care and family planning, and hope that their children’s lives will be better than their own. By helping women control the timing and spacing of pregnancy we can honor the women of Jerusalem. By ensuring that women who want it have access to the methods that will help them control the timing and spacing of their pregnancies we can honor Christ’s life and death. 
Quick Facts about Maternal Health

  • Globally, every two minutes a woman dies due to complications during pregnancy or childbirth.
  • Nearly all of the 287, 000 maternal deaths each year occur in the developing world.
  • Annually 4 million infants die within a month of being born. When a mother dies, it dramatically increases the risk of death for her baby.
  • Women account for nearly half of all people living with HIV and are disproportionately affected by new infections. This could be reduced if women and men had access to contraception.
  • When a woman delays pregnancy at least two years after the birth of her last child, she is much more likely to have a healthy pregnancy and birth.
  • Healthy mothers have healthy babies. Spacing children lowers the risk of infant mortality. Unmet need for family planning affects many women and families.
  • Worldwide there are more than 222 million women who would like to avoid pregnancy but lack a family planning method.
  • As a result, there are more than 80 million unintended pregnancies each year. More than half result in abortion, many of them under illegal and unsafe conditions.
  • Investing in family planning reduces unintended pregnancy and increases health for women and children.

Warm Weather & Raised Spirits

As I feel the longer days, the warmer weather, and the abundant life of birds flying and people walking their dogs I can’t help but feel…lighter, happier.  Even in the midst of miscarriage, Carrie and I were able to go camping one evening in mid-May and have been taking the dog on very enjoyable, long walks.  Although we found ourselves in the midst of a struggle, the season lightened our load, I think.
I suspect that it wasn’t just the weather.  It was also activity.  This is confirmed by the CDC, which reports:
…Regular physical activity can help keep your thinking, learning, and judgment skills sharp as you age. It can also reduce your risk of depression and may help you sleep better. Research has shown that doing aerobic or a mix of aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities 3 to 5 times a week for 30 to 60 minutes can give you these mental health benefits….
When I’m feeling upset, depressed, or just a little bored or sad, my body tricks me.  My body ‘tells me’ that I want to sit in front of the tv or eat my feelings or mope about, but what my body wants will just make my mood worse.  I have found that if I get up off the couch and take a walk, even the shortest little walk around the block, my mood will improve and I will feel mentally, physically, and spiritually better than I did before.
My hope for all the people of this church is that we would take advantage of the beautiful weather, but not just watch it through the window.  Let’s find safe and age-appropriate avenues for holistically strengthening our health with a little bit of activity.
blessings,









*This blog has been reprinted from the Normal First United Methodist Church’s June Newsletter.

Confused about Race.

I grew up in a small town which was very insulated.  It was a predominately white town in a predominately white county.  Actually, not just predominately…overwhelmingly: the county is currently a little over 97% white and I’m guessing that figure is down from when I lived there.  I am proud to say that my parents, in that environment, tried to instill tolerance for people unlike me.  In the process of attempting to instill tolerance, I heard statements like, “There is no difference between us and black people.”

When I arrived in Carbondale at Southern Illinois University I was confronted by  evidence that proved those statements fallacious.  For instance, the suitemates assigned to share a bathroom with me and my roommate were big, black guys from the South side of Chicago who sold drugs out of their room.  These people were not the same as me and they were reinforcing every stereotype that my parents had discounted.

During that first year of college I began to experience race in a different way.  It was uncomfortable and troubling.  At times, it seemed, the things I had been taught in childhood were lies told out of ignorance.  Fortunately, these uncomfortable new truths were not the only thing forming me.

During the course of that first year, and all of my college career, actually, I also met black folk and people of many other ethnicities/cultures who were different in good exceptional ways.  I became close friends with a strong black woman who was a single mother who had come back to school to work on her PhD.  Not only was she caring for her own daughter, but she had taken in her infant nephew who did not have a stable home.  She was a hard-worker, she was dedicated to her family, she was incredibly smart and she was compassionate: I could understand those things. Another friendship that developed over time was a man, about my age, who is also, now, a pastor in the United Methodist Church.  But, unlike me, he was black, from the South, from an urban area, and had sweet dreadlocks.  He was so much unlike me in several ways, yet when together we could stay up half the night, with a group of friends, talking about culture, politics, church, and theology.

These relationships were teaching me that I could experience, and, even, celebrate cultural differences and find meaningful commonalities.  It isn’t about being the same or different, it is about growing in relationship and celebrating who we are and how we are in relationship with other people.

blessings,

Two Words.


Meet Gene Larson!


Gene Larson is a lay person and the Chairperson of the Worship Committee at First United Methodist Church in Normal, IL.  I have found him to be a very capable in engaging both theology and Bible.  He graduated from Kansas State University (Manhattan, KS) and found his way to the Bloomington-Normal area where we worked for State Farm.  My first meeting of Gene was with his dogs.  He is a dog lover and is as dedicated to his canines as they are to him!

I welcome Gene back to my blog and invite you to read another perspective on Resurrection and New Life.


Mark 16:1-8
When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

The Gospel of Mark contains my favorite Easter story.  Why, you may wonder?  Simply put it contains two words that I relate to.  Before I tell what they are, it is helpful to understand just what Mark’s gospel is.  Most Bible scholars believe that it is, if not the actual dictation of the apostle Peter, it is very closely based on his testimony.  It is brief, it gets right to the point.  It is not flowery or verbose.  Simply, it reads like something written very quickly, with a deadline; just the facts; just the salient points.  


I have always liked Peter.  We’re a lot alike.  We’re both impetuous, often acting without enough thought.  We’re often in trouble with those we’d rather please than offend.  But, Peter’s heart, hopefully mine also, is in the right place most of the time.  


On the first Easter morning, I’d bet that Peter was more beside himself with more than grief, he blaming himself for failing Jesus in His hour of need.  He’d tried to do something in the garden, but Jesus had stopped him.  Now he shudders to think of what he did in the courtyard outside the house where Jesus’ captors had taken him.  It was a tough time for him and I’m convinced that he was planning how to best leave the disciples and slink away.  Jesus was gone and there was no way to make meaningful amends to Him.  


Then, those two words lifted Peter out of the hell he had created for himself.  The angel outside the tomb said to Mary, “…go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.”


The words, “…and Peter” said so much to him that he knew he was still part of the grand plan.  He was forgiven the impetuousness, the failures, and the cowardice which he had convicted himself of.  Well, I suffer from those same faults as Peter and many more to boot.  If Jesus can invite Peter to Galilee, I have faith that he can invite me too.  There is still much to learn and Jesus wasn’t easy on Peter on the lakeshore.  I don’t expect him to be easy on me either.  Jesus asked Peter three times (once for each denial?) if he loved him.  And, his threefold instruction to Peter after each question was the same—take care of the flock.  


We are the hands, feet, voices, and hearts of God on earth right now.  Jesus empowers us by his resurrection to be followers of his teachings and doers of his Father’s will.  Jesus said to Mary, “…and Peter.”  The power of the resurrection is released to each of us when we realize Jesus says, “…and [our name] to each and every one of us.  

Where Have All The Students Gone?

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This song has been in my head most of the afternoon.  Not sure why this song popped in my head on this day…but, then, as I looked out my office window I began to think about the emptiness of our campus.  With classes out and students on break, it is eerily quiet in the student center, on the quad and even around town.

I have occasionally heard ‘townies’ (as we used to call them when I was in school and I guess that includes me, now) complain about the students.  I have experienced some of those frustrations, too, for sure.  There were times during move-in and move-out weekends that I sighed with disgust as I navigated traffic.  My wife and I, while living in Pontiac, once made the mistake of going to Station 220 on a parent’s weekend and found ourselves crammed into a noisy dining room.  And, yes, I have felt disdain when I find nowhere to park or students walking on a street or through a parking lot in a way that leaves it impassable.

Yet, the experience of being on campus is predominately a good experience, for me.  Walking across the quad takes me back to my own days of going to class (or not going, as the case might have been).  When I go to lunch at the Bone Student Center and see the students and feel the energy of the place, it energizes me.  When I meet with students over in the Campus Café at Heartland I am amazed by the depth of community that exists there.  Most importantly, being on these campuses makes me feel younger than I really am.

I suspect that having a major University and Community College has had a profound affect on this community in ways we will never even know.  I think, though, it keeps us young and vital (and thinking) in ways we wouldn’t be otherwise.  First United Methodist Church, I am very sure, is affected.  Perhaps we are affected, because of our proximity, even more than most of the surrounding community.   For this pastor, I am most impressed by the possibilities that exist here on campus in communications, programs, and worship: for which most United Methodist Churches would be envious.

I am thrilled to live in Normal, to be in a community with Heartland, Illinois State, and nearby to Illinois Wesleyan (in Bloomington).  I think that the students and faculty (and wider community) have enriched me already and I look forward to the ministry to come!  So, today, as I look outside my window and listen to a Peter, Paul and Mary song playing on a loop in my head,  I wonder with longing, “where have all the students gone?”

blessings,