Monthly Archives: May 2013

FINDING GOD IN A CHEMO DRIP by Tami Groth, 2nd Year Diaconal Ministry Student

Recently Pastor Jeff Giles, WTS, 1994, visited the Wartburg Seminary campus and shared his time, presence and ministry with us. He shared his story both informally and formally in his presentation, “Finding God in a Chemo Drip.”

As background, Pastor Jeff was diagnosed with Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (AML) seven years ago along with an underlying disease, Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS).The MDS can sometimes be treated for years before it converts to the more deadly AML; however Pastor Jeff’s converted prior to his initial diagnosis and has relapsed once since then. Pastor Jeff is considered terminally ill.

Being terminally ill altered Pastor Jeff’s ministry in many ways that have been and continue to surprise him and others, and yet he, and his wife, Jennae, continue to share their journey and their faith – continue to minister. They persist in their ministries.

Pastor Jeff ministered to us by simply sharing his journey and his faith. He shared his faith speaking through God’s word, beginning not surprisingly through the 23rd Psalm. He went on to interpret, “No matter what happens in our life, in our joys and in our sorrows on the mountain tops and deep down in the darkest of valleys, our God is with us to help us, and through us, to help others as well.”

As Pastor Jeff made space for the common question, “Why me?” the Psalm 22 was quoted:

1My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning?

2O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer; and by night, but find no rest.

The question of “why me?” and of questioning God in anger and despair was familiar to me as it relates to my own personal journey and my daughter’s death. Thankfully the journey towards, “why not me?” is also familiar. Pastor Jeff articulated this journey in a beautiful, faithful way that I hope to embody in my own life and ministry as he lifted up the normalcy of asking why alongside the progress of lament psalms, such as psalm 22. He affirmed that during a cancer diagnosis one grieves many things and this questioning is a healthy part of that grief and of our faith life. One of the things grieved is the loss of a future, and this loss connects to those touched by cancer as well as many other tragedies. In my experience I’ve found this to be a nearly universal part of the grief journey no matter what the details of the loss are.

Then Pastor Jeff asked, “What if we were to turn this ‘why me?’ question around and ask a different question – ‘why not me?’” Clearly, nobody deserves a cancer diagnosis or any other “why me” tragedies, and yet bad things happen. In our grief journey there comes a turning point just as there is a turning point in lament psalms. Pastor Jeff reminds us that lament Psalms such as Psalm 22 are helpful as we move from lament to praise. While assuring us to not be afraid of the “why me’s,” Pastor Jeff also cautioned us to not get stuck there. He shared that moving toward and to the “why not me’s” is “where you will find peace and joy even in the midst of a horrible disease, having been comforted in that darkest valley by the shepherd’s rod and staff.”

During our time together Pastor Jeff’s prophetic voice was also able to authentically give voice to the fullness of his journey. He discussed avoiding platitudes or “greeting- card theology” and lifted up listening and responding to where each person is at in their journey and to accompany others as God accompanies us, “holding everyone, walking with them through the shadows, even the shadows of death.”

I was once told that while not everyone receives a cure, there can always be healing. I embraced that and yet struggled to articulate and live into in my ministry. Pastor Jeff shared his belief on healing as he encouraged us toward a broader understanding of healing, “To see that healing is more than physical. . . . it can also be mental, and it can also be spiritual. . . . God’s healing will give us the strength we need to face the day even when we are physically, mentally, and spiritually broken. . . .We can feel the healing presence of God in each and every day. . .” The encouragement was both personalized to Jeff’s journey with cancer and broadened to include the journeys of all humanity struggling with death and grief. He said, “We might think, how is it possible to go down into that dark valley of the shadow once again? Yet, God’s healing presence is there by our side, having gone ahead of us to meet us where we are, and to accompany us on the journey, comforted by our Shepherd’s rod and staff.”

Rather than common one-liners and platitudes Pastor Jeff encourages us to direct hard questions of grief and theology boldly, and he continued to do so during our time with us, and he also continues to do so as he shares his own journey as well as ministry through his online journal at http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/pastorjeff.

In closing Pastor Jeff shared a poem (see link below) with those of us gathered to hear and learn together. Jennae, Jeff’s wife, wrote the poem for him in the spring of 2000 to use in the funeral sermon of a teenage girl who had taken her own life. The poem fits a broader context as we seek to wrap our minds around all of the terrible thing that happen in life.

A Conversation with God by Jennae Giles (a poem)

A CONVERSATION WITH GOD by Jennae Giles

Are you here?
I AM

Were you there?
YES, I WAS … I AM … I WIL BE.

The whys … the how’s … they overwhelm me.
I AM THE BEGINNING AND THE END … THE ALPHA AND THE OMEGA

I cannot see you.
LIKE THE STARS OF NIGHT THAT ARE ALWAYS THERE, HIDDEN BY THE LIGHT OF DAY, I AM WITH YOU ALWAYS.

It’s too hard … too much.
LEAN ON ME, IT WON’T ALWAYS BE EASY, BUT WITH MY HELP YOU CAN MAKE IT THROUGH THIS DARK VALLEY.

I don’t know what to do … where to go.
I WILL LEAD YOU AND SHOW YOU THE WAY OF LIFE.

INVESTING IN EDUCATION TO ELIMINATE HUNGER by Christa Fisher, 2nd year M.Div.

Hunger is the result of an inadequate income.  People with money are able to purchase food while people without money struggle with hunger.  In order to eradicate hunger we must ensure all people have the means to purchase food.  Because education is understood to be the key to leveraging economic status, education is vital to the fight against hunger.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2012 the median weekly income for adults without high-school diplomas and adults with bachelor’s degrees was $471 and $1066, respectively. [1]  Over the course of one year, the difference in earning potential between an adult without a high-school diploma and one with a four-year degree is nearly $35,000.   This is a significant, life-altering amount of money.

Much like the gap in earning potential, a similar division exists in educational attainment between low–income and affluent students.  The truth is that poverty itself impedes students’ educational success.  Robert Balafanz, in his white paper Overcoming the Poverty Challenge to Enable College and Career Readiness for All sums up the often invisible but severe impact poverty has on educational performance.  “The impacts of food scarcity, housing instability, and insufficient access to medical and dental care are clear. If a student is hungry, without a home, suffering from untreated ailments or in need of glasses, it is difficult for him or her to focus on school work.  Poverty also brings with it an increased exposure to violence and the lived experience that life is capricious which further shapes student behavior directly.”[2]

Many educators and administrators, aware of the burdens inflicted upon low-income students, are working in innovative ways to help students achieve their full potential, such as early intervention reading programs, individualized curriculums, and intensive summer school programs.  Additionally, educators recognize that one-time interventions are insufficient.  As children change and develop so to do the obstacles they face regarding their education.  In the earliest years a child, not having exposure to early-educational opportunities, may have underdeveloped math and reading skills.  As a middle-school youth, the same student may be relied upon to care for his or her younger siblings or elderly relatives, resulting in less time for studies.  During high school the same student may feel pressure to abandon his or her education in order to acquire a job and earn money for his or her family.  Individualized supports must accompany students through the years.

Despite their success, these innovative college-readiness support programs are in jeopardy.  In 2011 many states experienced drastic cuts in educational funding.  Wisconsin, for example, passed a two year $834 million cut in K-12 educational funding[3].  This cut is the equivalent of an average per pupil funding reduction of $555.  Supposing an average class has 25 students, a $555 per student cut would total a $13,875 reduction per classroom.  Additionally, almost 900 young children will lose access to Head Start programs.[4]  Teachers and districts are doing more with much less.  Yet, given past and impending funding cuts, schools will have to continue eliminating vital programing – programs which, for many children, are their only means of escaping the cycle of poverty.

The Feeding of the Five thousand, a story found in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, speaks to the Christian responsibility to eradicate hunger.  Having just delivered a lengthy sermon of hope and blessing to a crowd of more than 5,000 people, the disciples ask Jesus to send the people home as the people are hungry and day is ending.  Jesus, responds, “You feed them.”  His response is not a suggestion and it allows for no exceptions.  The disciples, having recognized the hungry, are commanded to address the pain of the people.  After Jesus blessed the small amount of loaves and fishes, the disciples were able to satisfy the appetite of the entire crowd.

Our situation today is not much different.  Our nation is faced with a hunger epidemic with 1 in 6 people experiencing chronic hunger.  The numbers are staggering and often we feel unequipped to tackle the situation.  Yet, like the disciples, we have been called and endowed with the resources necessary to care for our hungry neighbors.  We can eradicate hunger, if only we take Christ’s word and ministry seriously and use our gifts to benefit the poor.  We can contact representatives and ask them to invest in education for all children.  We can contact our school boards and advocate for the programs which serve the needs of low-income students.  We can volunteer in our communities at a local food pantry, after school program, or within a school itself.  We can use our gifts to feed the poor by supporting them in their efforts to end the cycle of poverty.

RESOURCE FOR MORE INFORMATION

Jonathan Kozol speaks to the class and race disparity within the US educational system in his book The Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America, available through Crown Publishing Group.

To learn more about the impact of poverty on education as well as solutions to this problem, read Robert Balfanz’s Overcoming the Poverty Challenge to Enable College and Career Readiness for All:  The Crucial Role of Student Supports, available online http://new.every1graduates.org/publications/reports/


[1] US Bureau of Labor Statistics.  Education Pays.  January 28, 2013.  http://www.bls.gov/emp/ep_chart_001.htm

[2] Balfanz, Robert.   Overcoming the Poverty Challenge to Enable College and Career Readiness for All:  The Crucial Role of Student Supports. http://new.every1graduates.org/publications/reports/

[3] Hetzner, Amy and Richards, Erin.  Budget Cuts $834 million from schools.  WS Journal, March 1, 2011.

[4] White House.  Impact of March 1st Cuts on Middle Class Families, Jobs, and Economic Security: Wisconsin.  February 24, 2013.   http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/sequester-factsheets/Wisconsin.pdf

PART 3: THE WALL by Jean Peterson, WTS Archivist volunteer

The Wall

After Hitler’s defeat in 1945 World War II., the division of Germany into four parts meant East Germany was occupied by Soviet Communism. Travel restrictions were imposed by The Wall which was in place from 1961-1989.

In Berlin we saw a parish split by The Wall so members on the “other side” could not attend worship in their own congregation.  Families could not bury their dead in the church cemetery in their own family plots.

1982-1989 – The Peaceful Revolution

Following our attendance at the Saturday afternoon, January 13, 2013, Bach Motette concert worship at Thomaskirche in Leipzig, we were privileged to listen to and dialog with Lutheran Pastor Ulrich Seidel who had participated in the Leipzig Peaceful Revolution 1982-1989.  This peaceful protest was begun by Pastor Christian Fuehrer at St. Nicolaikirche in Leipzig.  This persistent protest eventually resulted in the pulling down of “the Wall” and the fall of Communist occupation in the Russian sector of East Germany.  (One point he made about their strategy is that people carried lit candles because this would preclude violence.  When you’re watching your candle to make sure you don’t burn yourself or start a fire, you’re not going to lash out at other people when they taunt you or attempt to incite your anger!)

Renate Skirl

            Our second tour hostess from Christian Tours, Renate Skirl, sat down with us one morning at the Colleg Wittenberg and told us her story as a child growing up as a Christian during the Communist regime.  By being a Christian and refusing to join “The Party,” she was isolated. ( Although there were about 12 in her confirmation class – taught by the pastor, the others participated in the Jugendweihe [communist confirmation] and were confirmed one year later.  She was the only person being confirmed in 1968 at the Castle Church in Wittenberg).  Such separation from peers is particularly difficult for a teenager who likes to be one of the “in-group!”  As an adult, when, as a divorced mom, she needed income, the fact that she didn’t list any Communist party affiliation could have prevented her from  getting  the job she had applied for. Fortunately someone who interviewed her liked her experience and her attitude, so she was hired for the position she wanted and was qualified for, anyway.   Now she has adult children and six grandchildren, one born just before Christmas 2012.

1989 – 2013

After The Wall came down, other than reuniting of family members, or going to visit relatives from whom they had been forcibly separated for forty years, there was not much “crossing of the lines” between East Germany and West Germany.   There is an invisible separation between East Germans and West Germans in terms of self-identity. There hasn’t been much desire for East Germans to leave their homeland and migrate to the West, nor for West Germans to move to the East, even though they are now free to do so.   They are loyal to the homes of their ancestors, and once freed to come and go as they pleased, they chose to stay to reclaim their homeland and national identity, to improve themselves and their lives.

On my husband and my tour to Berlin and Potsdam in 1994, we saw everywhere the landscape of bombed out buildings, which had not been repaired since 1945, and were further deteriorated by lack of upkeep during Communist occupation.   In 2013, we saw only one building in that condition – it had been left that way deliberately to show tourists and passers-by what had once been, before freed East Berliners had opportunity to repair or replace the damaged buildings.   Seeing a single building with bullet/bomb holes in it in 2013 didn’t have the same impact of “war zone damage” as did seeing blocks of buildings everywhere in that condition, in 1994.  What was impressive in 1994 was that, despite the exterior condition of these buildings, nearly all the windows displayed white lace curtains!

In a quarter of a century of relative freedom and growth, the East German people have not only renovated their physical infrastructure of bombed-out buildings; but have also gained self-respect and dignity, finding meaningful and fruitful employment.  Now at last they need not be ashamed, but proud to be German.  Even more to the point, they say, “I am proud to be East German.”

Proud to be German

      I respect the East German people greatly.  These, our hosts, were everyday, ordinary friendly people – with dignity, self-respect and integrity, just like any other people we know or meet or encounter anywhere here at home.  Often I forgot that I wasn’t at home in the USA and that I was actually abroad, on foreign soil– until we began to order food, or to ask assistance in the stores.  The language gap is more pronounced in East Germany, where older people learned Russian in school, whereas West Germans had learned English or French as second language and “serving tourist” language.  Most Americans visit Europe but don’t speak the languages of the European countries we visit. Some folks in East Germany still speak Russian, not English, as second language.

There is a Jewish population in Germany now, but understandably small.  Not many survivors or their families chose to return after World War II.  They had nothing left and no one to come back to–only terrifying memories.  We visited the Jewish Museum in Berlin very briefly, but found this to be one place in Germany where security precautions are still on high alert level.

We were told that tour guides in the concentration camps and other historic Holocaust sites (like White Rose, Flossenburg, and Buchenwald,) may sometimes seem reticent because it is too difficult to allow their emotions to become involved in what they are doing.  They need to stick to facts.  Most cannot last very long in this work – probably two or three years at a maximum.  It becomes too overwhelming, too emotionally draining.  It takes its toll.

Among the storytellers, we met with Renate Wind, who has lectured here at WTS on a couple of occasions, and was interviewed here by Persistent Voice staff last fall.  She spent about an hour and a half with us talking about Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the German Resistance movement of World War II., when we visited the Coliseum museum memorial at Nuremberg.

What impresses me is that the East German people are telling the story.  They are healing by telling it.  They are not hiding the facts.  They are not hiding the past.  They are not hiding their history.  They are not denying the facts and saying it didn’t happen.  These story-tellers are honest and open, and they are doing a superb job in educating – not only their children, but also our children, younger generations and tourists from foreign countries, including their former enemies.

It is very important that these landmarks, these prison camps and concentration camps and the atrocities, which happened here, are preserved and kept as reminders and memorials to those who suffered and died here, as tangible facts of history, so that people from everywhere will know what happened here and understand what is important and how much impact our human relationships have on each other!    We are all together one – one human family with same good strengths, hopes and aspirations, emotional feelings, and vulnerabilities, and weaknesses.  I saw us all as one in human nature.  In much of what we saw, we are one even as Lutheran Christians despite our differing national histories.

These story tellers and these museums and these landmarks must be kept in place now, for very soon those of us who remember the Nazi era – whether Nazi, Germans, enemies or “Allies,” – will be gone.  The men who actually fought in  World War ll are now in their 90’s, and those of us who were children in elementary school at that time are now in our 80’s, or late 70’s.  It will  be only  the stories we write, tell, and pass on to the younger generations that will educate people as to what happened.  If we do not hand down the stories, these realities will too soon be forgotten.

PERSISTENT FOR PEACE by Tammy Barthels, M.Div. Middler and Prof. Norma Cook Everist

“It is a delight to come home to Wartburg. Wartburg has strengthened me and formed me in who I am today.”

Dr. Winston Persaud introduced her Excellency Marie Jilo Barnett to the Wartburg community at a dinner given in her honor this Spring.  Appointed in 2008, she is Sierra Leone’s first female ambassador to Liberia, as well as to Core d’Ivoire. Marie studied at Wartburg from 1990 to 1994, when she received her M.Div. degree.

Reverend Barnett was passionate and invoked hope with each word that she spoke about teaching men and women to co-exist in the Image of God. “It is possible,” she said.

Ambassador Barnett is zealous about negotiating peace and promoting women. She was the first Lutheran woman to be ordained in Western Africa. Her position as Ambassador is about building bridges between Liberia and Sierra Leone; this, she said, is the essence of her appointment.

She encourages women to take action. “Do what you can. Avoid Chaos. Pray with one another, do not pray alone. Get everyone of all races and religions involved. Say ‘NO’ to injustice.”

Ambassador Barnett is called to serve. She did not campaign, nor did she join a political party. She is doing what she believes is hers to do. She depends on her faith and is strong in prayer. “Seek the kingdom and all will be given to you.” Her faith gives her the strength to sit on parliament and represent women and their rights.  She believes strength comes when women come together and support one another. She said, “We do not do it on our own.”  She is involved with a network of women: women lawyers, women doctors, and women from the market. “Together we make a difference. In the nothingness that we have, we share, and we have much.”

Marie has seen a lot of hardship and constantly worked in ministries of reconciliation.  She sees the need to build bridges of peace.  In her role now as Ambassador and also through Lutheran World Federation she has had many opportunities to serve.  “God has been with me everywhere I have been all over the world.”

Ambassador Barnett had worked with Laymeh Gbowoee, well-known Lutheran laywoman who led the peace-movement in Liberia. She said to Gbowe, “Don’t sit alone.” Barnett and other women supported the women from Liberia in the peace talks. Ambassador Barnett now works with Liberian President Serlief. Gbowe and Serlief both became Nobel Peace Prize recipients.

When asked what is most important for her theologically, Ambassador Barnett said, “Justification by grace through faith.  If we have faith, the Holy Spirit will guide us.” She told of times when she needed to speak publicly in crucial diplomatic situations.  “The Holy Spirit would guide my words.  Be strong in prayer.”

Marie’s husband, Tom, also received his M.Div from Wartburg in 1994 and now serves as the bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Sierre Leone.  Dr. Dan Olson, WTS professor emeritus, preached at their ordination in Sierre Leone.  In a church of lay leadership, the Barnetts were the first to be ordained.   Marie served as pastor of Faith Community Lutheran Church, Freetown.

While at Wartburg Marie said that she and Tom were welcomed and supported as international students.  She said, “The international students saw some American students for whom ends did not meet.”  Together with others started the food pantry for students , which continues to this day.

When asked about the demands of her busy life, Marie responded, “When I’m helping people, I’m revived.”  She  concluded with Christ’s mandate: “Go and baptize all nations. Do not be afraid. I will be with you to the end of the age.”

From 1996 – 2002 Marie was a member of Parliament in Sierre Leonne, serving on various Committees asfollows:

1. Foreign Affairs and International

Cooperation Founded the Network of Women Ministers and Parliamentarians and served as Vice President.

2. Health and Environment Pioneered the settingup of the National AIDS Secretariate.

3. Education – Participated in the oversight that saw the University of Sierra Leone

locate campuses in the different Geographical Regions.

4. Defence – The only female member of the drafting committee of the much celebrated

“Lome Peace Accord” that brought lasting peace to Sierra Leone in 2002.

5. Works and Infrastructure – Pioneered the setting up of the Social Action for Poverty

Alleviation under the National Commission for Re-integration, Repatriation and Resettlement.

6. Social Welfare, Gender and Children

Set up the network of women Ministers

SUNITHA MORTHA: MISSION AND ACCOMPANIMENT by Carina Schiltz, second year M.Div.

SUNITHA MORTHA: MISSION AND ACCOMPANIMENT by Carina Schiltz, second year M.Div.

Sunitha Mortha, Director of Mission Formation in the Global Mission Unit of the ELCA, visited Wartburg this Spring and talked about our calling as followers of Christ and learning what it means to accompany others in a diverse world.

If you’ve attended a “Glocal Gathering” you might have heard Sunitha’s humorous, direct, and compassionate words. She highlighted the importance of going “back to the basics” and relating “God’s story, my story, and your story.” First of all, how do we understand God’s story? Based on this understanding, how do we place ourselves in this story? How do we view the “other” in relation to our understanding of the story? Sunitha said, “Now, try doing all this reflecting without putting yourself in God’s place.”

She went on to ask, “Where are the other Lutherans in the world?” Countries with more than five million include the usual answers: Germany, the United States and Sweden. But one also needs to include in that number, Tanzania, Ethiopia, and Indonesia!

Sunitha asked the audience, “How does your church understand its place in God’s story? Are churches looking only inward? Do they think about what’s happening on synodical levels? Community levels? National levels? International levels? People, congregations, seminaries, synods are not separate: they work together. How does your congregation/seminary partner with other people and organizations? In other words…how does this relate to ‘mission’?”

One way people view mission is through their culture’s, community’s, or congregation’s narrative about origin and destination. This narrative informs how mission is understood and the purpose of mission. For an example, Sunitha explained that if the dominant destination narrative of a community is heaven/hell, there is a certain way one understands oneself and the “other” and where they belong. When there is a separating line between “us” and “them,” it is not difficult to see which place we’ll designate for “them”.

Those we categorize as “them” or “other” could be for any number of reasons, but the number one reason is that, somehow, they are “different” from us.

Diversity sometimes causes fight or flight because we are socialized to learn that the way we do things is the good/right/normal/true way. If “we” do things the “normal” way, what “the other” does is considered “abnormal.” Unfortunately, the history of missions has included the transfer of cultural and national values, which has been very damaging to the “receiving” culture. Those in the dominant culture see others as needing to “evolve” in order to “catch up.”

Hopefully, our communities and congregations can understand that the defining question in mission is not, “How does one categorize/define/change the other to be like us?”  but rather, “How does one engage the other?” First, we have to take out the barriers between “my” story and “your” story. There is much that informs a person’s being that is deeper than meets the eye.

Sunitha offered a very relevant caution: a danger in the ELCA, and in many facets of life, is to surround ourselves only with like-minded people, ideologies, theologies, and thereby focus only on ourselves, rather than resting in justification. While we cannot hold all our differences, uniqueness, cultures, sub-cultures, and everything in one’s being in tension with another’s, God can.

She asked, “What if your community doesn’t look diverse, or what if it has no ‘others’? There is plenty of diversity, whether it be invisible to the eye or visible; there are others, outsiders, and many people who need to hear the liberating proclamation of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. If one’s congregation is not visibly diverse, one can think cross-generationally. “Start with what diversity is present,” she said. Accompaniment happens every day! Mission isn’t always about going “over there.”It’s about engagement, wherever one is.

If you want more information, visit the ELCA’s website on Glocal Gatherings near you.

http://www.elca.org/Who-We-Are/Our-Three-Expressions/Churchwide-Organization/Global-Mission/Engage-in-Global-Mission/Global-Events/Glocal-Mission-Gatherings.aspx

ENGAGING COMMUNITY, NARRATING CHANGE By Tammy Barthels, Second Year M.Div.

I had the awesome opportunity to hear Walter Brueggeman, Peter Block, John McKnight and Barbara McAfee speak in Cedar Rapids, IA on April 4 and 5, 2013. Their topic: “Engaging Community and Narrating Change.” People from several states were invited into a conversation that would offer new and inspiring possibilities for the 21st Century. Following is a summary of thoughts and challenges from the day:

We were called forth to connect people with people in service of something greater than ourselves. Our goal, to transform what currently exist! We were called to embody a culture that cares vs. a culture of consumerism.

How will we go about creating an alternative culture for the future? We begin by having conversations with one another, by forming meaningful relationships! Sustainable, abundant community conversations shift the context from retribution to restoration; from problems to possibility; from fear and fault to gifts, generosity and abundance; from law and oversight to choice and accountability; from corporation and systems to relational life!

We begin by having a shift in our consciousness and acting on a vision of what the world might become. We change the narrative of not having enough to living in a world of plenty. We cannot process ambiguity alone, we need each other. We need our brothers and sisters to live us into freedom. We need to leave the scarcity story and enter the narrative of abundance. We need to enter the story of cooperation vs. living in the story of competition.

THE FUTURE IS PRESENT TODAY! – Change your thinking and you change your life! All transformation happens through linguistics.

Building community is about returning to the common good; Earth, Water, Air. We need to create space to become alive, with song, poetry and art. We need to change our mind thought MINDSET? from a business perspective of efficiency, speed, ease and cost to a communal perspective; returning to neighborliness, walking with each other, restoring peace, intimacy, relationships and uniqueness.

WHAT IF WE SAID AND BELIEVED THAT WHAT WE HAVE IS ENOUGH? How would that change our world, our perspective? What would happen if we focused our attention on who we are vs. what we do? What if we focused our attention on walking with one another, vs. trying to fix one another? What would happen if we created a space for light and breath to enter a room?

The central power of forming communities is connecting the gifts of each other. What are our communities built on? What gifts do we have to offer each other? The truth is if we focus on our gifts vs. our deficiencies we have enough! The answer is caring for one another, freely giving from the heart from one person to another. Care cannot be managed or produced; care can only be given freely.

We build community by embracing our God-given gifts. Most days would be filled with joy if we could use the gifts that God has given us 90% of the time. Imagine if we could use our gifts, skills and passion and form community! The least used gift is the one most needed in our world today. What is your gift, passion or skill? Using those, what could you teach? When our gifts come together our gifts become powerful; our collective gifts empower each other. We are walking in darkness until we can express our gifts and passions.

God has given us our unique gifts and talents. How will we use them? Remember that ‘Nothing is Impossible for God.’  It is possible for ‘ordinary’ people like ourselves, to step outside the business perspective and make a life within the communal perspective. It begins with us, one person at a time. “What is the promise you are willing to make that constitutes a risk or major shift in your life. What is the change you want to see in the world?” Will you be willing to step out and share your gifts with one another? Change begins with relationships, listening, caring and encouraging our neighbors. Can we shift our consciousness and act on a vision of what the world might become? I believe we can, because there are no impossibilities with God. If God is for us, who can be against us?