Tag Archives: challenge

“THE BIKE RIDE”: A POEM by Carina Schiltz, MDiv student

AUTHOR MINI-BIO: Carina was inspired to write this poem by her work at a local elementary school.

“The Bike Ride”

Dearest child who cried today:

I can’t tell you your life is going to be better.

When your mom came and rode away with you on the bike
all I could think about while you sobbed was
the air flowing in and out of your lungs
as the sobs built to a wail
rolling over all who heard it
but tried so hard not to.

I have no idea how she balanced you
or balances her life–
her reality.

I live in utter privilege
and it makes me sick that I cannot escape it.
Instead I add to it; I encourage it
I bow down in homage to it.
I am bound to it and it separates me from you–
your reality

How I wish I could duck my shoulder
and crash into that barrier
pulverizing it; shattering it into something smaller:
perhaps a mirror where I could see you in me
and I in you–
but sin prevents us; society prevents us; I prevent us.

You have challenges ahead of you I cannot begin to imagine
and you are five.

You cannot even zip up your own winter coat yet.
As I helped you today your huge eyes bored into mine.
Will you remember tomorrow?
Will I?
Will we remember that my eyes looked at you in love?

Your braids bounce against your face as you run and play tag.
Even during the game your countenance is so solemn.
I hardly see you laugh or smile.

Once in awhile–how my heart flips when I see it–
your face breaks open to reveal that you are still a child
still find wonder
still grasp the joy of realizing that somehow,
life
is
good

But today,
your face crumpled instead.

You instantly start to cry when your mother
does her best
to transport you from here to your home in 25 degree weather
driving a bicycle and clutching you to her through the dark streets:
I curse my own warm, empty car.

How hollow is my drive home
as I imagine your tears freezing to your face
on your night journey past neon-lit bars
and vacant front porches.

How universal is your story?

I pray you rest well tonight;
that someone tucks you in
tells you they love you that you are important
that you can change the world.

You changed mine.

LIVING IN COMMUNITY WITH OUR ABILITIES AND DISABILITIES

The following comments were perspectives presented at a Wartburg Seminary Convocation on November 8, 2012. Following the presentations was an extended time of table conversation for students, faculty and staff.  The questions for conversation and additional resources are included here in a .doc format: Convocation Resources – Nov 2012.

Norma Cook Everist, Wartburg Faculty: It was a November evening, 1982, while my husband, Burton, and I were delivering Thanksgiving baskets in downtown Dubuque when I suddenly felt overwhelming fatigue. I became ill with what at first seemed like flu but from which I never recovered. The illness, later diagnosed as myalgic encephalomyelitis (CFS), has many physiological and neurological complications. Today, still with no known cause and no known cure, it affects hundreds of thousands of people worldwide.

I have a disease; I am not my disease. How do I mark the 30th anniversary of living with a chronic illness?  With sadness or celebration? A good way is to have this convocation on “Living in community with Our Abilities and Disabilities.” Many people with CFS become homebound, isolated, but supported by this caring and respectful Wartburg community, I have been able to continue fully serving here and in the broader church and world.

Lisa Heffernan, WTS M.Div. Senior: As we gather this morning to talk about this topic, I want to introduce a few pieces that will be part of the discussion. Our student speakers today are people who have some sort of disability, or who have a friendship with a person who has a disability of some kind. We share these stories and perspectives to encourage the community to think about how we all live together in this community as people with and without disabilities. Our definition is broad: we will be talking about disabilities in terms of physical and visible disabilities (like mine), physical disabilities that are unseen, and disabilities or conditions that can either be considered mental, cognitive, or emotional. Not only that, but we will be also talking about specific issues that come along with different disabilities and how we might view them within our life together at WTS. The question we might consider is: How do we as a student body, staff, and faculty live together faithfully in this place, with our gifts and limitations, recognizing each person as a child of God and a vital part of the body of Christ?

My own experience and view as a person with a physical and visible disability has greatly changed and improved since coming to seminary. In this place, I am accepted and valued as the person God created me to be—completely and fully. Before coming here, I never had the experience of being in a community where people would seek to have me involved in all aspects of life, no matter how tricky doing so might be. The best brief examples I can give are the time that my class was having a gathering at Pulpit Rock our middler year…on the 2nd floor. Without me even having to ask them to do so, 4 of the guys in my class lifted me up those steps, just so I could be there with my class.  I was scared, but they wanted me there, and I wanted to be there. So they helped me out. The other side of this is that these same friends challenge me to be more fearless and independent. This is the same thing I hope I do for them. We care for and challenge one another. And we include one another in all areas of life here. There are things that are difficult to make that happen sometimes, but I’m finally in a place where my disability doesn’t feel like a barrier to having an active life.

Aleese Kenitzer, WTS M.Div. Junior:  I have a significant hearing loss in my right ear. It has been my responsibility to assure that my disability does not affect me in school or in ministry, but it is extremely helpful when people are aware of the fact that I do not hear well, and make an effort to improve communication. But often, I have either witnessed how people do not understand how an impairment affects one’s lifestyle, or have witnessed the response of “well, people need must scream for you to be able to hear.” Neither one is true, and both of these actions exclude those who cannot hear well. It is common for those with hearing impairments to be excluded because they cannot hear and understand what is happening around them, or excluded because of those who overcompensate.

Dave Fier, WTS M.Div. Junior: I have a genetic learning difference called Soto’s syndrome. I was blessed to be my current height of 6ft 4inches in fifth grade I haven’t grown since. One of my many challenges is it takes me along time to process information.  “Fear not,” I say. This difference has also affected my coordination and some of my physical abilities. “Fear not,” I say.  Another difference I have been blessed with is to have a heightened emotional and artistic sense.  “Fear not,” I say.  God blessed me with this difference and I wouldn’t have life any other way. Most importantly I am child God. I am a brother in this community of many. The real question is how can we all learn and grow together.

Tami Groth, WTS 2nd year M.A. Diacaonl Ministry: My medical history includes both clinical depression–a chemical imbalance which impacts both your emotions and your ability to think correctly–and celiac disease, an auto-immune disorder where gluten, found in wheat, rye, and barley, attacks my body. These conditions are not related, but their effects can compound one another. When you cannot automatically join in something as basic as sharing bread with others, it is easy to feel isolated, and isolation can make you wonder if depression is returning.

I fight these issues by creating inclusive community however I can: by making food I can eat to share with others, by meeting others in their own needs, and by sharing what I have learned as I have educated myself about my conditions. Sometimes accommodating everyone’s needs seems like more than we can cope with–the list feels endless. But the joy of seeing someone feel like they can now be a part of a community is boundless, and it always makes me determined never to assume that what works for me works for all.

Lee Gable, WTS M.Div. Senior: My friend lives with multiple chemical sensitivity related to fibromyalgia plus complications.  The air she breathes and any surfaces or fabrics she is in contact with are potential sources of pain.  Even your hand lotion can affect her.  She must be aware of what is around her.  She uses air purifiers to hold back the multiplicity of scents and carefully researches and uses products to help her environment not be a source of pain.

If you don’t see her in church, ask about what is going on or send a card.  Ask the her if she wants to be on the prayer list.  Please don’t be offended if she has to get up and move away from unseen conditions that cause unseen pain.  As a child of God living with conditions she would not have chosen for herself, my friend only asks, “Don’t define me by my illness.”

So how can we be compassionate, accommodating others, without being exclusive?

Megan Reedstrom, WTS M.Div. Senior: I have been asked to talk about friendship because I have the pleasure of calling Lisa Heffernan one of my very best friends. Through our friendship I have become much more cognizant of accessibility and its importance and how frustrating it is when people abuse or misuse things like accessible parking. And through two road trips we have taken together, I’ve learned that traveling with someone who uses a wheelchair is not that different than traveling with someone who doesn’t. We just allow a little extra time for travel, and do a little extra planning to make sure the places we are headed are accessible. The most important thing I have learned in all we have done together as friends is that we are far more alike than we are different.

Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. (1 Cor. 12:27)

Some WTS Alumni who live with disabilities and serve in the church and world:

Rev. Phil Wangberg, who uses a wheelchair due to cancer of the spine, is pastor of All Saints Lutheran Church, Albuquerque, NM.

Diaconal Minister Rich Mohr-Kelly, who is visually impaired, serves in Pittsburgh, PA neighborhood ministry and at Stewart Avenue Lutheran and Birmingham UCC Congregational Churches.

Rev. Kathryn Bielfeldt, who is blind, served for over 21 years as pastor of St. John’s Lutheran Church of Campbell Hill, IL and added on part-time service to 2 other congregations in the Wartburg Parish of Southern Illinois. She recently retired.

Rev. Chris Kinney, who has quadriplegia due to MS, Oakdale, MN, currently does supply preaching, advocacy, mentoring, and short-term counseling

and many more alums who have served and now serve throughout the church in the world …

MY “DO SOMETHING” JOURNEY by Ivy Adams, WTS spouse

Several weeks before Lent began, I started forming a plan in my mind that I would give up something for Lent. Every year I chat with my husband about this as I brainstorm and pray about what it is that I really want to sacrifice for these 40 days. His response is always the same, “You don’t have to give up anything.” That answer always surprises me because all my life growing up Catholic, in my home, and in our church, we all participated in this Lenten practice. To not think about what to give up and not to participate was unheard of. However, it always seemed that I could never withstand the entire 40 days, meaning I never made it to the “finish line,” so to speak. I always wondered why that was, and as an adult who is more confident in my faith and married to a seminarian, I am reminded that Christ’s love never ends, I am a sinner, and I am forgiven.

Rather than be miserable without the comforts of what I had given up, why not set out on a journey that would be enjoyable? This would be a journey that inspired me, along with family and friends, and members of my community. I decided that I would challenge myself and inspire others to live out a 40 day journey called “Do Something.”

“Do Something” became a blog that I write for everyday of Lent. Each blog post inspires the reader, believer, or non-believer to engage in activities that promote well-being, healthy eating and exercise, acts of service, caring for others, helping the needy, and encouraging them to become involved in their community or organization of their choice.

When I first began, I had no idea how I would encourage people for 40 days. Sure, for a week or two, but 40 days? How was I ever going to do this? We live in such a connected world through social networking, online blogs, video chatting, texting, twitter; the list goes on and on. I knew that I would have an audience, but could I really inspire people to think and do acts of kindness outside their comfort zone? Maybe.

I do know that I am held accountable for blogging every day during Lent, whether people are reading it or not. This is the Lenten journey that I chose, and while I don’t always have the opportunity to post the blog first thing in the morning, I do post it during that day sometime and who knows, maybe someone is up late, not able to sleep, and they stumble across my blog. They may become moved and inspired, ready to try something new, even if it’s one person out of so many in the online world.

If you wish to see the blog of my Lenten journey, and participate in “Doing Something,” visit punkrock2preacher.blogspot.com.