Monday, July 21, 2008

Take that, ordinary life!

So, I was throwing myself a huge pity-party this morning. HUGE. GINORMOUS. Seems that it's the only kind of party I can throw these days without running out of breath and my ankles swelling up to elephant-sized proportions.

Yep, I was in quite the mood driving to church this morning. I actually was talking to myself all the way to my office--which was probably quite comical to all of the passing traffic. Why was I loathing in self pity, you ask? Oh, nothing major, but sometimes one just needs to exorcise the demons, so to speak. I think part of it is preggo hormones gone wild, part of it is 98 degree heat and humidity, and the other part is just exhaustion.

Every little, tiny, thing bothered me this morning--from my daughter waking me up before 6 am begging for "cee-roh" (cereal) to my house being a complete disaster area, in which I have zero energy to clean, to my husband turning off the television without asking me if I was done watching the program that was on (and I actually wasn't watching it, but just the fact that he didn't ask me really ticked me off).

So, yes, I was not a happy pastor this morning. I humbly (well, probably not so humbly) asked the good lord to throw me a friggin' bone, and well, I was given one.

As most people know the phenomenon of Facebook is quite amazing. I cannot believe all of the people I have reconnected with. It has been quite a trip. Not only that, but I have "made friends" with some very unexpected people. For one, one of my childhood idols, Garrison Keillor.
Brad and I just went and saw him perform live with the C-U orchestra this past spring and LOVED IT. I have memories of sitting in the back of my parents' car, driving down the highway, and listening to 'A Prairie Home Companion.' It was always very comforting to me.

Well, just a few weeks ago I became 'Facebook friends' with Mr. Keillor. I know there are some celebrities out there with Facebook pages--one, being my friend from college, Rich Sommer, who plays Harry on Mad Men. So, I thought it was a pretty cool thing to be added to GK's facebook entourage. Well, in the midst of my aforementioned 'party,' I received a message in my inbox from none other than Mr. Lake Woebegon himself. Thinking that it was some sort of mass email informing his fans of an upcoming touring schedule, book signing, etc., I was shocked and amazed to see the subject line: "You." Me? ME? What the? Mr. Garrison Keillor has written ME a personal message????? Huh??????

So, I went on to read it and was astounded. Apparently GK had read my FB status which said "Julia needs an attitude adjustment" and decided he would offer a listening
His response? "Okay, what's the problem, Julia? Spill it."

I almost fell out of my chair when I read that--and that isn't an easy thing for me to do these days. Well, after gaining my composure and realizing what had happened, I wrote him back explaining my not-so-grandiose problems and thanking him for taking the time to ask. Thinking I would get some sort of "oh, glad to hear you're all right. Thanks for being a fan." sort of response, I in turn, received a quite elaborate, thoughtful, response in which he also shared with me his melancholy of being abandoned by his family for the rest of the month.

Needless to say, I am flabbergasted. I am truly humbled. Am I overreacting? Possibly. But, these kinds of things don't normally happen to me. And, being a born and bred Lutheran who hears the words "Garrison Keillor" just as much as the words "green jello" this is something I will NEVER forget. Mr. Keillor, you have made my day--possibly my lifetime.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Holy Cats..

Yup, I am a little embarassed. It has been far too long since I have composed a little "ditty" on here. I am not surprised, though. I have always had a bad habit of letting my journaling take a backseat to my crazy-busy life. Maybe it's because I write so much of the time that this just feels laborious to me? No...I don't know.

So, yeah. Things have definitely changed quite a bit since I've written last. Gonna have another kid. Not just a kid, but a BOY. Wowza. For some reason it seems so strange to me that I am carrying the opposite sex inside of me. I mentioned that to a friend of mine, and she thought that it was hysterical that I felt that way. I don't's just weird. When I was carrying Abbey it didn't seem so strange as I knew it was more girl stuff being made. Crazy? Maybe.

I am finally getting to the "can't quite bend over comfortably" stage. I am DREADING the coming scenarios of shamu meets 90+ degree heat. Yeah, that's going to not be fun. At. All.

One's second pregnancy is definitely a different ballpark than the first. Not so much trumpetous, celebratory excitement, but rather just an anxious calm. Don't get me wrong, I am excited. But it's a different kind of excited. It's an excitement for my daughter more than anything. It will be so awesomely cool ( I hope) to see her interact with her sibling--something I never experienced. I just pray, pray, pray they will have a good relationship. I know far too many adults who cannot stand their sibling(s). It's really sad.

Well, I think I am going to sign off now, for lack of a better phrase. Maybe my writing hiatus has finally ceased...

Monday, December 10, 2007

God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman?

I would love to have John the Baptist’s job, wouldn’t you? Think of how fun it would be to have license to thunder down judgment on the deserving. While most of us wrinkle our brow and talk quietly and earnestly about how difficult it is to speak the judgment of God, we take secret delight in doing it. I’d trade my vestments in a second for some scratchy camel hair, even a taste of honey-dipped grasshopper, if I could stand in the pulpit and shout, “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come!”
Okay, I over dramatize that a bit, but I know something about this because I’m an only child; and of course, my role among my cousins (mainly my younger ones) was to be the mighty moral force—to teach them right from wrong. After all, I didn’t have any siblings at home to do this to, so I had to use this gift somewhere! One time at Grandma and Papa’s house in Valley City, ND I was left in charge of my younger cousin Craig, when everyone else had stepped out to go to the nursing home where my grandfather was the chaplain. Craig wanted some of Grandma’s homemade ginger snaps and the only way that he would get one was if I were to get it off of the high shelf that only I could reach. I wasn’t very hungry, but I told him that he needed to give me half of his cookie if I got one for him. His sin was immediately apparent when he said, “No.” We fought back and forth, but in the face of evil, I stood firm. And, of course, when he finally gave in to me, I said, “You can have the whole thing.”
How satisfying it is to be the righteous one, to bear the fruit of morality and to tell those sinners to repent. The truth of it is that we all like to play the role of John the Baptist. Judgment makes us feel like we’re right. Being self-righteous makes us feel like we’re worthy; and, of course, the way that most of us know that we’re good is by pointing out those who are bad.
Announcing judgment is usually easy, and maybe it’s true that during the Christmas season we need a little fire and brimstone. In some ways, the nearer we get to the coming of Jesus, the crazier we get. We shop and shop, sure that the pile of presents under the tree will be a measure of our love. We may be stingy all year, but by God, we’ll make up for it at Christmas time. ‘Tis the season to be jolly, especially if you’re part of the credit card industry. This season more than any other points out the gap between our inner lives and our external behavior, smiling and cheery at the work party while inside we’re drowning in loneliness and pain. The images of the happy family and the perfect Christmas become standards that announce judgment over our failed relationships and our inability to make things right.
John the Baptist points to the gap between our rhetoric and our behavior. He’s the voice of the Law, showing us our sin and calling us to bear fruit worthy of repentance. Repentance is part of the Christian journey, and it’s part of getting ready for Christmas. God is coming and all of us probably need some light shed on our darkness. But if we’re going to be really honest this Advent season, we probably need to be honest about our eagerness to judge rather than repent, our willingness to play the role of John the Baptist pointing out the sin of the world and our propensity to enjoy it. What’s Christmas without a little complaining about all those Christians who only come to church on Christmas Eve? What’s Christmas for the itchy, honey-tongued preacher if not thundering about the materialism and the commercialism of the season?
But John does a really interesting thing after his tirade against the religious leaders who are coming for baptism. He stops wagging his finger at them, and he points away from their sinfulness and their need for genuine repentance, and he points to One who is coming after him. He points beyond his preaching to the horizon where the Son is beginning to rise. “I am not worthy to carry his sandals,” he says.
Preaching judgment is the easy part. What’s really worthy is saving the world. What John points to is the God who is not willing to stand by and wag the finger of judgment, tossing the unrighteous into unquenchable fire. It’s a God who is willing to enter the burning chaos of human life and save it. John can only talk about those things that stand in the way of our faithful living. He blusters. He yells. He spits out his judgment, but he remains in the wilderness, far away from the lives of those who are streaming to him.
Jesus, on the other hand, is the one who enters into the heart of human life, takes into himself all those things that separate us from God. He steps into the gap between our inner life and our external behavior. His work ends, not in self-righteous satisfaction at letting those sinners have it. It ends at the cross when the power of sin and separation and self-righteousness is burned off like the morning dew. On Easter morning, what those sinners get is his ongoing life. They may indeed be worthy of judgment, but what they get is new life.
If we think of life apart from God as a great tree that produces nasty fruit, the cross is the ax that cuts it down, for now we have life with and in Jesus.
To understand this text and many of the other verses in Matthew that talk about the coming of Jesus as fiery judgment, we need to rethink repentance and faith. Faith is about trusting Jesus to save us, and repentance is about opening our hearts to Him.
I am often afraid that Christianity has perfected the art of judgment but hasn’t finely pointed to the One who really does the judging, who is, of course, the same One who does the saving. When I have talked to people who aren’t interested in the church, it’s almost always because they believe that the church is more interested in judgment than it is salvation. We’ve communicated really clearly about sin but not so clearly about the love of Jesus. We’ve given the impression that our sinfulness is more powerful than the saving One, Jesus, who is the heart of God beating in the world. The one who is coming is more powerful than I, even more powerful than my ability to keep him away. It is only the relentless and ongoing announcement of love’s coming that will inspire us to change and to live from its power.
What all of us so deeply desire is to hear, that even though we know what we might deserve, love will come again. Judgment may burn us up, but grace ignites us to be something alive.
I should tell you that even though I told the story about my cousin that sounded funny, the memory of that day is not pleasant, because what I did that day was damage my relationship with him. I was the one that needed repentance. I’m pretty sure he’s forgiven me, but I learned the price of forgetting that the relationship comes first, and that’s what the coming one reminds us of—that God’s relationship with us comes first, and it changes everything..
Fortunately, Jesus never forgets this, and that’s what turns us around so that we can find the grain in the midst of the chaff. Jesus is going with us into Christmas, and he’s going to sort through all the chaff in our lives and in our world, and he’s going to find the grain. He’s going to plant it in his own heart, and he’s going to bring us to life, even when the winter days get longer and darker and when our pain gets closer to the surface. Praise God for loving us this much!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Curse Of The Lutherans

The following list was compiled by a 20th century Lutheran who, observing other Lutherans, wrote down exactly what he saw or heard:

1. Lutherans believe in prayer, but would practically die if asked to pray out loud.
2. Lutherans like to sing, except when confronted with a new hymn or a hymn with more than four stanzas.
3. Lutherans believe their pastors will visit them in the hospital, even if they don't notify them that they are there.
4. Lutherans usually follow the official liturgy and will feel it is their way of suffering for their sins.
5. Lutherans believe in miracles and even expect miracles, especially during their stewardship visitation programs or when passing the plate.
6. Lutherans feel that applauding for their children's choirs would make the kids too proud and conceited.
7. Lutherans think that the Bible forbids them from crossing the aisle while passing the peace.
8. Lutherans drink coffee as if it were the Third Sacrament.
9. Some Lutherans still believe that an ELCA bride and an LCMS groom make for a mixed marriage.
10. Lutherans feel guilty for not staying to clean up after their own wedding reception in the Fellowship Hall.
11. Lutherans are willing to pay up to one dollar for a meal at church.
12. Lutherans think that Garrison Keillor stories are totally factual.
13. Lutherans still serve Jell-O in the proper liturgical color of the season and think that peas in a tuna noodle casserole adds too much color.
14. Lutherans believe that it is OK to poke fun at themselves and never take themselves too seriously.

And finally, you know when you're a Lutheran when: It's 100 degrees, with 90% humidity, and you still have coffee after the service.
You hear something really funny during the sermon and smile as loudly as you can!
Donuts are a line item in the church budget, just like coffee.
The communion cabinet is open to all, but the coffee cabinet is locked up tight.
All your relatives graduated from a school named Concordia.
When you watch a "Star Wars" movie and they say, May the Force be with you, you respond, "and also with you."
You actually understand those folks from Lake Wobegon, MN.
And lastly, it takes ten minutes to say good-bye.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

"Don't let them pigeon-hole you."

These were the wise words my Hebrew Bible professor, Gwen Sayler, gave to me the weekend of my graduation from seminary. I had just secured my spot in the Central/Southern Illinois Synod through the assignment process, and was excitedly awaiting the next step on my journey to 'pastorhood.'

I knew in my heart that my leadership skills were more conducive to a team ministry setting, and so I prayed that an opportunity like that would open up. As God's grace would have it, I was eventually called to St. Matthew Lutheran church in Urbana, Illinois as "The Associate Pastor for Youth and Family Ministry and Educaton.'"Almost 4 years later (3 years,10 months, and 8 days--but who's counting) I am still here and LOVING it. However, there are times when the title of my position irks me, and the implications that go with it.

When my Papa (my grandpa on my mom's side) was in the seminary (Augustana-Rock Island, which no longer exists as a seminary) and in parish ministry, the term 'Assistant Pastor' was widely used for a second pastor who wasn't technically the 'Senior Pastor.' Their duties varied, but most people in the congregation viewed the 'Assistant' as just that--an assistant to the Sr. Pastor. Hence, the 'Assistant' wasn't really 'THE Pastor' but a side-kick who helps out 'the REAL' Pastor. Gwen warned me of this, but I never really thought it would bother me until I actually became a real, bonafide pastor. It does. I will admit it.

It bothers me that I have had an equal amount of education and pretty much the same semantics of call as my colleague, yet I am still viewed (to some, not all) as "the assistant." This irritation reared its ugly head again last night during my Confirmation class, as one of my 7th graders said "You're not the Pastor, you're the Associate." It also bothers me in all of our written documentation about our congregation that the names of staff reads:

Pastor: Bob Rasmus
Associate Pastor: Julia Rademacher

Why couldn't read Pastor: Bob Rasmus
Pastor: Julia Rademacher

I even would have less of an issue with it if it just said Senior Pastor: Bob Rasmus
Associate Pastor: Julia Rademacher
The first example just seems to me like my title isn't really a real pastor or something...or maybe I am just think I am right on this one.

I realize that I will not be at St. Matthew forever, and that one day I probably will be a solo pastor or possibly even a Sr. Pastor (although I don't really want to be at this point). I guess I was just hoping that all that hype that was conveyed in sem wasn't going to actually be true. Associates often get a bum rap. It's true. I, fortunately, have a congregation that even though that mindset is around, my colleague doesn't view me as an 'assistant' and MOST of the time, the congregation does view me as one of two pastors.

Yikes. Gwen, bet you never thought I was listening that closely didya.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Where art thou, oh eloquence?

So, I had a really weird experience this morning. I've been reading, hearing, and watching tidbits about SCHIP, this new piece of legislation that could ultimately (and probably will be, knowing our "lovely" president) be vetoed regarding healthcare for children in this country.

I am a subscriber to the ELCA's Advocacy Network, and they sent out a reminder to call your state representatives to encourage them to reauthorize this legislation in the senate, as it will come to a vote next week. This legislation could ensure 4 million children accessible health care insurance. I, of course, am a huge supporter of this bill as are apparently many others.

I decided I was going to do something about how I felt, so I called up the state capitol and asked to be connected to Barack Obama's office. The kind secretary (yeah right) put me on hold like 5 different times, interrupting me each time I was trying to voice my opinion on the matter. All of a sudden without any warning I was transfered to a different line and this voice came on and said "go ahead." I SWEAR IT SOUNDED LIKE BARACK OBAMA.

I suddenly was overcome with bewilderment at the remote chance I may be actually speaking to "the man" himself. My. mind. went. blank. I couldn't even speak, and I managed to spit out something like..."um,, I would like to state my opinon on the SCHIP would like you to support it...

Without hesitation: "I'll pass it on." Click.

Yeah, that was....embarassing.

I am torn. I am semi-freaked out and excited that I MAY have spoken to Barack Obama!? But, I also am hoping it WASN'T HIM (and probably wasn't, being that he is kinda busy running for president of the United States, and probably had a peon answering his calls) because I sounded like an ABSOLUTE DOOF. Also, that I would hope he would have a little more courtesy and manners than to hang-up on someone (even in they sounded like an ABSOLUTE DOOF.)

At any rate, I did do my small part by calling, and I encourage others to do the same. Someone has to stand up to our ABSOLUTE DOOF of a president.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

R.I.P. Lauerman's

I've never been one to get too attached to a certain place. I've been almost a vegabond my whole life, moving from house to house, town to town, dorm to home, home to sem, sem to internship, you get the idea. It's kind of been a defense mechanism for me to live in the moment, but not latch on too tightly.

Tonight, as I was looking at the group feature on Facebook, I saw that an old high school colleague had joined the group "Remembering Lauermans." I knew immediately that the title was referring to my beloved hang-out from college years. It wasn't too shocking that my heart plummeted to my stomach.

You see, things have changed ALOT since I've been at Cobberville. I mean, I am a bonafide pastor now, I have a husband and kid, and I live in the land where people say 'Da Bears under there breath....(shudder). I have been able to visit Fargo from time to time, mainly because my mom was living there and grandma still lives there. Fargo has changed, too.
The once run-down, shoddy looking Broadway is now home to trendy bars and restaurants and chic shops and hang-outs. But, one thing has never changed...until now. Lauerman's was the place I could always count on being the same: smokey air, dimly lit tables, big masculine looking bar, cluttered game area, and NASTY bathrooms. But...oh was the beer good. Served in sub-zero temperature schooners that made your eyes roll back in your head. And did I mention the homemade wine coolers??? TO. DIE. FOR. And oh yes, the creme de le creme...the pretzels and ranch. They may have been just your ordinary, run-of-the-mill, pretzels and ranch, but for some reason they were outta this world. And went so well with a homemade Raspberry wine cooler with red wine...mmmmmm...sigh.....

So many many Saturday rehearsal dinner afterparty before my wedding...watching big farm boys punch each other (no, not at my afterparty, but in college).

I will miss you Lauerman's. Fargo doesn't know what it's missing...or maybe they do. Rest in Peace....